The White Belt No-Nos! 5 Things You Need Know Before You Start to Roll

In Gracie Barra schools, students start their introduction to live rolling through specific training. The students start in a certain position and have specific objectives (ex. escape the half guard or replace the full guard from bottom half guard) for the training.

Rolling or free sparring is an entirely different thing. Without a solid idea of what they are trying to accomplish in each position, the free rolling is little more than chaos and survival for the new student.

read also: The ‘Secret’ To Getting Better At BJJ

Having witnessed hundreds of new students begin to roll, I have observed certain “No-No’s” that are common and new students to rolling need to know about ahead of time.

Here are 5 Things to know before you start rolling / live training at the school:

1) No grabbing fingers to escape a choke.

We know you feel like you are drowning but refrain from grabbing and twisting your partner’s fingers. If you sprain or break their fingers, you have lost a training partner and they can’t go to work the next day and earn their living. Control the wrist or full hand instead.


2) NO neck cranks, leg locks(heel hooks!) and wrist locks

These are valid techniques, but for MUCH more advanced belts (and for MMA or submission grappling rules).
It is tempting to go for a heel hook because you think it will get you the tap, but more than one student has had a serious knee injury because they didn’t fully understand the danger they were in.
Twist the wrong way in escaping the heel hook? POP! 6 months in rehab…

3) Don’t slam!

You may have spent years in the weight room and are tempted to slam your way out of an arm lock or triangle against a smaller opponent. Slamming is considered an illegal technique. Spiking an opponent on their neck could cause a very serious injury to the cervical spine and risk paralysis.
Ask your professor for the correct technical escape from those submissions.


4) Tap early!

As a new student, you likely do not yet understand the limits of your joints when caught in a submission hold.
It is tempting to try a huge burst of strength to escape. But ask the senior belts in the academy if they ever made that mistake and paid dearly with a sprained elbow or shoulder?
I always say “It is better to live and fight another day.”

5) Leave the bench pressing in the gym!

Ok, you are trapped under your opponent’s side control. Many a new student gathers their strength underneath the opponent and with a colossal effort, tries to bench press the opponent off. While it is understandable that you are trying to survive and escape, this is not a valid strategy to escape the bottom against a larger, stronger opponent by using muscle. Instead, note that you don’t have a technical solution for this position and ask your professor or senior belt in the academy after the roll.
This is how you learn!

The BEST ADVICE for rolling is to try to use the techniques that your professor showed in class.
No, you won’t be 100% successful at first. But you WILL LEARN from the rolling and “brick by brick” build your bjj game!

read also: The 6 worst white belt rolling mistakes

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