Master and the Padawan – How to Adopt a White Belt

As a beginner and being a white belt life can be hard in jiu-jitsu. It really helps to have some one to look up to and mentor you in the beginning of your journey.

People who have followed me on Instagram know my primary training partner, Moa, but most might not know the whole relation we have and how we started to train together. In hindsight, we haven’t known each other for ”that” long. We counted that we’ve known each other for about 5 years now. It does seem like more because we’ve grown to be close friends during this time, which is something I will touch on later on.

Moa came to us through our Self-Defense Program, and from the way she moved and her mentality, I saw that there could be something special there. After a little convincing she found her way to our ordinary jiu-jitsu class, and from there the rest is history.

Heirloom Belts

At that point of time we didn’t have many women training with us, and not many smaller people either, so it was pretty natural that I started to share with her what I use and what works for smaller bodies. She was the only one who also understood William’s Guard and that pretty much sealed the bond between us. From then on we started to train together every week. As a sign of this bond she has also been handed my old belts when she get promoted. They were the same belts I also got from my coach, Mattias, and I think this is a good tradition.

Master and Padawan

I used to say she is my Padawan, and with that Star Wars reference I will go into what I want to share here. The Master and the Padawan relationship is something that really can help you both in learning and on your journey. I recommend all higher belts, from purple and up, in our gym adopt a white belt and mentor him or her. I leave out blue belts because I think you are still forming your own style by that time, and you probably need a mentor more than mentoring. With that said, helping the beginners and giving tips are always a good thing.

Teaching Becomes Learning

As a higher belt, I got the chance to teach someone, and that also helps me learn because I need to break down things. For her, as a lower belt, she gets to learn from someone with experience and higher understanding of the traps you go through as a white belt. In our case, also someone with similar body type. As you both progress you will be able to discuss and break down stuff together. We have become a unity on the mat that have built up a style and system together during the year.

Training Partner and Friend

The people on the mat are like a second family, and to train like this you also will form a special bond together. There is a reason Moa is the one I chosen to train with during the pandemic. Not only because she has become my primary training partner, but mostly because I trust her as much as I trust my own family. Trust is important in a sport where your goal is to break each other’s limbs. If I, for example, am injured, I can still train with Moa because I know she won’t do anything strange or stupid. Freak injuries happen, but it’s less likely to with a person who knows your body and knows how you move. Of course we also manage to knee each other in the face by accident, but no serious injury has happened.

So my recommendation is to find some one in the beginners class with similar build and offer them your service. It will benefit you both in training and in your personal life. I also think this is a good way to welcome beginners and invite them to be a part of the team. But don’t be a creep about it. The gym is for training and learning, NOT dating. Vanessa Waltz did a great post on Instagram about grooming and I think I should leave this here, too. As a higher belt, always keep things professional, and as a lower belt, always stay frosty. If you are a parent you should also always be there when your kid has a private lesson with the coach. Most trainers want the best for their students, but there are also some really rotten apples out there to look out for. As they say, it only takes one rotten apple to destroy the whole bunch.


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