Despite all my attempts at organizing intro classes and special introductory groups for the newest member of my gym, people are still completely and utterly lost. It is not about the first few days or weeks even. You can find a way to make those highly enjoyable and interesting to new folks, plus teach them a thing or two in the process. The hard part comes after the first month when people try and figure out what to do in every situation. In order to make things easier for the Jiu-Jitsu beginner that is heading for a few months of anguish and suffering, here are 7 BJJ beginner moves that will help make sense of things as you go along.
BJJ beginner moves are nothing special compared to all other moves in Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, those happen to also be the moves that work perfectly at the highest levels of BJJ as well, after about a decade of practice. That said, certain moves are simple for people who are new to understand and are going to work for them even against higher belts. These were the only two standards I used when trying to figure out what the 7 key BJJ beginner moves are. Furthermore, these moves pretty much focus on all the positions you’ll find yourself in constantly during grappling, so they might just yield interesting options for non-beginners as well.
Deciding What To Focus On
This is the hard part. BJJ beginners have no idea what to focus on, and that’s precisely why there’s a coach around. I’ve said many times before that nobody can teach you Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but yourself. I still believe that to be true. However, I also believe that guidance is massively helpful when you’re trying to figure out how the Gentle Art will work for you best.
Given that BJJ is highly versatile and is growing every day, it can be really hard for new students to choose what they need to focus on. After blue belt, people usually start “specializing” in area after area, speeding months, and sometimes, years figuring things out. A white belt beginner doesn’t have that option, though – they need to learn how to swim before they drown. Only later can they mess around with different swimming styles or try and dive deeper. This is exactly where the coach comes in.
As a coach, you need to be able to tell your students how swimming is done, but let them figure out their best approach y themselves. That said, you’ll still need to give them the basics of staying afloat, using limbs to propel themselves through the water, and the rhythm of breathing that will keep them going. As students, you need to learn to listen to your coach, particularly during this period of your BJJ journey which is definitely the hardest. Once you have everything you need to stay afloat, you can go about finding your own swimming style. If you truly want to become a shark, there are certain BJJ beginner moves that you need to imprint in your DNA as soon as possible. Here are the 7 most important ones.
BJJ Beginner Moves: The Top Picks
There will be alto of time to explore spinning, flying, and inverting things as you progress through Jiu-Jitsu. In the beginning, you’ll need a set of tools to help you deal with the most common things people will throw at you. Given that you’ll need to roll not just with fellow white belts, but also every other belt in the gym, you can’t just rely on athleticism or instinct. Instead, you need to master the following 7 BJJ beginner moves to be able to deal with the sharks trying to eat you alive while you’re swimming.
To that extent, the BJJ beginner moves you need are a submission hold, a guard of safety, a common guard pass, a sweep, a takedown, an escape, and an overall concept to give you meaning. Since different things work differently for different people, we’ve made a list of the moves that have been proven to work for everyone at every belt level, and are not hard to understand and learn.
The Submission – Rear Naked Choke
Although statistically speaking the armbar is the highest percentage submission in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there’s nothing that will help you more s a newbie than the rear-naked choke. First of all, the rear-naked choke means you need to have the opponent’s back, which is definitely the one position you always want to be on the lookout for. Secondly, it is a strangle, meaning that nobody can withstand it or refuse to tap, as is often the case with limb locks. Being stubborn with a choke is only going to earn you a nap when you’re on the receiving end. All in all, you need to focus on figuring out how to choke everyone you roll with form the back, without paying too much attention to other things. Once you have the choke down, you can open up to learning other submission holds.
The Pass – Half Guard Smash Pass
When it comes to passing the guard, there are concepts, formulas, and a list of techniques so big, it almost rivals the list of BJJ guards. In other words, even the founders of BJJ couldn’t learn all the possible passes, let alone a beginner. The one pass that you need to master as part of your BJJ beginner moves toolkit is the half guard pass. You’ll constantly find yourself in the half guard position, and from what I’ve seen through the years, beginners really struggle with getting out of it.
The most basic half guard pass you can use is the smash pass. All you need to remember is to hug the head, get an underhook, and place the bottom person with their back on the ground. Keeping them there is what will allow you to pass. Use the free leg to hook the nearest thigh and shake your trapped leg free for a pass to side control, or directly into the mount.
