Find What You Love. And Keep With It!
We talk an awful lot about why people quit BJJ. The topic of the disappearing blue belt seems to always make its way back in to the blogs and forums on a consistent basis. People give up BJJ for various reasons, and you may never know why someone actually left, but it’s always a hard thing to witness. There’s something about a BJJ peer leaving that’s tough to handle. We develop such close relationships, and we root for each other’s progression. We’re all united for a common goal, and when someone leaves the fold it can be a little painful.
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But let’s talk about something different. Why do people stay? What drives us to keep coming back again and again in the face of so much adversity and frustration? We see the most casualties at the beginner level, mostly white and blue belts. So, what is one of the main things that drives the novice practitioners to push through? I believe it has a great deal to do with the environment, the team, and the kind of support that’s present in an academy.
Learning to fight is intimidating for most people. Do you remember your first day at your BJJ academy? I do. I was really excited, but I was also very nervous, and was dealing with some anxiety about the unknown. I feel this is pretty common for most people. Those first few weeks at the academy can have enormous effects on someone’s decision to stay or go.
Humans crave connection. We inherently love the Feeling of being a part of something. Were you made to feel as if you were a part of something during your first few weeks? The chances are that if you’re reading this that you were.
When someone takes a genuine interest in your early progression and making you feel that you are now a part of something special, integrating is a different experience. Training becomes not only “jiu-jitsu practice”, but also a place where you connect with like minded individuals, and escape the challenges and monotony of daily life. This is a healthy process, and it enriches our lives.
I once heard a story from a friend of mine about a time when he had traveled to another state and had taken a BJJ class at a different academy. His experience was like nothing I’d ever heard before. When he walked in, the person running the front desk greeted him only with a look, and when my friend asked for information about taking class, the person simply pushed a waiver across the desk for him to fill out. He claimed that not one person spoke to him the entire time he was there. Maybe it’s just the way they treat outsiders? I don’t know, but that mind-blowing to me, and I can’t fathom how a place that’s so cold still remains open for business. Do you feel you could enjoy BJJ in that kind of setting?
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White to blue belt can be trying time, and I think one of the biggest factors in why someone would choose to not give it up, is the support they receive from those around them. BJJ is an individual sport, but your surrounded by so much experience and wisdom, that you hardly have to deal with all the trials and tribulations of BJJ alone. You always a have a board to query.
If every member of an academy is dedicated to creating a great experience for every single person that comes through the door, why would anyone ever leave? And why would we do it any other way?
Imagine if no one had taken an interest in guiding you or had let you know that you were important to the academy. Would you have lasted? There are some exceptions of course. Not everyone shows up to become part of a social network, but even those that don’t, seem to break out of their shells at some point and subscribe to the environment.
If we want everyone to stay, we have to make sure they know that it would be different if they left. Think about your core group of BJJ peers that you came up with. What would it be like to lose one of them? It would hurt. All new students eventually take on a special role at the academy and become a staple of the culture and balance, and it’s the duty of the team to make sure they understand that they have an army at their back from the beginning. Whether people choose to invest in that or not is on them, but most people are glad to have a positive support system within their BJJ family.
It’s all about the environment. How can you help cultivate an environment where everyone wants to stay? Set an example. Be kind, greet everyone, introduce yourself, introduce others, offer assistance, give advice. Believe in someone. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do, and someone did it for you.
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