"White Belt Fury can be experienced when an individual has yet to learn the art of self-control (flow) and trains at a high rate. Usually very aggressive, even unintentionally."
“Find a partner!”
I scan the room, trying my best to avoid eye contact. I spot a sweaty man in a baggy gi huffing and puffing with his thumb in the air. His posture reminds me of a Silverback gorilla after a territory dispute.
“How long have you been training?”
“This is my second week,” I say. “You?”
“One month,” the Silverback replies.
Then the timer sounds, we bump fists and start the round.
From the second we slap hands to the end of the round, it’s balls-to-the-wall effort. One second, I’m being thrown, the next second, he’s being thrown. I can feel the cartilage in my fingers crunch and pop every time he breaks my grip. I hear air rush out from his diaphragm with every squeeze from side control. My skin starts to burn from his gi rubbing against the corner of my eye.
I steal a glance at the timer on the wall. One minute and forty-five seconds have elapsed. We’re both exhausted already, but neither of us is ready to quit. We exchange more sloppy-aggressive grappling: accidental elbows to the face, knees to the groin, spit in the eye.
Suddenly, I’m bull-rushed like a poacher who shot his friend a week prior. Somehow during the rush, I’m able to pull him into my closed guard. Instantly, I feel his elbows driving into my thighs. I push his left arm into his gut and slam my hips high into the sky, throwing my legs up for anything. To my surprise, I’ve set myself up to finish a triangle.
I move my hips out to my right and lock my legs into place. My hands grasp the Silverback’s head, and I pull down with all my power, finally noticing a hard tap on my thigh. Sweat beads down my face. It soon puddles into the gi burn near my eye. The throbbing sensation is much more noticeable now. I feel as if the Silverback is looking at me like I’m the motherfucker that took out Fossey. He’s ready for Round Two.
The war rages on. He catches me with an Americana from side control by the end of the next round. Soon after I realize the triangle is my new (first) submission of choice. By the end of the roll, we are sprawled out on the mat, staring blankly at the ceiling. Eventually we sit up, shake hands and show each other respect and appreciation for the hard-fought battle.
At the end of class, we discuss our backgrounds for a bit. The Silverback had played linebacker for the University of Arkansas in the 80’s. At the time, I was still keen on football, so we were able to share some gridiron stories. No wonder we had just gone to war so easily...
This would be the first of many battles against the Cajun Silverback.
Starting a new sport can be intimidating. This uneasy feeling can cause your adrenaline to spike, resulting in your Fight or Flight mode to kick in. When I first started training BJJ, I had some serious White Belt Fury. Like the story above, most of my rolls were a fight to the death. King of the Mat was a nightly event, and I would usually end up cramping and stacking up injuries, some that still plague me today.
It took me a long time to turn the switch. I get complimented all the time now how I’m so flowy, how it’s like watching art. If you could have seen me (maybe you did) at the start, you would’ve seen the exact opposite. A poked bee hive on caffeine would have been more suitable. You may be wondering if you yourself have White Belt Fury. If you’re reading this and are just starting out, you probably do.
Here’s my definition for White Belt Fury:
White Belt Fury can be experienced when an individual has yet to learn the art of self-control (flow) and trains at a high rate. Usually very aggressive, even unintentionally.
The Fury can be attributed to several different reasons:
The individual is or was a competitive athlete and doesn’t want to lose and/or is used to training at a high intensity against other high-level athletes.
The individual could be or has been a cop, military, or security. Their muscle memory could be set differently from yours.
The individual may have never trained an art where we are basically trying to kill and hurt each other with chokes and joint manipulation, “the gentle art”. This individual’s Fight or Flight could set in and cause a high-intensity pace.
Maybe the individual is just kind of a dick (bully). All gyms have them, someone who goes way too hard with everyone and crossfaces the shit out of girls. The Enforcer will take care of these types.
You may be telling yourself, ‘Hey, I fall into one or two of these brackets.’ Don’t stress about it. I’ve never met a white belt (myself included) who hasn’t fit at least one of these descriptions.
When I first started training, I came over from playing football. I didn’t realize at the time I was competing against the best players in Southeast Louisiana for a starting spot. Almost eleven years of hard competition in multiple sports put me in that first bracket.
Slowing yourself down where you still move fast is an art unto itself and will take time and dedication to master.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Here are a few tips to lose your WBF:
-Lose the ego.
My first instructor, Frank Caracci, has a quote from Carlos Machado posted at the top of the door to his academy: Leave your ego at the door. It’s ok to tap and restart. This is how we progress. Don’t get upset and hit the NOS button on the next round. Breathe it out and recenter.
Learning to control your breath will calm you down and help you get out of bad situations and last the whole round. When I’m in Florida I train with Tim Thurman. Coach Tim always ends his classes with five deep breaths. This little add-on has been one the biggest game changers in my journey. I highly recommend taking the time to focus on your breathing.
-Take your foot off the gas pedal.
Have you ever been driving over the speed limit, jamming to your favorite song, and then missed your exit? Me too.
The same can be applied to training. If you’re going 100 MPH at everything, you’re probably missing some important steps, like the proper way to shrimp, how to get your hips in the right place for the sweep or that double wrist control when in someone’s closed guard.
Again, don’t sweat it if you have WBF. Take the time to correct it and I promise the rest of your grappling journey will be more smooth sailing.
Just don’t cross face any females, unless it’s an accident because you’re trying to impress someone in Thailand with your grappling-infused dancing techniques, but when she quickly shows you her back, your muscle memory kicks in to an accidental cross face.