White belt roulette

One of the unspoken etiquettes that I learned in Karate class is that when it’s time to choose partners you should look down the line. The senior students get to do the choosing, and if none of them select you, then you pick one of your juniors. I think this is part of the reason I have such a hard time asking my seniors in Jiu-Jitsu to roll. I feel like they should get to choose first, and if they want to ask me, they will. Since they rarely do, I usually end up asking one of my juniors. I feel more comfortable asking a white belt who I don’t know than a purple who I do. So I end up rolling with a lot of new people.

When you roll with a new white belt it’s always a gamble, and you never know what you’re going to get. I’ve grappled with a lot of big, smashy, muscly, spastic, over-zealous, punch-you-in-the-face-while-trying-to-escape white belts. They are usually the most dangerous people to roll with in the dojo, and it’s a miracle I don’t get injured even more than I already do.

Once in awhile I get lucky though, like I did yesterday, and I choose one who is only masquerading as a FNG. You’d think by now I would know that just because someone is wearing a white belt that doesn’t mean they don’t know anything! It took about fifteen seconds from the start of our roll for me to figure out that Mike had done this before, and it turns out that he’s been training BJJ for about a year, and he just moved to Lincoln for school.

It was a good roll, and I’m really glad I chose that particular white belt. He pleasantly surprised me. I was completely unsuccessful in any attempt to get him in my guard (inconceivable!) and his side control was inescapable. Which is even more impressive if you consider the fact that the main reason I chose him is because he only outweighs me by about twenty pounds. I also watched him roll with another white belt who was much larger than he was, and the big dude never got out of his mount before being submitted with an arm triangle. I don’t think Mike will be wearing that white belt around here for very long.

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10 comments on “White belt roulette

  1. Funny, I too posted praises for Mike on my blog after Monday class. He's surprisingly very flexible and I saw him give Carlos a hard time. That's saying something.Do you honestly think that it's disrespectful to ask a higher rank to roll with you? When I first started I was more afraid to ask because I didn't want to get beat, but now I try to find the best person available because I seem to learn a lot more. That is unless I have a vendetta against Ken, David, or Bauer going at the time. I don't think anyone thinks I'm being disrespectful for asking to roll.

  2. I actually read your blog post before I rolled with Mike, but I didn't remember the name so it didn't click at first that it was the same guy :)I guess I do think I'm being disrespectful in asking them, because that is how I have been trained, but I don't believe they think it is. I guess I also feel like they would rather roll with someone else, so I don't want to obligate them by asking. I think it's different for you, they want to roll with you, because you are a challenge.I would rather be beat by a higher belt with control and technique than by a reckless white belt trying to pull my arms out of socket any day.

  3. Yeah, I can see that and I respect it. However, I hope that this doesn't sound disrespectful but I think you should be more selfish and try to get the most out of open mat. I'm sure everyone in the dojo would like to see you dominate in tournaments. The fastest way to get there (in my opinion) is to role with the best in class. This may be just pseudo psychology, but they might not be asking you because you may seem not interested.Oh and I wouldn't say that I'm a challenge….yet.

  4. I think you are right, Josh, and I've been trying to ask more higher belts lately. I should say that Conan and a few other seniors have always been willing to grapple with me when they're free, so I really have nothing to complain about. I also know that half the time people aren't sure if I'm sitting out because of injury or not, and it's up to me to let them know I'm on the dance card.And I think you are definitely more of a challenge than the average person at your level :)

  5. I believe this etiquette is reflected in the tradition. A person would wait for days or weeks in hopes of gaining entrance to a school while being told to go away. If let in, you would clean. If you act "correct", they would teach you. I do not think this test goes away. If you don't act correctly, you could simply be given minimal attention causing you to leave or to have better character in order to gain that attention. The senior has earned the right and the knowledge to be the choosers. It is the duty of everyone in the dojo to help anyone whom is their junior. Older siblings must look after the younger, this is no different. adults vs. kids. Also, you must earn that attention. As a senior you are a role model. The juniors attempt to replicate your everything, to an extent. Are you teaching selfishness? Did your seniors teach you that?Joe-Jitsu

  6. i suspected Mike had some previous training. He had a white belt with that black part on the end of it. Plus, when he stretched, he was close to putting his foot behind his head. i hope he sticks around.

  7. Thank you for the input, Mr. Etiquette Policeman ;) Ken, the black part on the end of the belt is where BJJ people put their stripes. Mike said he would be here for at least a year :)

  8. Hey Joe, I think you are taking my use of "selfish" out of context. I'm not telling her to be ultimately selfish but put herself out there more and let people know she wants to roll. Like Gina stated people don't always know if she is healthy or willing to roll with them.It seems there is also a contradiction in what you say. The senior has earned the right to choose. In essence they have the right to be selfish? Personally I think coaches and masters give the most attention to students that are excited, hard working, hunger for knowledge, and are willing to get in there and try their best. I'm sure each dojo has it's own spoken and unspoken ethics to follow and we must adapt to them. Also, I think you watch too many Kung-fu movies or Fight Club.

  9. I'm not going to try to speak for Joe, but I will say that everything he said was taught to him by his seniors at the dojo, so maybe they're the one who watch too many kung fu movies ;)

  10. I do have a couple more thoughts on this…"It seems there is also a contradiction in what you say. The senior has earned the right to choose. In essence they have the right to be selfish?"I think what Joe should have said is the senior has earned the knowledge to choose. In essence, they know who should be partnered up with who, so their choosing usually reflects their desire to make sure everyone is safe and working with an appropriate partner.Although they do have first choice, our black belts in Karate rarely work with each other in class. They are not selfish when they choose, quite the opposite.

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