18 Basic BJJ Moves and Positions for Beginner White Belts

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Brazilian jiu jitsu attracts people from all walks of life. But when starting as a fresh white belt, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by various techniques and positions. However, focusing on some basic BJJ moves – warm-up techniques, sweeps, common submissions, and positional sequences – and basic positions like a closed guard, mount, and side control, will help all white belts improve.

Whether you’re a serious hobbyist, plan to compete, or dream of getting a black belt one day, mastering these fundamental techniques are essential to create a strong foundation. 

Basic BJJ Moves for Warming Up

As with any sport, it’s important to warm up your entire body properly to avoid injuries. For jiu jitsu specifically, learning to move your hips effectively is vital to many techniques. The following are two basic warm-up moves that every Brazilian jiu jitsu white belt should learn to help move their hips. You will use these basic movements in many techniques at every belt level.


Starting with your back on the mat, lift your pelvis off the ground, distributing your weight between your shoulders and your feet. Then roll up on one shoulder to reach over your head across your body to touch the mat, alternating between right and left, dropping your pelvis between each bridge.

Learning proper bridging techniques is essential for escaping bad positions when your opponent has a dominant position, such as mount or side control.

Do: Bring your heels close to your glutes to give you more explosive movement in your hips.

Don’t: Lift your hips without also rolling up onto your shoulder. In practice, bridging your hips lifts your opponent off you, and coming up to your shoulder moves them off their base. Bridging correctly in warm-ups (or with a grappling dummy) will help instill the correct muscle memory for this movement.

Hip escape (or shrimp)

Arguably one of the most used and most fundamental movements in Brazilian jiu jitsu, the hip escape is all about creating distance for escape or angles of attack.

To practice a hip escape:

  1. Start on your back, elbows in, bend your knees, and bring your heels to your glutes.
  2. Raise your hips and turn your body to one side.
  3. Push off with your top leg to bring your chest to your knees and push your hips back, making a “shrimp” shape.
  4. Roll back to your original position and repeat the move to the other side.

Incorporating hip escapes, or shrimping movements, into your warm-up will loosen up your hips and create muscle memory. Eventually, hip escapes should become second nature.

Do: Keep your elbows tight and tucked to your body but push your hands out like you are framing against your opponent to establish good habits.

Don’t: Push off with your bottom leg. This common mistake will limit the range of hip movement.


Guard is one of the most fundamental positions in jiu jitsu and refers to one person having their back on the mat and using their legs to try to control their opponent. As a white belt, you will likely focus primarily on the closed guard position, where you hook your feet to keep your legs closed around your training partner.

More advanced jiu jitsu students, from blue belt up to the black belt level, move on to open guard positions such as butterfly guard, spider guard, lasso guard, and x-guard, among others. Developing an effective guard, open or closed, is vital to a strong jiu jitsu game.

When you have your opponent in your closed guard, your goal is to sweep them, put you in a more advantageous position, or submit them.

Do: Keep your hips on your opponent’s legs in an active guard, allowing you to move with them.

Don’t: Forget grips. You should always have grips of some kind – double sleeve grips, collar and sleeve, cross collar and sleeve, etc.

Sweeps from the closed guard position

The simplest sweeps from closed guard are the hip bump sweep and the scissor sweep. These fundamental techniques allow you to move from the bottom position to the top.

Hip bump sweep

Open your guard, planting your feet on the mat, and hip out slightly to get a good angle. Sit up and reach across your opponent, bringing your arm over their shoulder to grab their elbow and hug their arm to you so they can’t post it. Bring your hip up to bump your weight against them to sweep them to the mat.

Do: Get their shoulder in your armpit and stay close to them. A common mistake is to try the hip bump sweep when you are too far away, which makes it impossible to unbalance them.

Don’t: Try to sweep straight back. To take your opponent off balance, you need to angle toward the arm you’re controlling.

Scissor sweep

Establish strong grips. You need a cross collar grip and a sleeve grip on the same side.

Open your guard to get on your side, bringing your top knee across your opponent’s body, hooking their side with your foot. Your bottom leg should be on the mat to block their knee.

Get up on your elbow and pull them forward, bending your arm to load their weight onto your leg. As you fall back to the mat, kick both legs in a scissor motion while pulling their collar to sweep them over.

Do: Make sure to pull their glutes off their heels when you load them onto your leg. If you don’t, they will base out, and your sweep attempt will probably fail.

Don’t: Attempt to complete the sweep while on the mat. You need to be up on your elbow to close the distance and to generate the momentum of loading them on your leg.

Submissions from closed guard

Sometimes the most basic submissions are the most effective submission techniques because even a beginner can use them in sparring.

Straight armbar

As submissions go, the armbar is one of the foundational techniques you will learn early on your jiu jitsu path. Once you learn the basic concepts of this versatile submission, it’s fairly easy to apply them to many different positions. However, learning a closed guard armbar will likely come first.

