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  • Writer's pictureBJJ Report | Matthew Tropp

Should you roll hard with white belts?

A white belt training with a higher rank in brazilian jiu jitsu

The eternal question remains. Should we take it easy on newer students or should we let them know from the beginning how real Jiu Jitsu works? There are two views that we should explore. Both are valid however I think we can decide for ourselves which is better…

1. Going easy with white belts or 2. Going hard with white belts.

Now I know most of you are going to say we should go hard on the FRESH FISH (prison term) however we do want to keep them as students instead of traumatizing them for life, correct?

1. Going easy with lower ranks and why this may be good.

We all know what it is like to experience our first class. We all feel like a fish out of water one way or another. Mixed martial arts can be confusing especially BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). We need a lot of guidance and direction in every way. We need to know the mechanics of how to move our hips, how to frame, getting passed our opponents legs (guard pass), how to cross face, how to control our opponents’ hips and how to escape dominant positions.

WHEN ITS TIME TO SPAR (free train) it could be helpful if our opponent flowed with us and guided us when we make small mistakes.

FOR EXAMPLE: If person has us in closed guard and is controlling our posture it would be nice to learn how to gain posture and start opening their legs (to begin passing).

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: If a person has us in “side control” it would be nice to learn where to frame so we can move our hips away to gain space. This helps to recover the guard position.

If we are getting smashed into oblivion it may be difficult to figure this out. As well, trying to remember what we are taught during the technical lesson in class can be a challenge when a purple belt has us in full guard. JUST SAYIN!!

It may be important to guide the beginner with kindness and hand holding during the first year or so to prevent discouragement and help improve our technical ability. Once again this is just a perspective…. Moving on…

2. Going hard with lower ranks and why this may be good.

Let’s look at BJJ as a method of self-defense and may I remind you that most realistic fighting academies or systems will say the same thing “you fight how you train”. What does this mean? It means that if you fight realistically in class, it will directly reflect your ability to use your training in a “real scenario”. If we do not use face punching in class than how will you be able to defend or apply face punching in a real fight?

A BJJ guy in a street fight
Do you really fight the way you train?

LET’S MOVE ON to why going hard with white belts may be good and why it may not.

If you are not going full force or realistically applying technique in class than how do you plan on using it in a real fight? Are you going to flow roll with your opponent on the street and hope he taps? Are you going to tap if you’re getting your face smashed into a fire hydrant? NO! So perhaps going hard with new students can better prepare them for what may happen in the street, on the school yard or in a Starbucks parking lot.

Let’s be honest. I can also say that going hard can discourage students and make them quit so how do we prevent this?


Let them know it’s going to be rough and there is a reason for this. Let them know that if they survive the first few months it will get easier as they become more technically proficient. Let them know that they are preparing for what may really happen and share with them that even though you are being aggressive that it may be more aggressive in a real fight.

3. BOTH - Going easy and going hard with lower belts

Not everyone welcomes getting punched in the face or getting their ankle crushed by your opponents “gym rat bicep” (straight ankle lock). Maybe we gradually increase the aggression and keep students coming back? There is no quick fix for bully proofing or fight preparation. This takes countless sparring sessions and endless time on the mat. Perhaps it makes sense to decide which students should be given more aggression than others?

What do you think? Let us know...

Train Safe and Train Often,

Matthew Tropp | BJJ Report

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