I’ll never forget walking in those doors the first time. The hardest belt to earn thus far was that white belt.
Showing up, not knowing anyone, not knowing much about Jiu Jitsu even, and honestly a little unsure as to what exactly I was even doing there. It seemed like there was so much going on, so much to learn, and it was overwhelming if I am being honest. I remember leaving thinking a few things.
1 – I’m not as tough as I thought I was
2 – my bench press doesn’t matter in the slightest here
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3 – how in the (insert your choice of colorful language here) will I ever learn all of these positions and names of the techniques
I did a lot of reading after the first few classes. Asking a lot of the wrong questions that at the time seemed to be the right questions. How long does it take to get a black belt in Jiu Jitsu? How long does it take to get a Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu? You get the point. If you just started training and have stumbled across this article in your research, I’m glad you’re here and I am going to save you some time.
In the beginning it was all about status, rank, the perception of my ability to wreck someone if the need, or even opportunity presented itself. Somewhere along the way that changed. Somewhere between starting training and being on track for my blue belt, nearing the 4th stripe on my white belt, it stopped being about other people’s perception, it stopped being about rank or status and suddenly, it was just about progress. The belt all of a sudden was simply something that held my Gi closed.
Sure, I was excited to earn my blue belt, and getting my purple was exciting too (more on that later) but at the end of the day, when I showed up to the next class to train, guess what…. I still got tapped… even by some really good white belts. The rank doesn’t shield you from this, the rank is simply a measuring stick on progress.
The best advice I can provide on getting from white belt belt to blue belt is to just have fun. Don’t worry about how you are progressing compared to others, it simply doesn’t matter. More than half the people you start training with will find a reason to quit before they reach blue belt, and even more will disappear in the blue to purple journey. Just keep showing up. Trust the process and be a good student and training partner. What you will realize is that time will pass, and you will look back and realize, you did learn the names of all of those fundamental techniques you were so worried about. You will realize that now you are becoming one of the people that you would have looked up to when you started training. It’s at this point that you can really start giving back to Jiu Jitsu through being a great training partner and helping reduce the number of people that leave as a white belt, or blue belt even.
While getting from white to blue was certainly a journey of self discovery and a test of perseverance and work ethic, getting from blue to purple was the most trying thus far. Weeks, maybe even months would go by where I felt like I was not only not progressing, but I actually felt like I was getting worse. The thought of quitting would cross my mind weekly, sometimes even daily. Every time I just kept thinking about the wise words I heard from a good friend of mine, and brown belt at the academy. “Just keep showing up” He would say this to everyone, any time someone was struggling. Just keep showing up.
He would go on to tell stories about people who used to terrorize him on the mats, but at some point, in the last 10 years, they fell off the wagon and had recently found their way back to Jiu Jitsu. The matches were much different now, rather than being terrorized, he found himself having the ability to control the situation and only let his opponents do what he would allow. It’s pretty empowering to think all you have to do is just keep showing up on a regular basis and going through the motions, and you WILL get better.
In addition to just showing up, I personally found a lot of success in setting goals for myself. I would start a month, or maybe week off by setting a goal like, last X minutes when rolling with this person (someone who continually dominated me). Or maybe, hit this submission in live training on someone that is at least the same rank as me. The goal was to set goals that made my training more valuable and kept me interested in continuing to learn so I could execute on the goals I set.
Ultimately, I knew that we lose the most people in Jiu Jitsu when they are a blue belt. I had to have a few pretty tough conversations with myself saying, listen, you are better than that, whatever you do, quitting is not an option at blue belt, get through this and if you still want to consider quitting, you can. I obviously have not quit yet and have found that I am more in love with the grind now than ever before.
What are some things you can do to prevent the feeling of not progressing?
I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with the easiest one.
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-Keep a journal for Jiu Jitsu.
Each training session should get recorded and detailed what went well and what needs work. After you have a few days or weeks worth of data, pick an area of opportunity and start studying it. It’s not enough to just study it, you need to apply it in live training as well. You will notice that with focused attention, you will start to see the progress more quickly, but also, because your focus is narrowed, you will start to notice and appreciate the progress along the way.
Study! Invest time and in some cases money into your craft so that you can study the techniques you like most or need the most help with from the best Jiu Jitsu practitioners in the world. BJJ Fanatics has an extensive library of video instructionals available to us. This library includes instruction from the best and most talented grapplers in the world on topics from techniques, to mindset, and everything in between. If you haven’t already, check them out. I would recommend starting with “The Road to Black Belt” by Tom DeBlass. Professor DeBlass breaks down the mental side of Jiu Jitsu and provides a more direct and in depth recommendations for coming up through the ranks.
Professor Tom DeBlass is here to share his wisdom and to set you forth with the information to improve you BJJ, and your life. His DVD “The Road To Black Belt and Beyond” can help with injuries, competing, relationships, and MUCH MORE. Check it out here!