T Nation

BJJ - Not Progressing or What?

I’m progressing but others seem to get stripes while I wait without. Should I care?

Better to be an awesome white belt than a shit striped belt IMO.

1 Like

It’s fine to care. If you truly don’t care there is no victory when you get striped/belted. That said, it’s better to care in a detached manner.

Measure your progress by comparing your performance today to yesterday. Are you surviving a little longer against that person who used to rapid fire tap you? Are you able to stay calm and sometimes escape from a bad position where you used to get smashed every time? Is your guard getting passed less? Are still getting cardio and/or pressure tapped? Are you getting better at establishing and holding position and transitioning? Are you getting smoother? Are you starting to catch other people cleanly?

This is progress. Belts are a nice byproduct of progress. The other thing I find helpful is to remember why you started bjj in the first place. For me it was because I believe (if practiced properly) it’s useful in real world violence. In that situation nobody is gonna be checking your belt. If you’re there for fun, fitness, competition, you still get all that regardless of the belt.


Everything batman730 said, plus here’s my $0.02 from a 5 month student who feels like I might have gotten my stripe a little too soon.

No, I wouldn’t care at all. A stripe on your belt doesn’t change what you know or what you’re able to do.

I got my first stripe a little after four months. The criteria in my school boils down to demonstrating a desire to stick with it (consistency) and putting technique into practice during live rolling. Pretty vague and subjective. I’ll take the stripe and I appreciate the recognition from my instructor. Great, thanks. I still suck, now let’s continue with the learning process.

I train with a brown belt from another school with objective requirements for each stripe. There’s a test and you need to demonstrate proficiency to be awarded the stripe. I don’t think it matters so much how you do during rolling day-to-day, you just need to pass the test. You still need to roll to pass through the ranks, just not necessarily for your white belt stripes.

What both of these have in common is that getting a stripe doesn’t actually change anything about you. Its just a piece of tape on my belt I got at the end of one class, and it is not how I’ve been measuring my progress. I measure that by how I perform during live rolling and how my body of knowledge is growing, my awareness of what’s taking place during a roll.

I was like most new students, getting mauled by everyone, even people 100 pounds lighter than me with colorful belts around their waists.

Then I started going 5 minutes and only getting tapped once. Or twice.

Then I started going 5 minutes without getting tapped. Maybe make an escape or thwart one of my training partners’ escapes.

Then I started staying calmer during rolls.

Then I started getting some taps. I wasn’t sure if they were being given to me or what, but I was making people tap.

Then I started tapping new white belts easily. Really easily. From standing to submitting in seconds. That’s progress.

The last two upper belts I’ve rolled with from different schools were draws. One purple and one blue belt (who I should have tapped, but sloppy technique impaired me). It feels good for me to get a draw on an upper belt I’ve never rolled with before.

Just last week I tapped a two-stripe white belt who is 10 years younger than me, has a full year on the mats and is and close to my size. This guy murdered me when I first started. That’s progress to me much more than the piece of tape on my belt is. For what it’s worth, it took him about 8 months before he got his first stripe from our instructor. I literally got mine twice as fast as he did, but he also couldn’t attend class as consistently as I have been able to.

The highest point of my brief training career was two weeks ago at an open mat, when I defended the choke and pulled off a gritty back control escape on a four-stripe brown belt, then got him in side control and maintained the position for a few minutes. He still found a way to escape and tap me, but it was the first escape of ANY kind I had pulled off on him, and the first time I found myself on top without him giving it to me. That was way more significant than any tap I’ve gotten so far and a much clearer indicator of progress than getting a piece of tape on my belt.

Have you had any similar experiences you can look back on and say “yep, I’m definitely improving, there’s no way I could have done that seven months ago”?


Honestly, each instructor has their own set of criteria for rank promotions, so without knowing your instructor or being able to observe you while in class, all we can do is speculate.

He could feel that you aren’t attending class consistently enough or are not loyal to the academy/team (as you said you normally attend another instructor’s classes, and yes team loyalty is very important to some instructors).

He could place a lot of value on things like contribution, or humility and feel that you are not demonstrating progress in those areas, so regardless of your physical skills improvement he has held off on giving you the rank promotion.

He could feel that you aren’t focused or putting enough attention/effort in while the class is drilling techniques and are only really focused on your live rolls.

He could feel that you are too one dimensional in your skills and not demonstrating proficiency from other positions that he has put time into teaching you (though, personally I think that would be a bit steep of a grading curve for a white belt).

He could see a lot of potential in you and be holding off on giving you the stripe because he wants to keep you hungry and training really hard before he gives you that first carrot.

Again, this is all just speculation though. My best advice is to just show up as consistently as you can, give 100% of your attention and effort 100% of the time you are on the mat, conduct yourself as best you can within the character qualities of the Bushido Code/as a Martial Artist, don’t be afraid to “lose” but instead be there to learn, and most of all enjoy the process/journey.

