Begin the BJJ Journey and Become a Better Human Being
It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. You’ve heard it before, but few experiences exemplify this truth like the journey from white belt to black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). For a quick tour through the ranking system we adhere to, read here. To understand more about the journey and what each step signifies, read on.
In our article on our ranking system, it was important to mention how particularly long and arduous it is to advance through our belt system. Some martial arts may place less emphasis on rank promotions. Others may reward students in relative short periods, with very little practical requirements. With BJJ, the belt system is notoriously strict and difficult to progress through.
Between the required technical knowledge, verifiable ability in sparring and competition experience, it tends to take at least ten years to achieve a black belt. There is no standard amount of time between each belt, either. One belt may take a year. Another may take five years. All the while, it remains quite possible that the belt may not accurately represent ability. It depends on the coach and student.
Before we start our journey through the ranks, something must be said about the plateau. All martial artists are likely to experience it on the way to mastery. Each leap in ability can be preceded or followed by what seems like a streak of inactivity or lack of progress. This is a time when one develops the mental strength to continue and break through to those higher levels of proficiency.
The Empty Cup
On one hand, a white belt is a blank slate, an empty cup waiting to be filled. At the same time, it is a time to create a frame of reference. You will start to formulate a plan in order to figure out what you need to know. A framework of knowledge is created.
Nothing is expected of you when you are a white belt. So, relax. Mind your ego. Instead, take in all the different aspects of the training experience. This is not the time to worry about being a champion. Try not to acquire too much technical knowledge. This can even hinder your progress. Focus on a few basic movements and techniques.
The Escape Artist
The next rank after white belt is blue belt. Being an escape artist simply means building a rock-solid defense. The best jiu-jitsu fighters make it nearly impossible for opponents to tap them out. This cannot be accomplished without being able to escape from all the major positions and classic submissions.
Notice that the goals of a ranking system begin to resemble the goals of happy, successful human beings. That is no coincidence. Around purple belt, students should start to become well-rounded. Movement and momentum become key. Timing and sensitivity develop in order to generate momentum, as well as redirect the momentum of your opponent. Wasted movement should fade away. This is where you really need to put the hours in. This is where you finally finish laying down the foundation. Assess your game, find your greatest weaknesses and turn them into your greatest strengths.
Establishing Your Own Style
Be yourself. Find your own style. That’s what we all want, right? That is what being a brown belt is all about. That framework is set, and your defense is airtight. It is time to become more aggressive in your hunt for submissions, sweeps and passes. Go on the attack. You are now a threat from the top positions. You know how to use your body weight and make sure the fighter underneath feels and carries every ounce of it. Most importantly, you will have acquired a depth of technical knowledge and begin to teach.
Becoming a Quality Human Being
Through instinct and reflection, the black belt transcends the techniques and guidelines he or she picked up along the journey. As a fighter, you can improvise and feel your way through a match, even when faced with moves or situations you’ve never seen before. Arriving at the rank of black belt is like starting all over.
Now, you see Jiu jitsu in life. The journey has made you a quality human being, someone who is humble, friendly and respectful of others. Knowing what you do about your mind, body and spirit means that despite being a skilled fighter, you will never seek confrontation and only use what you know to defend and help those less capable.