Aggressive white belts can be a nightmare to train with in BJJ. We have dissected this issue to bring you a number of options to deal with the aggressive white belt in your life.
If you have trained in any martial art, its pretty certain at some point you will have encountered the aggressive white belt conundrum. You know the type, maybe you’re currently trying to solve the problem. Little experience, no technical ability and a load of aggression its enough to make you wonder if there trying to unload their personal issues by tearing you to bits.
Well fear not as we are going to look at the aggressive white problem and try to understand it a little better, whilst throwing in some tips and a little wisdom as well.
What’s the problem?
Alright we all know what the problem is, the new person who is only interested in smashing you every time you train. They rely only on aggression and muscle as they have no technique due to the fact they haven’t learnt anything meaningful yet. Probably because all they focus on is smashing training partners into the mat.
Sometimes this problem only arises in sparing when the desire to win becomes overpowering and thoughts of practicing technique have long disappeared. They want to show superiority and how they are capable of submitting you. What motivates this mindset varies from person to person, but the impact is always the same. It’s a rough tough training session with very little being learnt which leaves you feeling frustrated.
Without condoning this behaviour it’s understandable that when confronted with seeming violent situation a new person might take it a little bit harder than a seasoned trainer. What’s more troubling is when this aggressive mindset is carried over into drilling. If they are intent on making it as hard as possible for you to drill, then it’s going to hold back your progression too.
Why is this a problem
So, there’s an aggressive white belt, but why is this a problem when you have been training longer, surely your technique will be able to overcome their aggression. Some might see this as being a perfectly valid point, if you were ever forced to use your skills in a self-defence situation you wouldn’t be able to ask your attacker to tone down the aggression. On the other hand, treating every role like a life defining battle is hardly likely to be beneficial in the long run either.
The problem with aggressive white belts is the uncontrolled and erratic nature of the aggression. Whilst using a bit of aggression every now and then can be beneficial, when you don’t know what your doing it can be just plain dangerous. Limbs tend to go flying everywhere and anywhere so the likelihood of getting caught with an erred knee or elbow to the face increases.
If somewhere along the line this new white belt has managed to pick up a few submissions because they have seen it in the UFC or on Youtube then the chances of you getting hurt are significantly increased.
Aggressive newbies often haven’t developed the skill to finish a submission properly, so they just yank them on as hard as they can. A fellow inexperienced white belt might not recognise the danger until its too late and a trip to the hospital is required. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too often and most of the time it just results in a little soreness but its still totally avoidable!
If someone is being over aggressive it tends to take the fun out of the situation too. If your attempting to relax and enjoy as session whist still committing hard to training its unpleasant when the person your training with is treating it like a fight to the death.
The Jiu-Jitsu option
The simple facts are that in all forms of grappling there is a significant amount of physical contact and as with all physical sports there will always be an element of strength and aggression in play. The best way to deal with an aggressive partner is to learn to embrace the aggression and use it against them.
One of the great things about dedicating a lot of time to learning BJJ is that you become quite adept at it over time. Senior grades know if a partner is getting out of line they can utilise technique to subdue an overly aggressive white belt with ease.
Don’t let one overly aggressive white belt put you off, keep working technique and counter their aggression with skill. Just because someone is coming at you with aggression doesn’t mean you can’t use the techniques you already know to subdue them. If you feel like they are dominating, try and use it as an opportunity to brush up on your defence.
Take your opportunities to lock them down in your guard and tie their arms up. Fighting aggressively is usually very taxing on their cardio so after a few minutes they won’t be able to sustain the pace they started with. This will provide you with a chance to counter attack and show them what you can do without being aggressive.
Always make sure the position is secured and move in a methodical way to give them little opportunity to put the pressure back on you. If you focus on developing your ability to deal with aggressive white belts its bound to improve your self-defence abilities.
As long as you don’t have to practice with this person every session a couple of aggressive training partner can add a good variety to your practice. However, if you think they are being over aggressive and at risk of causing injury or maybe you don’t have the skills to overcome them there are some other options
Alright so you want some alternatives to facing down an aggressive white belt on the mat, well here are your options. Some of these options are also ideal if you’re okay with aggressive sparing but want to drill lighter to work on technique.
First off, the best thing to do is try and explain to the person they are being way too aggressive. Let them know that you don’t want to get hurt and equally you don’t want to hurt them. It might be worth discussing flow rolling with them to try and tapper their aggressive tenancies.
It should go without saying if you have a problem just talk as often it can be resolved all too easily with a simple conversation. Lots of people are afraid of talking to there training partners as they don’t want to look weak, but its better to have the conversation than spend your time resenting the way your partner practices. They might have no idea about mat etiquette and not realise there’s better ways to train.
If you’ve had a chat with them and it hasn’t resolved the issue, then the next step must be talking with you classmates and finding out if anyone else is having a problem. You might find that they are training the same way with everyone or it might be the case its just with you. A this point you’re going to have to decide if you want to speak with your professor about the problem. After all its as much there problem to make sure the training environment is kept safe and friendly as it is all the people who train there.
Its almost a last resort but if your not comfortable you can refuse to train with that person. Its not something that I’m a fan of and some schools might not allow you to pick and choose who you will and wont train with, but either way it should bring the problem to a conclusion. If you’ve spoken to your coach and they haven’t done anything about it, then they either need to let you opt out of training with this person or address the problem themselves.
The very last resort which I think most people wouldn’t want to contemplate is leaving and training elsewhere. This is not a practical option for everyone as it might be the only gym in town, but for some people will this option. A good training environment is one where you can learn and grow in an atmosphere of respect. If your getting beat up by someone who just being aggressive, and you no longer enjoy training then why keep putting yourself through that. Find somewhere where the training meets your expectations.
What’s not acceptable
Although dealing with someone being aggressive is a pain there are somethings which have to be shut down immediately. If your rolling with someone and they attempt to bite, eye poke etc or genuinely do damage to you that’s crossed a line. This is not simply being aggressive, and you should call them out on it immediately. The same goes for holding submissions after a tap or holding them too long after a tap. You should never have to put up with this and the person doing this should at least be ejected from that session in my opinion. Emotions can run high but there are some lines that you cannot justify crossing.
Most people who start training BJJ and come out aggressive eventually learn to calm down and work technique as they realise this is more effective than raw aggression. The aggression can be a substitute for any meaningful technique, some people have been able to rely on the strength in other sports and believe it will automatically carryover into martial arts when this is not so much the case in BJJ.
It’s worth remembering that aggressive white belts are not a new phenomenon, wherever you train you will continue to encounter them. The better you become the easier you will find it to deal with aggressive white belts and over time you will consider it to be annoyance more than a problem.
If your a white belt and are looking for some tips to get you started take a look at my 14 things I wish I knew as a white belt.