Ten Common Mistakes BJJ Newbies Make

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is arguably the most effective grappling-based martial art, and it’s also one of the most rewarding. BJJ quickly becomes a way of life as you start training. You’ll have so much fun on the mat that you’ll find yourself consistently looking forward to your next class. Excess fat on your frame will slowly dissolve as you burn up to 1000 calories each hour you spend on the mat. 

Don’t expect to master BJJ in a few weeks though, since it’s one of the most extensive martial arts. It typically takes about ten years for BJJ students to reach the black belt rank. To progress through the ranks, you’ll need to sharpen your techniques by fixing some of the common mistakes BJJ students make. 


Ten Common Mistakes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Students Make

Ready to sharpen your BJJ game? Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes BJJ newbies make: 


1) Trying To Launch Your Offense From Inside Your Opponent’s Guard


The closed guard is a position that’s unique to BJJ, and it can be a dangerous place to be. BJJ newbies often think they can attack from top guard, which typically leads to their opponent securing an armbar or taking their back. 

There’s no need to put yourself in vulnerable positions trying to secure submissions like the Americana or Ezekiel choke from top guard. Your main priority in that position should be opening up your opponent’s guard and passing to a more dominant position. 

Remember, BJJ is about securing dominant positions before submissions, so you generally want to avoid going for submissions when you’re in disadvantageous positions. You’re more likely to pull off submissions from positions like side control, mount, and your opponent’s back. Even better, you’re less likely to be submitted by your opponent in these positions, plus you’ll probably end up on top even if your opponent successfully defends against your submission attempts. 


2) Not Using Underhooks

Underhooks are one of the most vital tools grapplers have. An underhook is when you hook an arm under your training partner’s armpit. The person who establishes underhooks on the ground often has more control than the other. 

Make it a habit to use underhooks whenever you’re trying to pass your training partner’s guard or looking to improve your position. Failing to use underhooks leaves you vulnerable to having your back taken, especially in half guard position or side control. Use underhooks in bottom positions to take your opponent’s back. Pretty much fight for underhooks whenever it’s available. 


3) Rolling With Ego

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Talk to most experienced BJJ players about who makes the worst rolling partners, and they’re quick to warn you about how dangerous white belts are. Newbies tend to be less confident in their abilities on the mat, so they often make up for it by treating sparring sessions like life-or-death situations. That won’t earn you any friends on the mat, and it’ll slow down your progression. 

You shouldn’t be overly concerned about winning or losing when you roll. Instead, focus on performing some techniques your instructor has already shown you and fixing any bad habits you have developed. 

No one cares who taps who out in the gym. If you’re training correctly, you’ll get tapped out so many times you’ll lose count.


4) Extending Your Arms

Now, why on earth would you do that? Don’t you know BJJ players love snatching people’s arms? There are very few scenarios in BJJ where extending your arms fully is a good idea. Extending your arms can make you lose balance when passing guard, and it leaves you vulnerable to armbars and other arm locks when you’re in bottom positions. 

Instead, keep your arms inside when you’re on the mat. Your elbows should be touching your sides, and the angle your forearm and biceps form should be as small as possible. This little detail will make it significantly harder for your training partners to catch you in armlocks. 


5) Staying Flat On Your Back

bjj mount jucimar

This one seems obvious, but it’s common to see BJJ newbies laying flat on their backs in bottom positions. 

Stop doing that. 

You should never voluntarily lay flat on your back when grappling. Instead, shift to the side your opponent is on and curl your body up a bit. That makes everything from improving position to securing submissions much harder for your opponent. 


6) Keeping Your Hips Too High When Passing Guard

Guard passing is one of the most challenging things for BJJ newbies, and keeping your hips high makes it easier for your training partner to sweep you. Keeping your hips low strengthens your base while denying your partner the space they need to sweep you. 


7) Crossing Your Legs From Back Mount

Every BJJ newbie makes this mistake at some point, and the experienced students make them pay for it. Crossing your legs almost feels natural when you first start training since you cross them in other positions like guard or half guard. Don’t do it, or you’ll get tapped by an annoying foot lock. Instead, establish your hooks or go for a body triangle. 


8) Putting One Arm In Your Opponent’s Guard

This is simply asking for your opponent to lock up a triangle choke. When in top guard position, either place both of your hands outside or inside your opponent’s guard. That takes away the triangle choke. 


9) Driving With The Top Of Your Feet Instead Of Your Toes

Many BJJ newbies struggle with maintaining positions like side-mount simply because they don’t know how to drive their weight into their opponent. A common mistake is to place the top of their feet on the mat instead of their toes. That’s the proper way to drive your weight on an opponent, stay on your toes and slightly pick your knees off the ground, forcing your opponent to carry most of your weight. 


10) Having Poor Posture In Guard

One of the biggest mistakes BJJ newbies make in top guard is not maintaining proper posture. This opens you up to all sorts of submissions and sweeps. To retain good posture in the guard, keep your back straight and don’t allow your opponent to hunch you over. Use the type of posture you would use when performing squats with a barbell. 


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