You finally did it. You signed up at your local jiu jitsu academy, bought a flashy new jiu jitsu gi, and even manage to convince your significant other that it's "totally fine" to train five days a week!

White Belt Mistakes BJJ

You step on the mats eager to learn, but the more you train - the more the upper belts start exposing your common white belt mistakes. But here's the good news: by identifying and fixing these mistakes early on, you'll set yourself on the right path for success and truly accelerate your jiu jitsu knowledge and skillset.

Mistakes You Make Off The Mat

We all know technique and repetition is important but when you are first starting out, you haven't developed any technique yet. While you may think you have, trust me - you haven't (and that's okay).

The truth is, there are several crucial mistakes that new jiu jitsu practitioners make before they even step onto the mat that can significantly affect your progress. These mistakes often have very little to do with actually doing jiu jitsu.

You Let Life Get In The Way

Let's be honest, life gets in the way - I get it. You might start a new job, have family obligations, or simply need a break every once in a while. The problem isn't missing a session here or there, it's using this as an excuse for missing any extended period of time.

Consistency is key when learning jiu jitsu, always try and remember why you signed up in the first place. If you find yourself consistently making excuses to not show up for class, try decreasing your commitment to just two days a week - make it a point to always train these days - no matter what. Even if that means sometimes you'll be late - most academies are flexible to everyones work/life balance - my professor always tells the students he would rather you show up late than not train at all.

Obsessing Over the Blue Belt

BJJ Blue Belt

We know that shiny blue belt is enticing and is probably one of your main objectives in jiu jitsu right now, but don't let the pursuit overshadow your development. Instead of focusing on when you will get your blue belt, shift that focus to what you can improve on today at jiu jitsu. Remember, a belt is just a piece of cloth to hold your gi shut. And not to rain on your parade but remember there are still purple, brown, and black to go after blue - while it is a significant milestone a blue belt is still considered to be a beginner / intermediate level.

A lot of white belts think that the blue belt is the end game, or something magic will happen once they reach this level. Stay focused and work on actually getting better through consistent training, drilling and refinement and the belt will come sooner or later.

Technical Errors Every Beginner Makes

Now for the fun part - let's discuss some common technical mistakes that white belts tend to make. It's essential to identify these hiccups to make them a thing of the past. Trust me, your future self will thank you.

Using Strength Over Technique

Okay, you're probably sitting there thinking what does this even mean? I get it, as a bigger guy myself I remember my first professor telling me over and over to "stop using your strength" back in my white belt days. I thought he was crazy.

But looking back, he was right. I realize now that muscling my way into any submission I could get on someone usually smaller or less skilled than me actually held back my progress. It created bad habits around techniques and positions that would not work as I progressed through the higher belts. Probably why I was a blue belt for 7 years, but let's not get into that...

Neglecting The Fundamentals

It’s exciting to jump into advanced techniques, but mastering the fundamentals is essential not only for any new jiu jitsu student - but for all levels. Watch most high-level black belt matches, 9/10 times they will finish the match with something you learned in your first week.

Start focusing on one or two basic techniques from every position, one guard break, one attack or attack combo from closed guard, one pass, etc. Get as good as you possibly can at these core techniques and I promise you the rest will fall into place!

Holding Your Breath

Holding your breath tenses up your body, makes you use more energy than needed, and slows your reactions. The problem is that you probably have no idea you're holding your breath!

Take a look around the training room 5 rounds in at the next open mat, I'd put money on it that even the fittest white belts are more tired than the most out of shape purple and brown belts. This is because they know how to properly breathe while rolling.

Now I will admit this isn't a skill you can just pick up right away, it takes time to learn how to breath while rolling. But, if you can consciously focus on breathing while you roll it will make a huge difference in your game.

Embrace the Learning Process

BJJ Learning Process

Remember that everyone starts as a white belt. You're going to tap, a lot - or at least you should tap a lot! Embrace it. Use each tap as an opportunity to learn and refine your skills. Every time you tap is a chance to learn what not to do next time.

As a brown belt, getting tapped in the gym is such a welcoming experience. I genuinely look forward to the next time someone catches me in something because I know I will be able to learn from it.

Check Your Ego at the Door

Leave your ego outside of the academy. It can be tough, especially in the beginning. Every time you step on the mat, be open to making mistakes, ask questions, and don't be afraid to tap early and often.

The more you embrace this philosophy, the more enjoyable (and educational) your journey will become both on and off the mats.


Making white belt mistakes is normal, it's an integral part of the learning curve in jiu jitsu. What sets successful practitioners apart is identifying, addressing, and learning from these errors.

Approach each training session with an open mind, focus on steady improvement, and always remember - every black belt was once a white belt.

July 10, 2024