First off, I’m calling you out. You’ve struggled with keeping control of some new white belt in class. It’s OK to admit it! Just because someone hasn’t trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu before doesn’t mean that they're not tougher than a bag of hammers!
You should make it a point to include rolling with white belts as part of your training. As we progress in BJJ sometimes we find ourselves rolling with the same guys. You get used to a certain pace, maybe a certain body type, and sometimes it’s just too comfortable to roll with the same people day in and day out. You know each others game, you flow and react without thinking too much. This is especially true when you outrank many of your team members and you get to pick and choose who you want to roll with.
But the raw white belt can present some unique challenges. They don’t move like your training partners move, and they do unexpected things. Many times they are explosive and difficult to hang on to. Rolling with a true athlete who doesn’t yet know BJJ is a lot different than rolling with someone from your school who has been training for a long time. I’m not talking about rolling with every spaztastic new guy off the street who doesn’t have control of his own limbs, but how about athletes from other sports, former wrestlers, or guys who have trained in Judo or other grappling arts?
If you really want to get better, put yourself out there. Look around your school and find the freshest, most athletically gifted white belt. To test your technique, do your first round with him and go for a while, maybe 10 minutes. I can almost guarantee that they will present some sort of challenge to make you work.
I have found that white belts can really challenge your grips because they’re not going to be comfortable with you controlling even one of their sleeves, let alone both. Tie up a new guys sleeves and he feels like he is wearing a straight jacket. It’s extremely frustrating to them and if nothing else they will rip and pull until they free their hands and arms. This is a good time to test your grip strength, make their momentum work against them and really focus on sweeps.
And if you have a current or former wrestler in the school, they can be a great test of your hips. Let them pass your guard a few times and REALLY settle in, nice and tight. Wrestlers love side control and tend to be very good at getting heavy on the chest and keeping you flat on your back. They are also quick to react. Someone settled in on your chest with a good base and explosive movement will really test your ability to move your hips for guard recovery and escapes.
A fresh white belt will keep the pace at maximum intensity until they run into the bathroom to puke or roll onto their back and quit. Your challenge is to keep your intensity at a much lower level and only use technique. A good athlete knows how to push past their limits and has been trained to win so you know they won’t roll over for you very easily.
Most likely you will get 100% from your new training partner the first round but once you hit the second or third round it will be like playing with a baby. Now you could really demoralize them here, but that’s not the point. In round 1 the white belt made you better but in rounds 2 and 3 you make the white belt better...it’s a win win. Teaching them elevates your game even more, and the better they get, the better you get. Now go train with some white belts!
- Pete Roberts