BJJ White Belt: What to Expect

What to expect as a BJJ white belt

As a white belt in BJJ, I wasn’t 100% sure of what to expect. If you’re in the same position, just starting out in BJJ, here’s what you can expect.

As a new BJJ white belt, expect to learn grappling fundamentals including, takedowns, transitions and submissions; expect a progressive and structured training program which may be difficult at first. Also expect the class to include physical hands-on training, and warm-ups requiring moderate fitness.

In this article, discover what you can expect as a white belt, including:

  • Class structure
  • What you will learn
  • Belt stripes & white belt progression
  • Why white belts quit & how to avoid it

BJJ White Belt: What You Can Expect

When you’re just starting out in BJJ as a white belt, you can expect to begin by learning the basics of BJJ grappling.

In BJJ, these basics are often referred to as the fundamentals.

Many BJJ schools have a structured fundamentals program which all new students will have to complete before being invited to progress into the more advanced classes.

As a new white belt, you will most likely spend a lot of your training with other new white belts, practicing the techniques that have been taught by the instructor in that day’s lesson.

This means getting hands-on with your training partner – you grab a hold of them and practice a move or technique, then swap over, and your training partner does the same to you.

All while being supervised by the instructor to ensure you’re doing everything correctly and safely.

You can expect most BJJ schools to be friendly and welcoming, with most of the other students being more than happy to help you out as you’ll likely have loads of questions.

BJJ Class Structure

Most BJJ schools follow a very similar class structure to each other. Here’s how you can expect most BJJ classes to go:

Line Up

At the beginning of the class, all the students will line up against the wall in order of rank – from the newest white belts with no stripes, up to the most experienced belts present in the class at that time.

Some schools will have attendance cards which are filled in each time you come to class so the instructor can see how each student is progressing over time.

If your school uses attendance cards, then they will have someone walk down the line and collect them from each student during the line-up.

Warm Up

The warm up in a BJJ class usually lasts around 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace.

It is not designed to be a workout, but instead to get the blood flowing, get you warm and loosened up ready for training.

Most BJJ warm ups include:

  • Running/ jogging around the room
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Squats
  • And BJJ specific movements (which will be shown to you in class)

Instructor Demonstration

The instructor demonstration is when the instructor will give the class a full demonstration and breakdown of the technique or move that you will be learning for that lesson.

During the demonstration students will either be sitting against the wall to watch, or standing and moving around to see the technique from all angles.

If you are unsure of anything being shown, you can usually ask questions during the demonstration and the instructor will breakdown and show you the answer.

Once everyone in the class is happy and clear on what they’re doing, you get to practice and drill the technique with a training partner.


In BJJ, drilling is the part of the class where you and your training partner go one-for-one, taking it in turns to practice the technique on each other.

Drilling each technique in this way helps you to build muscle memory through repetition, meaning you’ll start to remember each step of the technique and be able to use it in live rolling.

Live Rolling

In BJJ, rolling is the part of the class where you will be paired up and go head-to-head with other students – like sparring in Boxing.

During rolling, you are not practicing or drilling any technique in particular, you are just going head-to-head, using any, and every technique you know.

As a new white belt, with no previous grappling experience, you can expect to not do very well at first, and to get tapped a lot.

This is completely normal, and over time, you will get better and better until you’re able to hang in there and even start to tap other students.

Not all BJJ schools allow you to live roll and first require you to earn at least 2-3 stripes on your white belt first.

What You Will Learn as a BJJ White Belt

As a BJJ white belt, you will learn the grappling fundamentals of BJJ such as, takedowns, transitions, ground positions, and submissions; including choke holds and joint locks.

The training program is progressive, and it is very common for new students (white belts) to find it difficult to do the techniques at first, but to improve over time.

Discover how to improve your Jiu-Jitsu game faster in our article: BJJ: 12 Ways to Improve & Progress Faster

Here’s an overview of just some of the things you can expect to learn in BJJ:

TakedownsGround PositionsSubmissions
Leg grabsFull guardChoke holds
Single legHalf guardJoint locks
Double legSide controlArm bar
Hip throwsMountTriangle
Guard pullsBack mountKimura
Lapel dragsNorth southGuillotine

“As a BJJ white belt, you will learn the grappling fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu”

See how BJJ can improve your life off of the mats too with its life lessons in our article: What Does BJJ Teach You? Techniques & Life Lessons

When Do You Get Your BJJ White Belt & Do You Have to Earn it?

All new students in BJJ start out as a white belt from day one, regardless of any previous grappling experience. You do not have to earn your white belt as it is the first belt in BJJ’s ranking system.

Anyone who walks into a BJJ gym off the street and signs up, will start out with a white belt tied around their waist.

White Belt Progression, Stripes & Getting Your Blue Belt

As you progress you will start to receive stripes, which are awarded based on your attendance and your BJJ ability.

The stripes are then worn on your belt to show your progression and rank as a white belt (stripes are awarded at all belt colors).

After 4 stripes on your BJJ belt, you are now eligible for promotion to the next belt color.

“How long will you be a white belt before getting your blue belt? – check out our article: BJJ: How Long Will You Be A White Belt

Why White Belts Quit BJJ & How To Avoid It

In general, white belts quit BJJ because they are not seeing any improvements and find it is still too hard and not starting ‘to click’ yet, meaning they become disheartened and quit.

For you to stick with your training and to avoid quitting it is helpful to have a good idea of when you can expect your BJJ to get easier and start to click.

Check out when you can expect your BJJ to get easier in our article: When BJJ Gets Easier (Plus 3 Ways To Improve).

In the article you will learn about:

  • training consistency and how often to train per week (with the pros and cons of each training schedule)
  • plus mastering your defenses, escapes and your ‘go to moves

The other key factor to sticking with your BJJ training and not quitting as a white belt, is to have a solid game plan as to how you will improve over time.

To help you out with this, check out our step-by-step game plan to improve: BJJ: 12 Ways To Improve & Progress Faster.

By knowing how to improve, and knowing when you can expect it to get easier, you should be able to stick with your BJJ training for longer and avoid quitting.

Discover more about BJJ in our other articles:

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