Recently I moved to a new city. I have been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than 14 years.

In my old academy, I used to have partners of all ranks and sizes; this is very important in BJJ. It means I was beaten and also I beat some guys as well. At my new home, I'm training just with white belts and I think I have started to lose my technique.

If I train in my normal fashion, I will beat everybody on the mat (I know some guys doesn't like be beaten). Because they are new in BJJ, my partners rely on strength; a fundamental of BJJ is that a weaker fighter can defeat a stronger one.

I would like to know how I can keep improving my techniques with such a large difference in ranks.

  • Not really an answer, but I would change clubs, or ask the teacher if he knows a solution
    – Tominator
    Jul 20, 2015 at 9:02

6 Answers 6


Realistically a collection of white belts aren't going to challenge you much if you've been training for 14 years.

I'm reasonably new, tiny and a girl so I'm probably not ever going to find myself in a situation like yours, but some of the ways that my guys train with me might be useful ways that you can challenge yourself instead.

Teach me! Teach me!

Several of the more experienced guys I get to roll with turn each roll into a coaching session along the way. If I make a mistake they choke me silly, then point out the mistake and help me correct it. If there's a technique I don't understand or don't recognize they'll explain it for me. Obviously this is a huge boon for me but for them it's helpful too, because in order to explain something to someone with less experience you need to really understand it yourself. This isn't going to directly help your technique, but it might help you understand your techniques and concepts better. You have time to really think about why this stuff works. It's worth something.

Wait, how did I get to mount?

I'm a hundred pound teenage girl. I don't get to play top game very often against adult guys. Except the clever ones who realize that a training partner who isn't in your league is an extremely useful person to practice defense and escapes against.

Give your white belts opportunities to attack you. Start under mount or side control. Deliberately give up your back and let them start working for that choke. This gives you heaps of chances to practice escapes and defensive techniques, because they probably won't finish you immediately like someone of your own skill level would. More time in bad positions improves your game for sure, even if you have to deliberately engineer those bad positions yourself.

Play your 'C' game

Training partners who can't really challenge you are the best people to polish those techniques which aren't your best 'high percentage' or 'go to' moves against a challenging opponent. I'm forever getting people try new things on me, which can be hilarious and really isn't bad for either of us.

Make a game of it

There's a couple of purple belt guys in my gym who usually get assigned a 'challenge' for rolls with me. I might not be able to give them much of a contest under normal circumstances, but it's a heck of a lot harder for them to finish me if they're only allowed to submit me with a specific technique and I know what's coming. They still do, but that's okay!

So be creative and challenge yourself. One roll you're only allowed an armbar on the guy's left arm. The next roll you have to 'call' a submission before you try for it. Whatever. Make your own difficulty.

Smash me! Smash me!

Some people will have tantrums if you destroy them, others will be fine with it so long as you're nice about it and don't do it all the time. I was the happiest camper in the world the first time one of our smaller guys said "I'm competing this weekend, do you mind if I turn up the intensity this roll, I really want to work on getting my submissions nice and crisp". Maybe I'm just crazy, but it was pretty fun to get tapped fifteen times in ten minutes.

So pick the right people and occasionally you should be able to really bring out your 'A game' for at least part of a roll.

Find somewhere you don't have to do any of that stuff...

Realistically you're probably going to want to find somewhere that has training partners who can challenge you, even if that means travelling a bit further sometimes.

If that's not an option, hopefully some of those other things might help keep you somewhat sharp anyway. Good luck! :)

  • +1 for teaching. My seniors are constantly offering to work us through the basics. They state that the best way to be certain you actually understand something is to teach someone else to do it. Teaching well can potentially be even harder than doing it yourself. This is especially true for any art which seeks finesse over strength. If you want to practice technique yourself, you can also let them put you into a less advantageous position (of their choosing) before trying to resolve it without relying on strength yourself.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jul 27, 2015 at 22:46

I feel you, bro. Smashing them or putting yourself in bad positions doesn't really help. In my similar situation I see three options:

  1. Train something else
  2. Make each of them a black belt in something
  3. Smash smash smash

Train Something Else

You don't have to do BJJ. Maybe in this city the best way for you to get better at fighting is to train boxing instead. Or maybe your best way to get your jollies is lifting. Or maybe your best option for getting better at grappling is the wrestling school down the street.