Reaching across your body, grab your training partner’s arm with a firm grip just above the elbow and pull it over your chest. With your other arm, reach across to pull their opposite shoulder down.

Put your foot on their hip on the side where you’re controlling the arm. Putting all your weight on that foot and the opposite shoulder, rotate your hips out so that you are almost perpendicular to your training partner.

Swing your outside leg over their face. Bring your other leg up into their armpit. Secure the arm to your chest, squeeze your knees, and raise your hips to complete the armbar from guard.

Do: For all armbar submissions, always push the arm in the opposite direction that their thumb is pointing, which puts pressure on the elbow joint.

Don’t: Point your toes down. Keeping your toes pointed upward minimizes space and engages the appropriate leg muscles to help you maintain complete control.

Triangle Choke

In addition to the armbar, the closed guard triangle choke is widely considered one of the foundational techniques that white belts should study. 

For a successful triangle choke, you need your opponent’s head and one arm inside your guard, and one arm out. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this from guard is to: 

  1. Grab both wrists.
  2. Push one wrist to their stomach while pulling the other wrist across your body to your shoulder.
  3. Quickly lift your hips to get your leg on the shoulder opposite the arm you’re controlling and your other leg under their armpit and up on their back. Lock your feet.
  4. Use one hand to pull their head down to control their posture while your other hand grabs your shin to move your leg that’s on their shoulder so that your calf is on the back of their neck.
  5. Hook your knee over your ankle in a figure four grip.
  6. Lift your hips, squeeze your legs, and pull their head down for the closed guard triangle choke.

Do: Look into your opponent’s ear. If you can, you know you have the right angle.

Don’t: Make the common mistake of leaving your leg on their back instead of across their neck. You will not achieve the right angle for a successful submission.


A kimura is a joint lock that puts pressure on the shoulder joint. You can lock in a kimura from several positions, but it is a particularly effective technique from the guard.

Get your opponent’s hands to the mat by bumping them forward with your knees or cupping their wrists and sweeping their hands off your waist. Grab one wrist with your same side hand.

To isolate the shoulder joint, put your feet on the mat, sit up, and reach over the shoulder with your other arm, swimming it through their arm to grab your own wrist. This figure-four grip can be used in many techniques.

Lean back to the mat. Keep their posture broken either by closing your guard or getting one leg up on their back and the other on their hip. Keeping their arm bent, push up on their wrist until they tap.

Do: You can switch to a kimura from a failed hip bump sweep attempt since the initial set-up of reaching over the shoulder is almost identical.

Don’t: Grab their forearm or your own forearm. A common mistake is grabbing above the wrist rather than the wrist itself, allowing too much space and insufficient control.

Breaking and passing opponents’ guard

If you find yourself in your opponent’s closed guard at the beginner level, you need to know at least one technique to open or break their closed guard. Once their guard is open, you also need a solid guard pass technique.

Breaking guard

Strong grips are vital to help you control your opponent. You can keep two hands on the belt or grip both sides of the lapel with one hand on the solar plexus while the other hand grips the pants near the hip. 

Bring one knee up to press in the middle of their glutes while sliding the other knee back and slightly flared away from your body. 

Arch your back to push into their feet, twist your hips and push down on the leg with your forearm to open their guard.

Do: Maintain good posture with your head, shoulders, and hips in alignment. The most common mistake white belts make is to lean back or lean forward when trying to break someone’s guard.

Don’t: Dig your elbow into their thigh. Although effective, this technique will make you an extremely unpopular training partner.

Knee slice pass

Once you’ve opened your opponent’s guard, one effective guard pass for beginner students that allows you to move to side control is the knee slice pass.

Keeping your grip on the pants, staple the knee to the mat and slide (or “slice”) your inside knee over their leg while posting your outside leg. With your other arm, get an under hook and lean into your opponent to keep pressure on them.  

Slide your inside hip forward until both your legs are past their guard. Turn into side control.

Do: Keep your hand behind the knee as you pass instead of on top of the knee to prevent your opponent from pulling your hand away.

Don’t: Try to pass without getting the under hook. This common mistake allows your opponent to get a knee shield up to block you.

Mount Position

Mount is one of the most dominant positions on top and one of the most uncomfortable positions on the bottom. The person in mount is on top of their opponent with knees on either side of their torso.

Do: Unless you are in the high mount, sprawl your hips on their hips to limit their movement. 

Don’t: Settle all of your weight on your opponent’s torso. Distributing your weight to your knees and toes will help you maintain balance and control.

Submissions from Mount Position

Many submissions are available to you from the mount, but the Americana, or Keylock, is the first one most white belts learn.


The Americana is a shoulder lock like the kimura and is best achieved from a high mount position where your knees are in your opponent’s armpits.

