How to Roll With a White Belt
If you ask most higher belts, they will tell you that rolling with white belts are obviously not their first choice of partners. Some may even avoid them like the plague because it’s a waste of a roll for them. Maybe blue belts might jump at the chance to roll with white belts to exert their dominance, but many brown and black belts will pass on a roll if asked by a white belt.
Why, might you ask? Let’s discuss the obvious: 1) White belts don’t really have a good grasp of what they’re doing, much less have control over their body movements – which in turn, hurts you or they hurt themselves; 2) They are spazzy; and, 3) They have too much ego because they feel they have something to prove in live training.
So how can we make the most out of rolling with a white belt without wanting to break their limbs or worse, getting injured because we find ourselves rolling more without technique than with it? Here’s a few tips to help you stay safe (and sane) when rolling with a white belt:
Use technique. Don’t get into the habit of rolling with emotion because they are striking nerves – literally and figuratively – like when they start jamming their elbows into your thighs in your closed guard. Good technique can combat (and tire out) someone spazzy a lot quicker than you realize… especially in the closed guard, side control, or on their back. It can also help you avoid getting unnecessarily kicked or punched in the face, twisting your knee, or hyperextending a limb.
Avoid talking/teaching to distract or lessen the time in a roll. We are all guilty of this when we are tired, don’t want to roll with certain people, or just want to flex our egos a bit. However, sometimes people need to learn the hard way. And by hard, I mean getting humbled by a higher belt and technique. One of the best examples I’ve seen of this was at an open mat where a black belt (around 5’8” and 155 lbs) was approached by a white belt who was 6’5” and well over 200 lbs to roll. I looked in horror as I watched this quiet, meek, black belt accept the roll in which they started from standing. Over the next five minutes, I watched this black belt (who did not utter any words), judo throw, overhead sweep, and repeatedly submit this big white belt. Needless to say, the white belt walked away with his tail between his legs and never asked this black belt (or any black belt) to roll again.
Stop giving them a chance. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. Don’t get lazy with your technique because they are a white belt and may not know any better. This is how you will end up getting smashed, injured, and mad.
Rolling with white belts require a delicate balance between using good technique and not being a dick. No, you don’t need to submit them as much as you can during a round, but what you can do is play catch and release so that they learn how to recognize what to do/not to do. Some require more humbling than others, in which case, perhaps you should have your way with them. However, use discretion. Be the example of the higher belt that you learned a lot from when you rolled with them as a white belt.