Hope this helps. Good luck.


Ok, gotcha.

Do they take attendance in classes? Maybe he is unaware that you are attending the other coach’s classes regularly and basing his idea of how often you attend classes based only on the classes he teaches.

Honestly I would not ask, some instructors really don’t like when students do that and will likely see that as a sign of immaturity and impatience and may even prolong giving you a promotion extra long just to kind of punish you for asking.

Just keep attending class and doing your best, the promotion will come.

1 Like

Agreed on not asking. I’ve read some instructors as a rule of thumb will automatically delay a promotion 6 months to a year when a student asks about it.

1 Like

Head and Arms and “Neck Cranks” can be uncomfortable, but they aren’t “true” submission holds. More like carnival wrestling stuff. Surely your BBJ coach wants you to progress past them.

Work on developing your techniques, like the D’arce choke and try to move past the head and arm. Or go for more kimuras and americanas.

Keep working in the position you like (side control?) but emphasise more BJJ style stuff.

How is a head and arm choke/arm triangle not “true” submission? It’s one of your most fundamental chokes and it’s very high percentage. It works gi or no gi, you can hit it from mount, side control, scarf hold standing and more. It’s equally useful for competition and self-defence. You can’t tough it out, it’s tap or nap.

It may not be sexy like a d’arce or an anaconda, but it’s bread and butter in bjj and judo.

1 Like

I think dude was right about terminology. What you guys are calling Head and Arms and Arm Triangles in am calling Dars. In my mind, Head and Arm is like a pinning combination.

This is uncomfortable

Or a takedown. Girl on bottom is not in a great position.
Rousey_Pun (1)

People really get Choked out this way.
UFC-Fight-Night-Weidman-v-Gastelum-650x450 (1)

Fair enough. Getting stuck at pins and hold downs and not being able to finish a submission is a common white belt challenge, especially for stronger guys and wrestlers. I still find myself there with upper belts fairly often. Unlike judo rules, a long enough pin won’t win on it’s own.

Variations on cross face, kesa gatame (what Rousey and homeboy in the top pic has) and kata katame (more of a head and arm pin without the choke finish) and even good old knee on belly can make the other guy miserable but won’t finish the fight.

The way I use the terms, D’arce and the arm triangle can look similar but are two different chokes with different set ups and finishes. D’arce usually finishes kneeling beside the guy with him on his side and arm triangle is more of a face to face pin but some people . Hand positions are a bit different too. That said it’s the same basic principle that tightens the choke.

Whatever we call it, don’t get “stuck” there. If you always go to your go-to, coaches may feel you’re not going anywhere.

Turn those armbars from Rare to Consistent!

Get better at tapping guys, by working techniques you struggle with. Even if its harder to rep guys at first.


Technically D’arce chokes, Anaconda Chokes, Arm Triangle/Head and Arm Chokes, Peruvian Neck Ties, Shultz Front Head Lock Chokes, Brabo Chokes, and any Choke variation where you are using your arms to choke your opponent while having their arm trapped between you and their neck are variations of “Arm Triangle Chokes.” But, each of these chokes have different positions, set-Ups, and details on executions.

Flats, a D’arce Choke is when your arm that is applying pressure to your opponent’s carotid is passing from towards your opponent’s feet, under their armpit, around the far side of their neck and you are then locking your arms (either Grable Grip of Figure Fouring) behind their head.

All other variations on “Arm Triangle Chokes” are not D’arce chokes but go by different names.

This is a D’arce Choke

This is an Anaconda Choke

This is a “classic” Arm Triangle/Head and Arm Choke (from Mount, can also be done from Guard or Side Control)

Here is a Schultz Front Headlock/Choke

And the list goes on.

What you are referring to is what they call a “head and arm” throw, pin, or hold down in wrestling, which is different terminology than that used in Jiu-Jitsu (just as there is a Guillotine in both arts which means very different techniques depending on which art you are referring to). That position is usually called Kesa Gatame of Scarf Hold in Jiu-Jitsu, while a “Head and Arm Choke” refers to a classic Arm Triangle.

Excellent visuals, thanks for the specifics. I didn’t realise there were so many variations of Arm Triangles. In my mind, I had lumped all the submissions that include the arm for extra tightness together, and called them D’arce. I guess I meant anything where you get “behind” the arm, vs in wrestling, where the arm is in there for saftey, so you can’t pull other dudes head off.

Off topic:
It’s cool to see the Front Headlock working into MMA. For awhile (years ago, I admit) it was all pulling guard into guillotines. I always liked the Front Headlock series in wrestling, so I like to see guys work from out front like that. It’s also cool that it’s being named for Dave Schultz.