Paul Greenhill’s What I Wish I Knew as a White Belt!

Paul Greenhill with Lloyd Irvin

Paul Greenhill with Lloyd Irvin

My teammate and friend (Julius Park) asked me to write down a few things that I wish I’d known when I was a white belt starting out in BJJ and though I’ve been training for almost 14 years, I had to think about what key things to write because they’re so much I wish I would’ve known.

So, here’s my “short list” of The Wise Grappler’s “I wish I would’ve known…”


  • 90% of the folks that you start with at white belt will never make it to black belt.
  • You will be one of those 90 percent that never reaches black belt unless you really want it.
  • Injury is 100 percent guaranteed at each belt level.
  • Family members will try to talk you into quitting after each injury, especially if surgery is required. and if you really don’t want to be a black belt, their comments will make sense and you will quit.
  • Listen to your body and rest when you’re hurt. BJJ is a marathon race, not a sprint.
  • There’s a thin line between being hurt and injured. Don’t ignore the warning signs.
  • BJJ is ALL EGO, regardless of the old “leave your ego at the door” mantra.
  • Keep a flower pot at the office large enough to soak my sore wrists, hands and elbows during the day.
  • Never train hard without a good warm-up first. if you’re intentionally skipping warm-ups so you can save energy for your matches, you’re going to pay for it someday.
  • Do not listen to training advice from other white belts over my instructor.
  • Everyone online sounds smarter and better equipped to teach you than your instructor.
  • Too much bjj info (e.g. DVDs, books, magazines, etc.) is just as bad as not enough bjj info.
  • Good grapplers are training, not spending all day posting about who’s the best grappler or where they train.
  • If you don’t have training goals in the beginning, someone will give you their agenda for what they want you to be and you may not like it.
  • The grappler that thinks “drilling is a waste of time” will be an average grappler at best.
  • You don’t have to be at the gym to train.
  • Competitions will reveal all your bad habits that you can either hide or ignore in the gym.
  • Start learning takedowns as a white belt. that way, you won’t be a blue/purple/brown belt that can only jump guard or butt scoot.
  • The paintbrush and every other basic technique that you think is useless will work if you take time to learn how to set them up and execute them correctly.
  • If you have to think about doing a technique, you don’t know it.
  • Drill at least 10-15 mins after class every day on the technique you just learned to help reinforce it in your muscle memory.
  • Trust your coach to build you as a grappler, not strangers that you only talk to online.
  • White belts don’t have a style, regardless of what they think.
  • Never let anyone intimidate you on the mat.
  • Remember to breathe when sparring. if you run out of gas too quickly every time you roll, you’re probably holding your breath.
  • Never be afraid to tap with a partner, it’s really not that important

I’m sure that I could’ve gone on forever, but I have to get up in the morning! Meditate on these “wise grappling” tips and feel free to send me your feedback at

Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience, Julius. Ayyyy!!!

Dedicated to improving your mat experience!

Paul Greenhill (aka The Wise Grappler)

About Crazy 88

Crazy 88 runs Mixed Martial Arts training centers throughout the Baltimore area. They focus on Combat Sports such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Boxing, and Wrestling for both Adults and Children, Beginners to Pros.

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