If your opponent is protecting their neck with crossed arms, attack whichever arm is on top. If their arms are not crossed, just choose an arm. Controlling at the wrist and just above the elbow, push the forearm to the mat, keeping the arm in an “L” shape.

Maintain wrist control while sliding your other arm underneath their arm to grab your wrist. Keeping the back of their hand flat on the mat, lift their elbow until they tap.

Do: Put your elbow against their neck when bringing their arm to the mat, which will isolate the shoulder, limit their range of motion, and keep the arm in an “L” shape.

Don’t: Try to force the arm down using only your arm strength. Lower your chest to their arm to use your body weight.

Escape from Mount Position

Unfortunately, as a white belt, you will often find yourself trapped in your opponent’s mount in sparring. Try not to panic. Instead, focus on escaping using one of the two techniques below.

Recover Guard

Bring your elbows inside and get on your side as much as possible. Frame against one leg with both hands. Straighten your bottom leg and push their knee until it slides over your leg.

Quickly catch the leg in half guard. Switch your hips to face your opponent, framing against their shoulder and arm. Hip escape slightly to get your bottom knee out and across your opponent’s body. 

Switch from framing their arm to grips and pull them into your guard. Lock your feet.

Do: Frame against their waist with your forearm while you push on the leg to create space.

Don’t: Wait too long to switch your hips to face your opponent otherwise, they will smash you and try to take your back.


If you feel like your opponent is not properly balanced, or if they are attempting a choke, you can try to sweep them.

Isolate one of the arms, pinning it to your chest with both arms. Trap their same side foot with your foot, effectively removing their base on one side.

Bridge your hips up and roll onto your shoulder, sweeping them over that shoulder and ending inside their guard.

Do: Make sure your opponent is loaded onto your hips. If they’re in high mount, push against their legs with your elbows and shoulder walk up.

Don’t: Try to sweep to the side. You can generate much more power when you sweep at an angle over your shoulder.

Side Control Position

Although not quite as dominant as mount, side control is a highly effective position where you are perpendicular to your opponent with one knee pressed against their hip and one knee in their armpit.  

The arm closest to their head is under their neck while your other arm is underneath their far arm, hands together, usually in a gable grip. 

This position drives your shoulder into their face and keeps your chest heavy on their chest.

Do: Drop your shoulder to keep your opponent facing away from you because it will prevent them from moving their hips effectively.

Don’t: Lean forward to try to increase your cross face shoulder pressure because you will be unbalanced and vulnerable to getting swept.

Although there are many submissions you can initiate from a strong side control position, as a white belt, you will most likely focus on the Americana, as described above. Alternatively, you can use side control to transition to mount, which is a more dominant position.

Transition to Mount

Here are some ways you can end up in the dominant mount position.

Knee on belly

Transitioning to mount is often easier from knee on belly position. From side control, move your inside hand from head control to the shoulder closest to you. Place your other hand on their far side hip. 

Pushing off your hands, put your inside knee across their waist, foot next to their hip. Post your other leg out for balance.

To move to mount, slide your knee to the mat on the other side, heel to your glutes, and drop your other knee on the other side.

Do: Distribute your weight evenly on your knee, your foot, and your posted leg. Maintaining good balance keeps your opponent flat on the mat.

Don’t: Post your leg close to your opponent’s face. Not only does this affect your balance, it also allows them to grab your ankle.

Back Control

Other than mount, back control is the most dominant position you can have since your opponent cannot attack, only defend.

For back control, first establish seatbelt control with one arm over the shoulder and the other arm underneath the armpit. The bottom arm grabs the wrist of the top arm.

Bring both legs around your opponent’s waist and hook your legs so that your heels are touching the insides of their thighs.

Do: Press your head against your opponent’s back to reduce space between you.

Don’t: Cross your feet, which will leave you vulnerable to an ankle lock.

Submissions from Back Control

Here are some basic submissions available to you when you take your opponents back.

Rear Naked Choke

As a blood choke, the rear naked choke is most effective when you apply pressure to the carotid arteries on the sides of the neck.

Drop to the side where your arm is over the shoulder (known as the “choke” side). Slide your hand up to grab the opposite shoulder.

Grab the top wrist with your other hand, pulling the arm down and trapping it under your top leg. Bring that arm up, tucking your elbow behind their shoulder, and grab your bicep with the hand that was on the shoulder.

Pushing their head down with your hand and your head, squeeze until they tap.

Do: Keep everything tight. Leaving space allows your opponent room to move.

Don’t: Lean back when squeezing the choke. Instead, lean into your opponent to make everything even tighter.

Basic BJJ Moves In Closing

It may feel frustrating to concentrate on these Brazilian jiu jitsu techniques for beginners.

Especially when you see exciting advanced techniques that higher belts use. But remember to be patient. Mastering these basic techniques and fundamental moves will eventually evolve and lead to more complex techniques and advanced moves. Be patient and enjoy the journey. 

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