When you are new to BJJ it can be hard to determine what submissions you need to learn first. In my opinion, BJJ white belts need to focus on submissions that are easy to learn but still very effective. On top of that, a BJJ white belt should focus on learning a few submissions from all of the more common positions. This would include a few submissions from side control, closed guard, mount, and from the back.
There are a ton of submissions you can learn as a BJJ white belt. That being said, I would suggest really only mastering a handful of great submissions from each position before trying to learn as many as possible. On top of that, I would focus on learning a variety of different kinds of submissions as well. You need to learn submissions that use the gi as well as submissions without the gi.
Though you could debate this list, here are the submissions that I personally found to be very effective as a white belt. They are the exact submissions that I would focus on if I was starting over from scratch. Here are my top 11 submissions that you need to learn as a BJJ white belt.
#1 Americana From Side Control
At many BJJ academies, the first submissions you will probably learn is the Americana from side control. Though you might have trouble executing this submission on a higher belt, I have found it to really come in handy on other white and blue belts. Of course, if you are a white belt you are going to probably have a hard time executing any submissions on the higher belts.
The thing is that the Americana is somewhat easy to defend against once you know how to. Thankfully, 99 plus percent of the human population does not know how to defend against the Americana. Because of this, I believe this submission is one of the first submissions that you should master as a BJJ white belt. It is also a submission that is just as effective in no-gi BJJ as it is in traditional BJJ.
Here is a really basic video by Howcast demonstrating the Americana arm lock from side control.
#2 Paper Cutter Choke From Side Control
The next submission that I found quite useful as a BJJ white belt is the paper cutter choke from side control. I think it is good to mix up the types of submissions you know from each position. If you master the Americana and the paper cutter choke then you will have an arm lock and a choke in your side control toolbox.
There are a few different ways that people are taught how to do the paper cutter choke. Some ways might be easier for some people and harder for others. My only advice would be to learn one of the more basic ways to execute the paper cutter choke from side control.
Here is one example that is pretty simple from Jeff Glover on the BJJfantics youtube channel!
#3 Armbar From Closed Guard
Now that you have a few white belt submissions from side control down it is time to move on to submissions from closed guard. As a white belt, you will probably find yourself in this position pretty often. That is at least during times when you are not simply just getting smashed.
Closed Guard is a good neutral position in BJJ. When you have someone in your closed guard it is going to be hard for them to submit you. However, you on the other hand have plenty of submissions to choose from when someone is in your closed guard. One of the first submissions I would suggest learning from closed guard is the armbar.
The armbar from closed guard is an essential submission that is easy to learn and very effective. This is a submission that will serve you throughout your whole jiu-jitsu journey. Check out this video of John Danaher teaching the armbar from closed guard. He is in my opinion one of the best if not the best BJJ teacher on the planet.
He has a whole BJJ instructional that is great for white belts on mastering the closed guard that you might want to check out. It is called BJJ Fundamentals: Go Further Faster Closed Guard by John Danaher. In fact, his whole BJJ Fundamentals series is great for BJJ white belts.
#4 Triangle From Closed Guard
Once you got the armbar down it’s time to master a choke from the closed guard. The first choke from closed guard that you should probably master is the triangle choke. The triangle choke is a highly effective and somewhat easy submission to learn. You can learn this choke both using the gi as well as without the gi. Because of this you will see it often used in MMA.
It is a submission you will see very often in high-level BJJ competitions as well as in MMA. The reason for this is that the triangle from the closed guard is extremely effective at all levels. At the same time, it is simple enough for a BJJ white belt to learn and understand pretty quickly as well.
Check out this video of a basic triangle from the closed guard.
#5 Kimura From Closed Guard
The last closed guard submission on this list that you must master as a BJJ white belt is the kimura from closed guard. This is truly one of the most basic BJJ white belt submissions that you need to learn. Though this submission is pretty easy to learn it can be highly effective. It is also a submission that does not require the gi so you can use it effectively in both gi and no-gi competition.
Here is a video from the Chewjitsu youtube channel teaching the kimura from the guard for BJJ white belts.
#6 Ezekiel Choke From Mount
Alright, let’s move on to some submissions from the mount. If you don’t already know, the mount is a very dominant position in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Though you might not find yourself here very often as a BJJ white belt, it is a position that you should be striving to get to.
If you are able to get to the mount that’s great but you will also need to know a few good submissions to actually be able to finish your opponent. One of the easiest and effective submissions you can learn from the mount is the Ezekiel Choke.
Check out this video of Rafael Lovato Jr teaching the Ezekiel Choke from the mount position.
#7 Cross Collar Choke From Mount
Another very simple and effective submission from the mount is the cross collar choke. This choke is still used at very high levels yet is simple enough for a BJJ white belt to understand. A great example of someone using this at the highest level is Roger Gracie. Roger Gracie is considered by many to be the greatest BJJ competitor of all time.
The funny thing is that he often uses very basic jiu-jitsu submissions to submit his opponents. He is living proof that mastering the basics of BJJ can take you to the highest level of competition. One of his more common submissions that he has mastered is the cross collar choke. If he can win world championships with this basic white belt friendly submission, then it is probably one that is worth mastering.
Once you master the cross collar choke you can also learn to use this submission from other positions. A great example would be using the cross collar choke from closed guard. Here is a short seminar from Graciebreakdown on how to execute the cross collar choke.
#8 Americana From Mount
You have already learned how to execute the Americana from side control but it is also a submission you need to learn from the mount position. Simply put the Americana is a submission that all white belts need to master. Even though it might be harder to get this submission on a higher belt, it is still very effective on other white belts and the rest of the population.
Something that is great about the Americana is that you do not need to use the gi to execute this technique. It is a great submission for white belts that you can use in both gi and no-gi BJJ.
Here is a great video of Andre Galvao teaching the Americana from the mount position.
#9 Armbar From Back Control
Perhaps the only position as ideal or more ideal than the mount is back mount or back control. This is a position that you should be aiming to get to when you are rolling with your opponent. It is definitely great to master at least a few different submissions from this position. One of the best ones to learn for a BJJ white belt is the armbar from back control.
Check out this video from Steve-O Solo’s youtube channel.
#10 Rear Naked Choke
Probably the most basic choke you need to learn as a BJJ white belt is the rear-naked choke. This is one of the most common chokes that you will see in grappling competitions, MMA, and self-defense situations. That is because this submission is easy to learn and highly effective. That makes it one of the best submissions that you must master a BJJ white belt.
Check out this video from John Danaher and Bernardo Faria showing you in great detail how to do the perfect rear-naked choke. This video is a bit long but if you watch the whole thing you will have a great understanding of the rear-naked choke.
#11 Bow and Arrow Choke
Last but certainly not least on this list is the bow and arrow choke. This submission is easy enough to learn as a white belt but it still looks pretty darn cool. On top of that, it is highly effective and just a great submission to learn. Here is a great video from Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu going over the basics of the bow and arrow choke.
Putting It All Together
There are a ton of great submissions that you should learn as a BJJ white belt. These 11 submissions are simply the ones that I found most effective when I was a white belt. If you are new to BJJ I would highly suggest sticking to the basics before trying to learn the new advanced submissions that you hear the higher belts talking about.
If you really want to step up your game as a white belt I would suggest checking out my article on the Best Instructionals For BJJ White Belts. Building your foundation with the basics of BJJ is what you need to focus on.