“10 reasons you are still a white belt” from BJJBlackBelt.com

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1. Not enough mat time

We all know that guy. For school, kids, family, him leaving the stove on, for whatever reason he never seems to stick around for live rolling. Or he’s always got some nagging injury that persuades him to respectfully decline your invitation to go live after class. It’s not enough for your coach to see that you come to class on a consistent basis. Your coach wants to see that you clearly understand the concepts he has taught and that you can demonstrate them effectively in a live situation. Reaching a the first milestone of jiu jitsu-the blue belt requires one thing above all else, demonstration. If you have not demonstrated your ability to execute the techniques in the class curriculum effectively in the presence of your coach, don’t expect your belt to change colors anytime soon. because that’s exactly what a “belt test” or “promotion exam” consists of, demonstrating techniques.

 

2. Not enough class time.

 

Now, on the opposite side of that coin, some people tend to show up to class late for whatever reasons and only make it in time to roll. Sure these people might have a nice armbar or straight ankle lock, but that’s 1% of jiu jitsu. Constantly being late to class and only showing up for rolling is like missing all week of school and only showing up for the test. sure there might be some freaks of nature who can do all this and succeed anyway; but if you’re an average Joe like me you’re going to fail. It is very likely that you’re professor has put in a decade or more of training to be where he is today and the only way you are going to be able to follow those foot steps is if you give him the opportunity to pass his knowledge down to you! which means showing up to class on time and taking full advantage of the curriculum. even if it’s a technique you already know, pay attention! maybe you missed a detail or a concept last time that could make you better, maybe your professor has made an adjustment or discovery that has improved the technique, you will never know unless you show up and pay attention.

 

3. You don’t compete enough.

Now this one is sure to ruffle some feathers, but the truth hurts. Jiu jitsu is more than a martial art, it’s a sport. and more importantly it’s a sport with no off-season. Tournament season is virtually year round and a lot of coaches take pride in seeing their students at all belt levels test their skills against other academies from all over the country. win or lose your coach wants to see you support your academy and show your appreciation by testing your skills in a tournament. wearing the patch and not competing is like having a sword and shield and not following your brothers and sisters into battle. At the heart of jiu jitsu is hand to hand primal combat. the ability to subdue an unknown and unwilling opponent using leverage and technique. after rolling with the guys and girls from your academy for a long time you begin to get used to what they do, and vice versa. your coach wants to see you wear the patch into battle and be an ambassador of your team while demonstrating your understanding of jiu jitsu.

 

4. You don’t support your association.

 

Jiu jitsu academies, in my opinion, are unlike any martial arts associations in the entire world, in the sense that they are truly a family. Jiu jitsu academies often have a clear lineage and close associations to other academies across the country and across the world who are under the same banner. Your coach wants to see you support the association. This means that when Mr. Gracie, Mr. Ribeiro, Mr. Medeiros, i.e. the head of your association comes to give a seminar at your school- you be there. If that means skipping a night of drinking to save money for the seminar than do it. If that means staying home Friday night so you can wake up early Saturday and go to the seminar, then do it. Also a lot of associated academies like to do cross-training in order to prepare for tournaments and get students rolling with people with different tools and weapons. It’s important that you show up to things like this to support your academy and your coach, and most importantly your association.

 

5. You care too much about the belt.

“Hey coach, whats on the blue belt test?”, “Is this going to be on the blue belt test?”, “When am I eligible to test for my blue belt?”  , sure, its okay to ask these questions a few times, and im sure your coach does want you to know. But once it becomes clear to your coach that your main prerogative is getting promoted- that will raise a HUGE red flag. A wise man once said “The belt will change colors on its own.” and this is completely true. it’s actually quite ironic how the more you care about the belt, the slower it seems to come, and the less you care about the belt, the faster it seems to come. Slow down, enjoy the experience. The white belt is like the freshmen year of high school, sure it sucks, but one day you will miss it because it only comes once, and for most people the black belt is the LAST belt you’re ever gonna have and not to mention the toughest competition you’re ever gonna face, so why be in such a hurry? take you’re time and enjoy the journey, I promise you wont regret it.

 

6. You use too much strength.

The whole concept behind Brazilian jiu jitsu is that a larger stronger opponents have no advantage over smaller weaker ones due to use of technique and leverage. look up Brazilian jiu jitsu on any search engine right now and surely something along those lines will come up as a definition. So if you’re constantly doing well (or not so well) in your academy by using brute strength and muscle to overcome your training partners, this is a clear sign you are not ready to start receiving rank. jiu jitu is not about strength in any sense of the word, sure strength will come into play at some point in time but I promise you that bench pressing and arm wrestling will NOT be part of your blue belt exam or any other belt exam in your bjj career. so slow down, catch your breath, wipe the sweat off your head and focus on technique rather than strength. Play your guard against bigger opponents, force yourself to work outside of your comfort zone. use leverage and technique and you will start to see an improvement in your submission game and your belt color.

