Improving Your Weaknesses… as a White Belt

by Joe Mullings

What do guys with great guards work on? Their guards.
What do guys with great strength work on? Their strength in the gym.

It happens to all of us. We tend to fall into skills, positions or habits that we feel comfortable in and are already good at.

What is the weakest area of your game? Better yet, don’t ask yourself…ask your instructor, he will tell you.

If you are a white belt, stick with the basics. As a beginner you can spend a little time in a lot of places and make great strides in the development of your BJJ game. Partition out your game for now into a few areas: (1) Technical, (2) Cardio, (3) Nutrition, and (4) Training Partners.

“That’s where the fun of BJJ reveals itself!”


Get comfortable with your guard game and understand the details of one or two sweeps. When in someone’s guard, select two different passes and really learn the subtleties of those passes and drill those. When you are done drilling them…drill them again. From side control and back position, learn 2 solid attacks and own those attacks.

Note, in all of these technical positions, don’t pick some crazy attack that you saw on YouTube. Instead, have your instructor go over the details of each position and then spend your time understanding WHY the positions work. Once you understand WHY, you can interpolate and create. That’s where the fun of BJJ reveals itself.

“….as a white belt, just starting out, you will need a solid aerobic base before you take on anything else”


Most people gravitate to BJJ as a form of exercise. Some BJJers get into the sport for the pure competition. Thank goodness for them. Those who compete keep the game edgy, fresh with new positions, and constantly innovate and move the game forward. For the most part though, a lot of people are drawn to BJJ for the exercise, challenge, and camaraderie.

The cardio side of BJJ has huge rewards. Cardiovascular, fat burning, use of energy systems are all fantastic benefits of the sport. Commit to spending 3 days a week and perform 30 minutes of cardio specific training. It doesn’t matter if it’s a treadmill, rower, interval training, or cycling…just do it! Yeah, yeah, I know someone is going to read this and say “Well, you should be doing interval training because BJJ is all about being in a certain energy zone, blah, blah…” Yes, you are right. But as a white belt, just starting out, you will need a solid aerobic base before you take on anything else. You will get your “balls to the wall” cardio that you have never felt before on your first few months of free rolls in your academy. Trust me, the emotional, physical and psychological stresses of being a white belt will be enough of an assault on your cardio system for the short term interval training.


Here is an area that you need to pay mind to. It is usually the area that gets the least coverage and pays the highest benefits. While you are on the initial part of your BJJ journey, you need to feed your body and mind the fuel it needs to continue the journey. Your body is experiencing a stimulus that it has not felt before unless you were a wrestler in your earlier years. Even then, my guess is that you still were not paying enough attention to your recovery and repair post training sessions.

There are a number of fantastic articles on the website that go in depth in the area of sports nutrition. If you want to get a head start in an area that will pay huge dividends, go read them. However, for now as a white belt if you just pay mind to a post workout drink that you mix yourself (Protein/Carbs/BCAA’s), a solid high protein, fruit/vegetable-centric diet and toss in a few critical vitamins on a daily basis, you should be good to go and be keeping your body prepared for the next training session whether its in the gym, on cardio or on the mat.

“Stay away from the white belt that is interested in going over some position he saw Marcelo Garcia hit in the last ADCC”

Training Partners

Pick the right training partners and work on the basics that we outlined earlier. Have a goal with each training session. Don’t get in the habit of just jumping on the mat and rolling around like 2 tumbleweeds. Go into your training sessions with a specific position(s) in mind and work that position to death. Seriously. Stay away from the white belt that is interested in going over some position he saw Marcelo Garcia hit in the last ADCC, or some insane position he found on the internet that looked cool and he spent 15 minutes before class trying it on some poor sap who got stuck sitting next to him during a pre-class warm up. Save the crazy positions for the purple and brown belt days. When you are training with someone, ask that person if you can start from a specific position as you are trying to work on that position. Or, if you can’t do that, challenge yourself to get to that position during the free roll and then work from there.

In closing, the White Belt rank will be your biggest test as to your longevity in the sport and lifestyle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most of the attrition in this great sport is due to white belts that have unrealistic expectations as to their abilities. They tend to focus on the wrong things, get frustrated and throw in the Gi. As a beginner in the sport, try not to “compare”… I know that is so hard to do. We do it in every other aspect of our life. Instead, just try to “be”. Stick with the basics, listen to your instructor, focus on simple techniques, basic cardio and nutrition, and surround yourself with positive and empowering training partners.

Coming Up Next… Thoughts on What to Focus on as a Blue Belt.


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