The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

By November 12, 2022No Comments

How to Achieve HIGH PERFORMANCE in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in LESS TIME, and with FEWER INJURIES!


The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ BeginnersIf you’re a beginner in BJJ and you’re frustrated with how many times you’ve been tapped out; then, this is going to save you months and months of aggravation, frustration and turmoil on the mats.

I know how you feel. BJJ is frustrating and confusing and completely foreign from any other martial art out there. I mean, look at all the different positions, you’ve got mount, back, guard, cross side and for every position, there are countless variations on how to hold them.

And then there are all the different techniques. From submissions, sweeps, escapes. It just seems endless.

What’s even more frustrating is that even for the same technique, there are countless different ways to execute it. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had 5 different instructors teach me the armbar from the guard 5 different ways. That’s crazy!

No wonder most people drop out of BJJ after only a few months.

Man, when I was a white belt, there used to 30, sometimes 40 guys in a single class. I was making the same mistakes on the mats again and again; but, no one was correcting me. It was just impossible. There were too many guys for my instructor to get to.

With so many other students in the class and with private lessons being so expensive, mistakes can go unnoticed for months. Sometimes years.

Now as a teacher, I find my students are making the same mistakes again and again. To me, there was a clear pattern.

There are typical mistakes that virtually everyone makes.

Now imagine knowing all the trouble points before the problem even occurs, it’s like having all the answers to the test before the test is even given to you. It’s the magical cheat sheet with all the answers.

Imagine knowing what typically goes wrong and being able to pre-empt it.

It’s like having a crystal ball where you can already see the problems before you and you can intercept it, side step it before it even occurs.

Imagine being able to take control of your own skill development.

Imagine holding in your hands the pitfalls that many beginners in BJJ fall into. You’ll know be able to side step these typical flaws and supercharge your development.
I always, “man, I wish back when I was a white belt, I knew then what I know now.”

Well now you can.

When you know these common mistakes, you’ll be able to progress faster, become more skillful than ever, all in less time.

It’s like the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

My name is Ritchie Yip and I’ve been teaching martial arts professionally since 2004 and I’ve literally taught hundreds of people how do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

And time and time again, I see the same mistakes done over and over again by even the most skilled and talented BJJ practitioners.

This is not like any other resource you’ve ever seen on BJJ.


Because this article is not about a series of fancy techniques for you to memorize and then regurgitate on the mats.

This resource is designed to purely help you. To help you succeed and become more skilful at BJJ and in less time and with less frustration.

With “The 77 Most Common Mistakes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” article, you’ll have dozens of “AHA!” moments where you’ll be saying, “so this is the reason I’m always getting armbarred!” or “now I understand why people are always passing my guard!”

Everything is explained in plain English; so, that anyone, regardless of their skill level or their knowledge base, can understand these critical errors; and thus, immediately work towards avoiding them.

Read this article to improve your performance in Martial Arts and use Martial Arts as a medium to become more successful in all aspects of your life.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 1- Thinking That Making Mistakes Is Always Wrong

Understand that you can make mistakes or technical errors as long as they are purposeful.

If you are fighting a skilful opponent who is savvy enough to recognize a prime opportunity to submit you or sweep you, then you can set a trap for him.

By committing a calculated error you are baiting a specific response from your opponent or training partner and then counter attacking that response. Doing so creates an opening for you to take advantage of.

For example, you are trying to pass someone’s Closed Guard. He has a Closed Guard from hell. You can’t even get his ankles uncrossed. Set a trap for him by laying your arm onto the center of his chest. It has to be somewhat obvious for him to go for it; but, don’t ever exaggerate it or else he’ll sense the trap. When he throws his leg over your head to go for the Armbar, turn your thumb towards his nose to stay safe from the Armbar, stack him by bringing his knee to his nose and then pass his Guard.

You were able counter his Armbar attempt by attacking with a Guard Pass. You elicited his Armbar attack by making the error of laying your arm directly on his chest.

This is sometimes referred to as “attack by drawing” or as “baiting”. Attack by drawing does work but it is dangerous, you are essentially setting up a trap for your training partner; but, you are the bait.

Mistakes and technical flaws can work to your advantage as long as they follow a conscious choice.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 2- Singular Attacks

A common mistake in BJJ is to attack with only a single attack in mind.

People will fight for an Armbar and their training partner will defend it. They will continue to fight for the Armbar until it’s obvious that it has failed. Finally, they’ll jockey around a bit to control a wrist or a lapel, and only then will they attempt a different attack.

A singular attack has the least likelihood of success. More potential lies in seamlessly blending 2 or 3 attacks together in a combination.

For every attack there are typically 2 or 3 ways to defend it. You need to anticipate your opponent’s defensive manoeuvre and have a secondary attack ready to counter it.

