If you’re just starting out in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it’s imperative that you find knowledgeable senior students who can show you the ropes. Not only will a higher belt be able to show and tell you how to execute techniques correctly, but by working on a technique with someone newer they are also building a sense of how to teach and focus on detail for themselves.
Ever looked around during a drilling session to see see a couple of white belts doing something completely different to what the professor just showed? Please, don’t be these guys. Not only are you not engaging with what your teacher has carefully planned to help you improve, but you are likely also drilling whatever technique you decided to do wrong.
I was very fortunate to start out in a gym with some very thoughtful and generous higher belts. Every time it came to drilling, I found myself partnered with a seasoned blue belt or higher. Not only could they explain the technique and its application, but they could also show me how it felt when done correctly without hurting me. Any questions I had, no matter how dumb, were always answered with thought and appreciation. I was always grateful that my drilling partners would often share the most minute of details with me, which undoubtedly helped me to build a solid foundation upon which I now build upon.
I feel like the importance of drilling with higher belts is two fold; they get to work on how to teach the move to someone and you get to learn in a constructive way. I think that this is something that strikes at the heart of BJJ- remembering that you are not the most important person in the room makes you appreciate the time your training partners are investing with you. You are both learning and improving together. This kind of dynamic during drilling benefits both people.
Another up side to drilling with a higher belt is that they know how to keep you focused. Drilling to execute a technique correctly takes hundreds & thousands of repetitions, and sometimes it takes an innumerable amount after that to perfect (if perfection can indeed ever be achieved). This can be tiring for the mind, however a higher belt has been there before and will more easily be able to keep you on track and have you paying attention where it is due.
I’ve seen so many beginners drill three or four reps each of an arm bar or triangle before stopping; believing that they have now got that move down. Drilling with a higher belt will prevent this from happening as they will be far more keen to do a high amount of reps and make sure that the drilling session has been constructive.
Higher belts should be grabbing lower belts for another reason; to give something back. It’s often easy to forget just how little we all know (and don’t) when we start BJJ; but at some point, someone had to show the higher belt everything that they know as well. It’s imperative that this cycle continues if we, as a community, wish to keep growing and building strong martial artists.
Thanks to the experiences I had as a beginner, I’m now always happy to grab the new guy or girl and do my part to try and help them start their journey. I think we often forget the impact that a positive experience can make in a person’s experience when starting out. Everyone remembers the first time they tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and they will certainly remember what they learned if paired with a generous and experienced drilling partner.