GB Student Question: Mistakes Of Enthusiasm

A thoughtful first-year student of Jiu-Jitsu asks GB Online: “I see some of the white belt students doing things in class that doesn’t seem right. What is the biggest mistake new Jiu-Jitsu students make?”
This is a common question among new students who are starting to get over the initial challenges of understanding the positions and getting their bodies accustomed to moving on the ground. They take a look around in the Gracie Barra class and observe what some of the other students are doing.
The most common mistakes by new students are mistakes of enthusiasm. By that I mean that their great desire to get better at rolling leads them to try shortcuts, hoping to accelerate their progress faster than normal. All driven by their strong enthusiasm to get better as fast as possible. This is entirely understandable.
Here are some of the most common mistakes of enthusiasm that we see in the first year of training Jiu-Jitsu.
1) Trying to look for advanced moves as the secret to level up. You spend a lot of time working on your fundamentals in the first year of training. You need to get a grasp on the basic techniques in all of the major ground positions as your first priority. Many students start to become unsatisfied drilling side control escapes or the basic closed guard opening and pass.
Before long they go down a YouTube technique rabbit hole and watch dozens of advanced techniques that the top competitors are using. If that is what the top dogs are using, then THAT is what they need to be doing!
Of course, it doesn’t work that way. Until you are able to perform the movements required in the basics, your body just can’t move well enough to successfully to execute more advanced movements against a fully resisting opponent. That technique that appeared to be the move that would separate you from the rest of the students in the Fundamentals class fizzles as soon as you try to use it in live sparring. You just simply don’t have the foundation of fundamentals to make a rolling omoplata sweep or flying armbar work.
The truth with getting better at Jiu-Jitsu (or any other complex skill) is that we must first master the fundamentals before turning our attention to the more advanced techniques for more specific rolling situations.
This is the primary reason why YouTube BJJ videos have a negative reputation among many more experienced belts. There is such a temptation for new students to look for that awesome move that will vault them over the rest of the crowd – ignoring the less flashy moves that in reality are what they need most. But it often has the opposite effect and wastes their time and effort.
2) The other most common mistake of enthusiasm would be the unwillingness to tap. Now, nobody wants to be the one who is always getting tapped out by all the other students. And at the beginning of your Jiu-Jitsu submission and sweep successes can be frustratingly few and far between when you are rolling with mostly more experienced partners.
Sometimes the only way you have to gauge if you are getting better is by trying to get through a 5 minute round without getting tapped. If that purpose to just avoid tapping is your goal at the start of a roll, you might try to resist an arm lock or Kimura past the point where we should have wisely tapped. And then the unfortunate happens…”Ouch! I think I felt something pop!”
Usually, the result is no more than a strained tendon and a tender ego. But it is a painful lesson that sometimes you just have to accept that you got caught and tap. Tie your belt back up, bump fists and try again. It’s part of the training. And the day will come where it will be more and more difficult to catch you in a submission. Until then, preserve your joints and don’t be reluctant to tap.
What was the biggest mistake that YOU made when you first started training Jiu-Jitsu?
See also on GB: Fitness for Jiu-jitsu
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia