The most dangerous rank is a white belt

I’m a white belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu and I’ll be the first one to tell you that I think white belts are the most dangerous belts to work with. This doesn’t necessarily apply to more experienced white belts (although in some cases it does, remember what happened to my arm my first month back) who have been around for awhile, but it definitely applies to brand new white belts.

Today, on my first day back in over a month I made the mistake of going really easy on a brand new guy. Now here’s where I go wrong and I’ll be wise to remember this going forward. Mind you, one of my buddies has told me time and time again, “Don’t go easy on the new guys, Angel” and I didn’t listen, but that’s going to change now.

So just because someone is brand new to BJJ it doesn’t mean that they are not dangerous. The fact that they are new doesn’t mean that they are weak or that they will be gentle as you spar or train. In fact, I’d argue the complete opposite is true. New guys don’t have a basic understanding of the language of bjj. They don’t know that they don’t need to win all the time. They don’t understand that they don’t need to use brute power for everything that they do (I’m totally guilty of and working on this) and they don’t know the dangers associated with certain movements.

Today I got my back twisted in a very weird way and I’m grateful I didn’t get hurt badly. Remember, I work for a Spinal Cord non-profit so I’m very aware of how a spinal cord injury can affect your life. In any case, here’s what happened today.

Since the guy was new I went into a turtle position when we started sparring, I did this to give him the advantage as I see no point in crushing a new guy. However, this dude jumped on top of me, he grabbed me by the shoulders and threw himself back. This abrupt movement bent my body backwards with no warning whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting or ready for this so my legs were caught underneath my body like in the Yoga “camel pose” below. I reached as far as I could go and he continued to bend my body back while trying to sit down on his butt.

Fortunately for me, I have a very strong core and I was able to keep him from yanking me all the way back and shifted my body to the side and pulled my legs out before this dude broke my fucking back in half. Even as I write this and I think about what happened, I realize the level of danger that I was in for that split moment.

I know it wasn’t malicious and it was not mean spirited at all. This is what we in BJJ call a white belt spazzing out. It’s not his fault because he doesn’t know better. On the other hand, I should know better than to put myself in such a compromised position with a new person like that. Granted, I didn’t expect for him to grab and pull me that way. That shit came out of nowhere.

Needless to say, once I survived that episode, my approach to this new guy changed. Like I mentioned before, I know it wasn’t malicious, so I didn’t go out to hurt him, but best believe that after that I was no longer going easy on him. At that point I turned it up to match his level, and had to apply a little bit of pain. Mostly pressure and smothering him with my weight and body. Though admittedly I did apply a few submissions to show him that I was going easy on him. Also as we sparred, I told him to breathe and stop trying to overpower me because I was in a better position and overall stronger. He didn’t stop so I continued to drain his energy and smash him from the top position.

This is something that even yesterday one of my coaches caught me doing. I tend to use power to try and explode out of bad positions sometimes. I’m doing it less and less, but I still slip up on occasion. I got caught and called out on it myself so I know it’s hard to break that habit. Especially when you don’t have the right level of skill to do anything else. But it’s important to learn this, when we use power like that all we do is tire ourselves out and give openings to our opponents. If you are surviving, you are winning.

Here’s the main takeaway y’all, I’ve said this before, but I’m totally gonna stop taking it so easy on new guys. I try to be a nice guy and these dudes try to break my ass in half. Henceforth, I’m going to bring a little more heat until I determine whether or not they are going to spazz out on me! I’ll save the methodical softer methods for the higher belts. It seems like I didn’t take heavy damage to my back, but it is bothering me a bit. That being said, I’m glad to be back on the mats training. Osu!


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Angel Rodriguez

Angel Rodriguez

Angel covers fitness, social issues, reviews, news & more! He's a veteran, tech and fitness pro which has been featured on Huffpo, NatGeo, NPR, NY1, HLN, Men's Fitness, MTV, & other major platforms. Angel is also Brazilian Jiujitsu White belt.
Angel Rodriguez

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