The Guard – Closed Guard
There’s a reason why the closed guard is the one guard you’ll systematically see people use at every belt level. It is easy to get to, offers security and you can work from there. There are three main things you need to remember about the closed guard to make it a key part of your BJ beginner moves arsenal. First, keep the opponent in between your knees, rather than trying to latch on with your feet. Secondly, control both wrists, either directly, or via Gi sleeve grips. Finally use your legs, by bringing your knees to your shoulder to break the top person’s posture. From there, you can go for the back to choke, or try to get on top.
The thing to remember about the guard in BJJ in general, especially as a beginner is that it serves one main purpose – keeping an opponent from getting past your legs. All the attack stuff is what comes after, and there’ll be plenty of time to mess around with it later on.
The Sweep – Tripod Sweep
Speaking of getting to the top, I’ll completely change gears here and offer an open guard sweep. Why? Well, the moment you break someone’s posture from closed guard, they’ll start getting out and opening it, not really thinking about passing. Moreover, you’ll find yourself in open guard situations much more often than you’d like as a brand new student of the gentle Art. Instead of trying to learn the latest popular open guard, go for a sweeping position straight away.
The tripod sweep is easy – hold one arm, hold the same side leg, and have one of your legs on the opponent’s hip. The moment you feel like it, use the other leg to trip their free leg, preferably from behind the heel. As far as BJJ beginner moves go, this is the one sweep that will make all the difference every time someone forces open your closed guard.
The Takedown – Ankle Pick
Also not something you’d associate with BJJ beginner moves. My question is “why”? Most people look to the double leg or a Judo throw are the first things new students should learn. I disagree. It is really hard to try and explain an Uchi Mata or a double leg to someone who has never done any wrestling or Judo. Instead telling someone to pick a leg up and pull someone to the ground is very easy to understand and execute.
The ankle pick takedown setup is beyond simple. Get a grip behind the head, or at the collar with one arm, and control the opposite side arm with the other. The goal is to force the opponent to turn towards the side of the arm you’re controlling, while you pull them downwards. When you achieve that, go to one knee, let go of the arm, and catch the ankle of the nearest leg. It can be either leg, really. Get up and pull for one of the easiest takedowns you’ll ever get.
The Escape – Frame From Bottom Mount
Mount is the one spot you’ll constantly end up as a beginner, and you will feel absolutely claustrophobic in there. That’s why I consider escaping this position to be the most important and first escape any new student should learn.
Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that the Upa (bridge) escape is not one I particularly like in Jiu-Jitsu. It tends to bring you inside the closed guard, and opening and passing it is usually a tremendous task. Instead, I prefer the frame and shrimp escape, since it lands you in half guard, where you can start attacking with sweeps or submissions immediately.
The execution is once again really simple. Use your arms to frame the opponent’s hips, turn to one side and pull the bottom leg up, aiming to touch your elbow with your knee. Escaping your hips while doing this will get you out quicker, but you could pull a frame escapee out without shrimping too. BJJ beginner moves don’t get simpler than this, really.
The Concept – Be On Top
Finally an overall concept in Jiu-Jitsu that’s a real game-changer for anyone, not just new students. However, teaching people this has proven to be much more effective than teaching it to more experienced students. The reason is that newbie are open to learning and don’t have bad habits formed through training.
The concept is simple, really. Always aim to be the person that is on top. Why? There’s no bottom position the entire sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that will land you points. Certainly, you might get a submission from the guard, but other than that, every guard aims to get you back on top. So, when you’re rolling, aim to be the person on top, regardless of what is going on. You’ll quickly realize that this will keep you dominant even if you have absolutely no idea what the other person is doing. When it comes to BJJ beginner moves there’s nothing more basic than this.
BJJ beginner moves come in all shapes and sizes. Having a simple thing to do from every common position will give you more than a fighting chance. In fact, it will start to open up doors and opportunities for your own creativity to come through the moment you start feeling a bit more comfortable on the mats. Until then, you’ll have “safe spots” to fall back to, and go-to moves that will cause trouble even for the black belts in your gym. Happy rolling!