Too often, beginners get discouraged because they set unrealistic goals they can’t achieve in a few classes or even a couple months. They’re ambitious goals like:

  • Submit that purple belt.
  • Not tap to anyone all night.
  • Pull off this awesome submission.

This is normal, but here is what an instructors is usually looking for in their white belts:

  • Basic conditioning.
  • Improving balance and coordination.
  • Learning the names for things.
  • Persistence and regular attendance.
  • Paying attention to instruction.
  • Diligence in drilling.
  • Being willing to spar even if they think they’ll “lose.”

As a beginner, going in with unrealistic goals sets you up to feel like you “failed” even when you didn’t. When talking with beginners, I often help them see that rock bottom goals are better, since they are realistic and attainable. Big goals like “Get my black belt one day” are good too, but start with baby steps. Here are example goals for a new white belt:

  • Remembering a technique you learned in the past.
  • Not having to sit out and rest during class.
  • Finishing full rounds of sparring – no sitting out.
  • Not getting swept as quickly.
  • Not getting submitted so quickly.
  • Seeing where you could do a technique you learned (whether or not you get it.)
  • Learning a technique and using it in sparring the same night.
  • Knowing the names of the positions and techniques.
  • Escaping bad positions or at least preventing submissions.
  • Being better at a move the second time you drill it.
  • Not panicking.
  • Not holding your breath.
  • Not being too tense.
  • Not burning out your grip by holding on too tight.
  • Coming to 2-3 classes per weekly regularly.
  • Having a really hard night and still training again the next day.
  • Giving a higher belt some trouble (even if just holding him in your closed guard so he can’t pass.)

How quickly a beginner gets past these and into more fun goals like “Develop my half guard” and “Hit triangles on everyone” depends on a lot of things (mat time, previous martial arts or wrestling experience, etc.) but when 9 out of 10 people quit BJJ in their first few weeks, it seems worth looking at things from this level.