The 6 worst white belt rolling mistakes

Renzo Gracie, one of the most successful and respected black belts famously said “Sometimes you are the hammer, and sometimes you are the nail!”

No where is that more true than when you are first starting out in bjj. Everyone has more experience than you and when you begin live rolling, the match is happening so fast and usually with the new person on the bottom.

read also: 3 Pieces of Advice for White Belts

This is where the new student is feeling like the proverbial nail. Without the technical experience and more accurately – the correct understanding of strategy, the new whitebelt is prone to making some tactical errors in trying to “survive” the roll and avoid being submitted.

Here are the 6 worst white belt errors:

1) Mistake: Give the back to escape mount / bottom

The rear mount is the most dominant position in bjj and the rear naked choke is the most successful submission in the UFC. Giving your back is a HUGE No No!
All of your weapons are turned away from your opponent and all of his weapons are turned towards you! It can be very difficult to escape once your opponent has secured rear mount with hooks. Correct: Bridge escape or elbow to knee escape.

2) Mistake: Trying to submit within the opponents closed guard

When any attempts to pass your opponent guard are stopped, it becomes tempting to try to cross choke or otherwise choke the opponent from inside their closed guard. This gives your straight arms to the guard player and more often than not results in tapping to straight arm lock from the bottom.
If you are the guard player, this is exactly what you want your opponent to do!
Correct: Instead of trying to submit, look to pass your opponent before any submission attempts


3) Mistake: Straight arming / pushing to escape mount

When mounted by your opponent it is instinctive to push them off (bench press!) to get the weight off of you. However, you are literally giving them the straight arm bar by extending your arms. Merry Xmas, here is your present!
Secondly, it requires a lot of muscle power to push someone’s bodyweight off of you and you quickly get fatigued.
Correct: Correct defensive posture and framing with arms; bridge escape or elbow to knee escape

4) Mistake: Trying to collar choke from the bottom of mount

This happens typically after the beginning student has seen a “Helio Gracie” cross collar choke from the guard. Not correctly understanding the position difference between mount and guard, they try to cross choke and mounted opponent. Ironically, this attack results in them getting arm locked!
Correct: Understand that you attack from guard or mount: NOT inside the guard or from bottom of mount

5) Mistake: Grabbing fingers to avoid choke
It might be understandable that when you feel your opponent snaking his arm around your neck for a choke, to grab whatever you can to prevent being choked. But grabbing the fingers and twisting is against bjj rules (small joint manipulation) and is very likely to cause a sprained or even broken finger.
A painfully broken digit could cause you to miss work and not able to make your living. To someone like a dentist, this injury would be disastrous!
Correct: The correct defence is to grab the hand or control the sleeve of the attacker


6) Mistake: Not tapping when caught in submission

Part of this is that the beginner student doesn’t understand the limitations of their own body. How far can a shoulder be twisted in kimura before something has to give?
Secondly, many students measure their progress by whether they tap or not in a 5 minute roll. They will resist too long after being caught in a submission. The unfortunate result is usually a sprained / twisted shoulder or popped elbow and a painful lesson.
Correct: Tap early and often. It is better to tap and then live to roll another day! 

read also: What Should I Work On?

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