For example, working from the closed guard you could go for a Scissor Sweep, then attack with a Kimura as he bases out with his hand, then go for a bump sweep as he defends the Kimura.

Typically, it is the final attack in the combination that you want to score.

As well, Sweeps, Guard Passing and position changes – like taking the back from top cross side – are all forms of attack.

Another example: going for a Guard Pass, into a Head And Arm Choke (a.k.a. Arm Triangle Choke) and then completing your Guard Pass, and then finally, finishing with an Armbar.

A higher degree of success is achieved when you combine your attacks together.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 3- Attacking from an Inferior Position

Keep in mind the BJJ Dialogue:

1. What position am I in?

The 5 basic positions in BJJ are:

  1. Guard
  2. Cross Side
  3. Knee Mount
  4. Mount
  5. Back

2. Is the position good or bad?

Typically, if you are on top you’re in a good position. Guard is the exception. From the Guard, you can be on your back and on the bottom and still be offensive.

As well, there are some grey areas. For instance, in Half Guard both the top player and the bottom player have equal opportunities to attack and transition to better positions.

  1. If it is good, keep the position and then attack.
  2. If it is bad, defend and then escape.

Often, people will be in an inferior position, perhaps Bottom Mount, and they’ll still be trying to submit their training partner with a Lapel Choke.

The success rate of a Lapel Choke from Bottom Mount is so profoundly slim that most times it is not even worth trying for. Realistically, what will happen is that you’ll just find yourself giving your training partner your arms for him to Armbar.

In Martial Arts, you always need to be mindful of where you are and where your opponent is.

Mistakes occur when people try to escape a bad position before first defending and making sure they are safe. If you are in a bad position, keep your arms short and defend your neck.

Often, people will try to explode and scramble out of a bad position in a desperate attempt to escape – this is dangerous because it opens up your neck and your arms for Chokes and Armbars.

Sometimes people will attack when they are in bad positions.

They’ll be in bottom cross side and they’ll still try for a choke. Doing so will typically open yourself up for an easy counter.

Like many things in Martial Arts, the BJJ Dialogue is not absolute. There are submissions from inferior positions and you can use to submit people during a scramble before you’ve solidified a strong superior position.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 4- Attacking From the Closed Guard Without First Breaking Down His Posture

Many people do not know that it is necessary, before attempting any and all attacks from the Closed Guard, to first break down your training partner’s posture.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

In fact, the number one goal from the Closed Guard is to break the posture down. Many people forget this or do not understand it.

Breaking down his posture allows you to set up all of your attacks from the Closed Guard and disallows him an easy escape route once you have a submission tied on.

Most of your attacks from the Closed Guard- Triangle Chokes, Kimuras, Armbars, Omoplatas – are virtually impossible to set up when your training partner maintains a strong posture.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners
The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

To break his posture you need to pull on the top of his head. Bring him down. Get his head down to your chest.

As he defends this, know you can attack him with Armbars and Chokes.

When he has his posture strong, with his eyes to the sky and he is using his hand to post against your belly, your ribs, your biceps, your belt or your lapel, then it is virtually impossible to sweep or submit him.

Your only recourse is to unlock your ankles and switch to an open guard game.

Many people hold the misconception that they need to control the arms when attacking from the Closed Guard.

While this is true, it is the purpose that is misconstrued. You want to control his arms so that you have a clear path to cup the back of his head and break his posture to pull him down.

Note that I said back of his head, just behind the absolute crown of his skull, not his neck. If you grab onto his neck, he’ll still be able to maintain his posture. He will try and block your attempts to grab his head. He’ll push you back down to the mat; he’ll keep you pinned down by driving into your biceps and chest.

That is why you may need to control his hands.

Once his posture is broken, then you can set up your lapel chokes (or finish setting up your lapel chokes, as you can have one hand deep on one lapel and the other hand pulling down his posture with the top of his head.), other options are Kimuras, Triangle Chokes, or Omoplatas.

Or perhaps once he starts to defend being pulled down, he’ll push his hand off your chest and open himself up for an Armbar. Or you can use the momentum of him driving back up to re-establish his posture to sweep him over with a Bump Sweep.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

Pulling down his head and attacking his posture from the Closed Guard is like a Jab in Boxing: it sets up all of your attacks.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 5- Butterfly Guard: Lying on your Back

Many people attempt to be offensive with their Butterfly Guard once they are on their backs. This is a very dangerous mistake.

Unless you quickly transition to Half Guard or X Guard, you will probably get your Guard passed quickly.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

It is much easier for your training partner to pass your Butterfly Guard once your shoulder blades are down on the mat.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners
The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

Remember, the Butterfly Guard is only offensive if you are sitting up. Shoulder blades off the ground. Sitting up like you are sitting at the beach.

