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You Might Be a White Belt If...
In the mid-90's comedian Jeff Foxworthy built a career with a seemingly endless series of jokes that poked fun at his Southern origins. "You might be a redneck if" made him famous and poked fun at some of the stereotypes he faced as someone with a southern accent. Similarly, I would like to take a look at the life of a white belt in jiu jitsu and have some fun. If you are a current white belt, hopefully this makes you smile and helps you take some pressure off of yourself. If you're not a current white belt, perhaps this will make you smile as you go down memory lane a bit.
You might be a White Belt If...
You hold your breath ALL the time
Do you nearly pass out drilling? Do you nearly choke yourself out focusing on the three parts of the guard break you just learned instead of actually using your lungs to reoxygenate your blood. As a newbie on the mats, one of the first skills I found myself needing to focus on was one that had seemingly come easy for many years previously. It is very strange how our brains make us laser focused on what we're trying to accomplish while we're stuck in someone's guard, so much so, that we forget to breathe.
You use your bony elbows to open someones closed guard
This one can be chalked up in the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" category. By driving your elbows into your opponent's thighs while they have you trapped in close guard, you cause them a decent level of discomfort. So much so that you can often succeed and get them to open the guard. But the reality is, as you are grinding those bony protuberances into your training partner thighs, they are planning their attacks and your ultimate demise. When you grind your elbows into your opponent, you create a very strong downward pressure that makes it easy for your opponent to grab your elbows and pull you in or even take you off base to one side. Once this is accomplished and your posture is broken, you're in a for a world of potential attacks.
You use your arms and hands as your only weapons
As a white belt, I was constantly over-relying on my hands as my only weapons. I didn't realize that i could use my legs, thighs, hips, and even my head a way to control various parts of my opponent's body. The more experience you have, the more you feel like you've become an octopus-like creature who has developed powerful additional limbs.
Check out this hilarious video about the early days of the BJJ life.
You're perfectly happy on your back
When in doubt, being flat on your back is a very bad thing. As a white belt, you will find yourself put there more than you care to admit. The sooner you begin to get to your side, the better your life will become. The earlier you learn to blade your shoulders by having your top shoulder closer to your opponent than the bottom shoulder, which creates a stronger foundation and makes you much more difficult to put on your back, the happier you will become.
Your three reps of each move are just enough and you're ready to move on
Over time, jiu jitsu will help you learn patience. But as a white belt, you will find yourself hungry and eager to move on to the next move. It becomes easy to get frustrated after drilling a move a few times and having it not go smoothly, to say, this move won't work for me. Instead of drilling the move for much longer and trying to smooth out your technique, when we're white belts, we're in a hurry to digest as much knowledge as we can get our little out of breath, over worked hands on.
For another article on keeping a good white belt mindset, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics.
Developing as a jiu jiteiro goes far beyond simply learning move after move. Nick "Chewy" Albin of Chewjitsu gives some insights on what white belts should be focusing on in the video below.
So you might be a white belt and you might be holding your breath, using too much strength, grinding your elbows, or rushing from move to move--but so what? Is that a bad thing? Not at all. We've all been there in some way shape and form and some of us might still be dealing with some of these tendencies at blue belt and beyond. The important thing is that you focus on improving your own performance without comparing yourself so much to others. You've already received the greatest promotion you will ever have in jiu jitsu, that of the promotion from non practitioner to white belt. Hopefully, you can look at the journey and laugh and if you're already well past the white belt stage, you can look back with fondness and remember your roots and continue to breath.
You would be smart to check out MMA veteran Travis Lutter's Road to Blue Belt instructional here.