Matt Arroyo: “Focus on the Basics!”

The road to obtaining a black belt can be long and arduous.  A lot of time and effort must be logged in order to become the best grappler that you can possibly be.

Often ambitious, many young grapplers jump in head first and don’t hesitate to learn new techniques that may be a bit over their heads.

Seeing an issue with this, I recently sat down with former UFC fighter, Matt Arroyo, who was very open and willing to share his advice to young grapplers everywhere looking to improve their skills while also training at a concentrated pace.


We all want to become great overnight, but that doesn’t always happen.  Training hard and training smart is key.

The Foundational Techniques & Submission Moves

It’s easy to go onto YouTube and see some of these awesome moves being pulled off.  Fresh on the mat and filled with ambition, it’s easy to see why some of these greener grapplers get over their heads at time by trying to learn things that are too difficult.

Curious to hear his take, I asked Matt Arroyo what every beginner should focus on in the early days of their grappling career.  He was quick to share his thoughts on the topic, and listed off a few things right away:

  • Elbow Escape From Mount
  • Shrimp Escape From Side Control
  • Posturing In The Guard
  • Armbar, Triangle & Omoplata (The Three Brothers)
  • Kimura, Guillotine, Sweeps (The Three Wisemen)

To Matt, these are the basics that you must know in order to lay down the proper foundation for your skills.  Neglecting to do so will lead to poor skill progression and hinder your from truly developing as a Brazilian Jiu Jistu player in the long run.

Core moves such as those and more can be further examined in the comprehensive BJJ Manifesto which can give you the tips and tricks to really get in touch with the BJJ basics.

Take Your Time Learning And Don’t Rush Into New moves

For Matt, his journey to his black belt is sort of an outlier.  Accomplished in about five years, Arroyo earned his black belt relatively quickly, but that doesn’t mean he advocates rushing into your training and trying to learn everything as quickly as possible.

“Don’t get too crazy,” Arroyo tells me.  “Don’t look up crazy techniques.”

In fact, Matt condones knowing just two techniques from each position to start!  This will allow you grasp the basic concepts of the sport, while building your skills properly, allowing the best developmental process possible.

Arroyo stresses to master the basics, and even says that you should avoid the use of YouTube for BJJ purposes till you’re at least a blue belt!  His take is that this will allow you to put the proper time and effort on what matters, as opposed to trying to be the best white belt that hits the flying armbar. If you don’t know all of your basics take a look at this video and others like, and get learning.

Slow and steady—at first—wins the race.  Take what you can and learn it inside and out, and in due time you will quickly become a better grappler and will be taking your opponents by storm.

Dan Faggella

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