Photo by Daria Kochetkova Photography. IG: Tebezvonu.
What happens when a purple belt has to roll with a white belt? What can the purple belt, or any other higher belt ranker, possibly get out of rolling with a very intermediate level and inexperienced opponent? Below, you may find some surprising answers to that question:
A lot of times when BJJ newbies come face to face with the mats, they spaz out and get severely injured. They’ve been studying online tutorials, and next thing you know they’re trying to pass your guard with a flying cartwheel… The biggest thing to take away, is that white belts are unpredictable. It’s important that as any higher belt rank holder, you watch out for yourself, and for the safety of your partner. Even if it’s common sense to tap out when you feel discomfort, lots of white belts haven’t come to terms with that concept, and want to prove themselves to be Mr. (or Ms.) Incredible.
As a mature BJJ practitioner, it’s your job to explain how things work to a white belt. If you have your partner in a Kimura, and they don’t tap, you should speak up and say, “Hey buddy, this is eventually really going to hurt your shoulder, and you may need surgery along with months of recovery. I suggest tapping out now.” You know the rules of the game better, which means you are obligated to educate any new peers who don’t yet have familiarity with the game. How else are they going to learn? If you can help it, don’t allow your less experienced peer to become injured. For instance, don’t go too far if you have them in a leg lock that could result in their bone being snapped in two. Tapping can be done with your hands, feet, or even just spoken verbally. Let your partner know of the different options they have before you start. Sometimes, purple or blue belts can become annoyed with certain BJJ newbies coming to their first couple of classes with an inflated ego. Instead of looking down, or negatively critiquing them, a higher belt holder should set the example, and approach any new partners with the same amount of respect they have for their coaches, or long time training buddies. It’s well to remember that everyone is one in Jiu-Jitsu. You will be their big brother/sister on the team, so why create any conflict at the outset?
Now, here’s the part that will benefit you! Yes, you will be working with someone who is just starting off, but that does not mean you can’t work on your own game. If you’re continuously rolling with the same opponent, pick one technique, or one sweep, that you can practice over and over again. At some point, your regular partner is going to figure you out. He or she may automatically protect their arms when rolling with you, to avoid the armbar, or Americana you constantly submit him/her with. The point of practise is to build off each other. He/she will eventually pull another move, making it harder on you, and this will truly test your skill and knowledge. You’ll have to experiment with different combinations if you want to continue to submit your peer with that same move, challenging your BJJ game. Another idea, is to subject yourself to horrible positions. Start out in a headlock, or in a triangle choke, and manage to get yourself out of it. It doesn’t matter if your partner taps you out, you will have plenty of chances to roll again.
In all, working with different partners at different levels is a learning experience for both of you. Everyone has to start somewhere, but it’s your job to ensure they start off safely.