 

7. You can’t pick a patch.

Well I would be a blue belt by now if I would have stayed at Joe schmoes academy.” We all know that guy that for whatever reason cannot seem to plant down at one academy long enough to grow some roots. A strong piece of advice for any white belts walking into a new academy, the professor does not care who you trained with before or how long you trained with them. a lot of black belts pride themselves on having homegrown champions and homegrown curriculum for each belt level. It doesn’t matter if you were black belt level for Joe Schmoe because you’re still gonna have to reach blue belt level for John Doe. You don’t study plumbing for an electronics exam, so don’t expect to get your blue from Relson with the jiu jitsu you learned from Royce. it’s just business. Your coach doesn’t want to just know your Jiu jitsu, they want to know YOU. Try to stay at ONE academy if you can. If you cant seem to find what you’re looking for at 2 or 3 or more academies than maybe the problem isn’t the instructors, maybe BJJ just isn’t your thing. and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I can tell you this, if you don’t stick around at one academy for at LEAST a year I wouldn’t plan on getting your blue belt.

 

8. Youre too predictable

Now, im not saying it’s not good to have a go-to technique. I’m sure everyone has one, but the important thing is to have more than just a few moves in your arsenal. If you’re coach has shown you 1000 techniques and you can still only execute 1 when rolling then maybe you’re not ready for your blue. What is ultimately at the heart of BJJ is self-defense, being able to handle yourself and defend your self in a wide array of situations. When a mugger runs up on you at the ATM I can assure you he’s not gonna fist bump you and ask “How do you wanna start?” Show your coach that you’re paying attention to what he’s teaching and that you understand, and if you don’t, ask questions. If he or she showed spider guard that day, play spider guard after class.  It’s not only important to advancing your rank but your coach really wants you to absorb the information for your own personal gain. In Brazilian jiu jitsu knowledge really is power, and the knowledge of a blue belt has to be a notch above the knowledge of a white belt. Not just one or two techniques.

 

9. You don’t correct your mistakes.

The first time your coach tells you to stop wrapping the head from half guard, its okay. The second time, that’s okay too. Hell the third and fourth time don’t bother your coach one bit, it takes time. But the 9th 10th and 11th time I can assure you, no matter how supportive he sounds, he wants to take the black belt off his waist and hang you with it. Listen to your coach, sometimes what your coach tells you to do may be uncomfortable and feel unnatural. Maybe you feel like if you did what he says you would be exposing yourself to a submission or a bad position. Maybe your coach just doesn’t know the way you like to roll and your style, go with your gut right? -wrong. Who’s the coach here? If what your coach keeps telling you to do feels unnatural it’s because you’ve created a bad habit that he’s desperately trying to get you to break. going from white to blue belt isn’t just about learning new techniques but breaking bad habits. stop giving up your back. stop resting in bad positions. stop holding onto the guillotine with you don’t have your guard. stop shooting in with your head down. You might think your coach has 100 students to keep track of and he surely doesn’t realize the subtle mistakes you continue to make, but I promise you he or she sees everything. and if you don’t get it together you just might wind up being a 10 year white belt.

 

10. you’re a no-gi guy.

If I had a nickel for every one of these guys that I know, id have enough to cover the rest of my belt tests in my life all the way up to solid red. You have 20 MMA fights? you’re a 5x NAGA expert champion? you trained with Chuck Liddell and Steven seagal? wow. good for you! youre an expert naga, celebrity trained, cage fighting- white belt. You see, the belt. (you know the thing you so desperately want in a different color) is used to hold up your Gi or kimono. Brazilian jiu jitsu (not to be confused with MMA, no-gi grappling, sambo, submission grappling, glima, judo, capoeira or any other type of grappling) is practiced in a gi. The takedowns,armlocks,joint locks, chokes, hold downs, and guards/ guard passes all utilize the gi. So no amount of combat sports experience outside of training Brazilian jiu jitsu in the gi is going to give you any type of advantage what so ever in regards to your belt promotion. Sure you might mount the blue belt and choke him with an arm triangle, but what about the paper-cutter that was wide open from side control? or the x choke he basically was GIVING you when you were in the mount? Do you know chain and flow attacks for when one submission or sweep attempt doesn’t work? If you ever wanna see a belt other than white than its best to leave your ego at the door and learn to use the gi.

Bonus reason

 

The bonus reason and probably the MOST IMPORTANT reason of them all is that YOU ARE NOT THE COACH. Brazilian jiu jitsu black belts dedicate large amounts of their lives, sometimes decades, to learning BJJ and achieving that rank. One does not simply wake up in the morning and decide to be a black belt and an instructor. it takes years and years of vigorous training competing and learning, so don’t ever think for a second that anyone knows if you’re ready for a promotion more than you coach does. Like I said before, slow downenjoy the journey! make mistakes!  consistency and time are the only two things that can guarantee your promotion and you cannot rush either one. Put in the mat time, put in the class time, compete often, support your association, use technique, learn from your mistakes, maintain the attitude of a student and always continue to learn and grow and voila! The belt will change colors on its own!

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