Make Each of Them Black Belts at Something

Marcelo Garcia has told the story of how he got better when he didn't have world-class training partners: he gave each opponent a specific skill that he would mentor that person on. Week after week, month after month, he'd show This Dude all the secrets to defending Marcelo's own guillotine, and That Dude (who Marcelo always gave his back to) got a load of instruction on finishing the rear naked choke, while This Gal learned everything Marcelo could teach about stopping Marcelo's X-guard. By keeping the topics small, that person could gain proficiency in that area far beyond their general skill level. As he put it, they'd be a white belt that a purple belt couldn't guillotine, or a white belt with brown-belt-level finishing abilities from the back mount, or a white belt who could stop a black belt's X-guard.


Another approach is just to relax and have fun smashing them, letting them have positions before reversing them, and otherwise just being better than them and not worrying about it. You'll stay in shape and give back to the grappling community.


I'm sure you've heard the Bruce Lee quote, "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer." You're the wise man now. Some of my best learning has been when I'm teaching someone else how to do things. Some advice:

  • Don't just smash your partners- neither of you learns anything from that.
  • Go slow enough for them to learn by watching you, or at least to react.
  • Focus on making your techniques textbook-perfect.
  • Try the techniques you don't normally use.
  • Let them ask you questions. Answer them honestly. Don't make stuff up to sound confident- if you're doing that, it's because you don't know the answer and boom, you have something to learn.

You teach!

As a student, you learn what you choose to remember from your instructors. You then eventually fall into your "own way" of doing things that feel comfortable while still working.

I found that when I began teaching, I drew from all my knowledge of the basics. I ended up relearning my discipline and truly understanding what it was that I was doing. By teaching, I became closer to the roots of my discipline whenever I taught them to the younger/newer practitioners.


What Dave said.

But in particular, you don't normally have to go too far to find great judo players and perhaps judo competitions.

after all it is often described as 'old juto anyway (in the 90s judo was a popular alternative in the UK to up your MMA game). Also Ronda Rousey is predominantly from a Judo background and she holds her own :)

MMA clubs may be worth looking at but I believe can be hit and miss.


Tussles has done a good job of covering how to interact with less experienced partners. Here is how you can adapt your training to adjust to reduced availability of instruction.

At some point in every serious practitioner's martial arts journey, it will be time to transition from being a student learning particular techniques as demonstrated by a teacher to performing your own research. This is how students can surpass their teachers; learning a martial art is not merely learning techniques by rote as someone else has performed them.

When doing your own research, start from principles to refine your existing techniques or develop new ones. For example:

  • Body preparation Is your body sufficiently flexible, strong, and fast? If there are problem areas, focus exercise on those.
  • Balance/Footwork When you move, do you remain balanced or are you providing opponents openings to attack?
  • Exploit leverage/angles When you are attacking or defending, are you applying force at optimal angles, or can you be more efficient by changing the direction or location of contact?
  • Minimize distance When performing a motion, is there a smaller motion that will achieve the same goal? Smaller motions are faster than bigger ones.
  • Exploit space Can you control space to eliminate your opponents options and leave yours open?
  • Continuity Most any opponent can block/neutralize your first attack. How do you chain your defences and attacks to naturally flow, keeping in mind the other principles?
  • Relaxation Are you wasting energy unnecessarily? Do you become fixated and unable to react to what your opponent is doing?

It's very important to understand why techniques are done the way they are, and more importantly, how you can improve them for yourself. You may discover some things you have learned do not make sense, possibly because they assume something that is not true in your case. You may also discover why your teachers always said to do things in one particular way.

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