It is extremely difficult to initiate a Sweep or a Submission from the Butterfly Guard once your shoulder blades are down on the mat.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 6- Hesitating to Pass After the Sweep

An important element of any sweep is to have a simultaneous guard pass built into the technique.

Many people execute a sweep only to fall into their opponent’s half guard.

Immediately after the sweep, before your training partner’s hips hit the mat, position your legs so that your thigh, knee, or ankle can not be captured by your training partners guard.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 7- Hesitating to Replace the Guard after Being Swept

Sweeps can be confusing because we are busy dealing with the fact that we’ve just lost the top position and we are now trying to figure out where we are and how we got there.

So, I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy. You need to train yourself so that you are always giving your opponent your legs. As soon as you fall to your back from a sweep (before your hips even touch the ground) give him your legs. And thus, replace your guard.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 8- Kimura from Guard: Having your Head Too Close to His Head

Many people as they execute the Kimura, fail to create a perpendicular angle between their spine and their training partner’s spine.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners
The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

When executing the Kimura from the Guard, is important to move your head far away from his head to get a perpendicular angle between your spine and his spine. That way you’ll be able to apply a greater degree of rotation on his shoulder and thus be able to tap him out.

Try this as a simple experiment: have a training partner slap a Kimura on you from the Guard. Now keep your ear glued to his shoulder. You’ll feel a strong stretch in your shoulder as he tries to bring your hand up to the sky and close to your head; however, as you will see, it will not be enough of a stretch to tap you out.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 9- Kimura from Guard: Staying on your Back

When executing a Kimura from the Guard, you need to be on your side.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

Most people are flat on their back with their shoulder blades square to the mat.

You need to be on your side looking directly at your training partner’s head.

In order to tap someone out with a Kimura, you have to bring their hand behind their back and try to get them to touch their head.

If you are flat on your back, when you go to execute the Kimura you’ll probably have to straighten your arms in order to bring your training partner’s hand up to the sky and then to his head.

To do this will take a lot of upper body strength and it will allow him to straighten out his arm and potentially escape from the submission.

A great UFC fight to see this scenario play out is the Rich Franklin vs. Yushin Okami fight.

You can tap your training partner out just by turning on your side. It is important to have a tight keylock on your training partner’s arm and pin your elbows to your side.

By doing so, you’ll ensure a 90 degree bend in your training partner’s arm – a necessary component to finishing the Kimura.

Now use your abs and turn to face him even more. Most people will tap at this stage. If he still isn’t tapping, only now is it okay to use your arms to try and push his hand up into his head.

So, get on your side, get a strong, air tight keylock on his arm, and turn using your abs. Do not stay flat on your back and only use your arms.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 10- Closed Guard Armbar: Grabbing the Arm

Many people grab the arm as they go for an Armbar from the Closed Guard, this only telegraphs the technique and alerts your training partner to what you’re doing.

The Armbar will very rarely work if set up this way.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

It is true that in order to do the Armbar from the Closed Guard you need his elbow on your belly button. However, there are many ways to secure the elbow there.

One simple, yet effective way is to break his posture by pulling on the top of his head. As he tries to re-establish his posture he may start to push on your chest. You can trap his arm so that his elbow is into your belly button by tying up a High Closed Guard where one of your knees is up on top of your shoulder.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners
The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

Once you have his arm secured in the High Closed Guard, then you can proceed to control his knee to sweep him and then bring your leg over his head or you can directly slide your leg over his face to control his head without the sweep.

Once you have your leg over his head, now you can control his arm, apply pressure to the wrist, and lift your hips to execute the Armbar.

Note that controlling the arm is the final aspect of the Armbar. Many people unknowingly control the arm as the first step of the Armbar.

BJJ BEGINNER MISTAKE 11- Closed Guard Armbar: Staying Square

Like many attacks from the Closed Guard, you need to change your body angle in order to increase its effectiveness.

The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners
The 77 Most Common Mistakes For BJJ Beginners

This is no different for the Armbar.

When you go for an Armbar, you need to have your spine perpendicular to his spine.

If you are square to your training partner, it is really difficult to throw your leg over his head. As well, you are in a poor position to follow up with a sweep.

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Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip is the Head Instructor for InFighting Training Centers located in Downtown Vancouver and Brentwood Burnaby. InFighting Training Centers offers programs in Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bootcamp Conditioning Classes and Personal Training

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Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip is a life long martial artist, BJJ Black Belt, and the head instructor of the InFighting Martial Arts Gym in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Do you live in the Greater Vancouver, or Brentwood Burnaby area?
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