If you are just attending your first class in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you can show up in comfortable exercise clothes such as a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt. However, if you continue training in the art, you will be expected to wear a gi or training jacket and a white belt to indicate your status as a beginner in the art.
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Belt Ranks in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools use the same set of belt ranks, although some schools have a different set of ranks for children. To advance from white belt to blue belt takes about a year. The other belt ranks -- purple, brown and black -- take up to five years each to earn, although sometimes they can be earned in as little as two years if you are very focused on your training. Red belts are worn only by grandmasters of the art.
The Importance of Etiquette
As a white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the most important things you need to understand is the proper etiquette for training. Never behave in a disrespectful, challenging or aggressive way to either your instructors or your fellow students. Bow when you step out onto the mat and when you leave it. Keep your shoes off the mat. During "rolling" or sparring practice, be ready to help your training partner get back up when he needs help. If you find yourself accidentally in the way of any higher-ranked person, it is your responsibility as the lower-ranked person to move aside. Don't try to be too intense or to hurt your opponent. More important than trying to memorize a set of rules is to simply pay attention. Observe how the other people in the school conduct themselves in different situations -- especially the higher belt ranks -- and take your cue from them.
As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belt, you will be spending a lot of time on a very small list of basic techniques. These include escaping from the mounted position where your opponent is on top of you, passing the guard or getting out from the control of your opponent's legs when you are on top of him, transitioning from the side control position to one where you are mounting the opponent, and a basic submission hold or two. Although this is just a small number of techniques, focusing on these fundamental skills is essential if you want to lay a strong foundation for the more sophisticated skills you will learn at higher belt ranks.
Sparring in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is called "rolling." Unlike in a lot of other martial arts, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school might have you rolling from your very first day as a white belt. This type of sparring is purely for developing grappling skills. Strikes and kicks are not allowed, nor are techniques such as the heel hook that can cause serious injuries. It is important, when rolling at the white belt level, to go slowly and not be impatient. Develop your technical skill as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu exponent and don't be afraid to "tap out" or submit when your opponent has you in a submission from which you cannot escape.