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February 12, 2022

Black Belt Advice for BJJ White Belts

Jeremy Mast

Black Belt Advice for BJJ White Belts

If you’re new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have already attended classes for more than a week or so, you may have found yourself bombarded with two torrential streams of information.

One encompasses all the physical and technical aspects — your basic hip escapes, bridges, framing, etc. Along side of all thew technical learning, you will likely also have someone in your ear constantly giving you advice about what to do, what not to do, how to think, and so forth.

This advice-giving will come from everywhere and everyone. You’ll get advice from people who have two decades of training behind them, and you’ll get advice from training partner that started three weeks before you. It can all be helpful, but can also be a bit much.

You’ll soon realize that most of us fall into the old CrossFit cliché: “How do you know if someone trains in BJJ? They won’t stop talking about it.” We are all guilty there —  I know I am.  

Here are a few points to keep in mind as you progress through these early stages:

Embrace discomfort

Jiu Jitsu is close-contact sport. It’s also a combat sport. With those two things combined, you can expect to experience some discomfort. Discomfort can be a good thing. Your average person likely hasn’t accustomed themselves to feeling uncomfortable, and many will go to great lengths to avoid it. 

At the beginning, you may feel uncomfortable because you’re not in great shape. This will improve with time. Beyond that, you’ll see that the discomfort comes from your partner with their knee on your belly, or that shoulder pressure from side control. You’ll learn to tolerate this and even invite it. One nice thing about sticking with Jiu-Jitsu — you can’t help but get used to physical discomfort, and some of us even learn to revel in it to some extent.

Don’t be afraid of the discomfort, don’t be afraid of making your partner a little uncomfortable, but most importantly, do not be afraid to communicate. If it’s too much, say so. If it’s not enough, say so. 

[Navigating Boundaries On And Off The Mat]

Expect to be humbled

I always like to say that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the hardest thing I’ve ever done for fun.

It’s harder than all the sports I played back in my school days, and it’s harder than all of the martial arts styles I trained before finding BJJ. With Jiu Jitsu there’s a lot to learn, and it takes a long time to actually get good. People who are naturally good at physical activities often run into a situation that they’ve never before encountered: they’re probably going to be bad at Jiu Jitsu for awhile. I’ll try to avoid the cliched points regarding ego, but here is one to keep in mind: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an ego killer.

In my case, I have never lost so regularly in my entire life. I was getting tapped constantly, over and over again. I started to let that voice in my head tell me that I had picked the wrong sport, I even thought about quitting. Slowly, though, I began to find the little wins. The person that normally tapped me five times in a round only got me four times in the last round. That’s improvement. You can’t get caught up in the wins and the losses. The more you can just let go, have fun, and just enjoy the process, the better off you will be, and, more importantly, the longer you will stick with it. 

[Build An Unbreakable Spirit Through Jiu Jitsu]

Get better one class at a time

Lastly, you’ll frequently hear this statement during mat speeches: “A black belt is just a white belt that didn’t stop showing up.”

This is as true a statement as you’ll hear. There are the rare few that go on to become world champs or pro fighters, but mostly we are made up of regular people that just keep coming. It’s going to seem that those upper belts have some sort of magic that nullifies all of your techniques. Let me assure you, there is nothing mystical about it.

It just takes time (and effort). So keep your head down and your eyes on the next step ahead of you. The next thing you’ll know, ten or so years will have gone by, and someone will be tying a black belt around your waist.

Every single person had a first day of training. We all felt just as lost as you have.

Just embrace the grind, stay the path, and most of all, remember to just have fun. 

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