Accept Your Promotions As They Come
I’ve never met a person that felt ready or deserving of a stripe or belt promotion at the time it was given; Often times they seem to come on the nights we feel off and sluggish.
If your professor, whether your current or previous, felt you earned a rank then trust them. What you are forgetting is the multitude of reasons that go into belt promotions or stripes. Technical prowess and achieving taps or winning a lot of matches during class does not add up to a new belt alone.
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Your attitude, dedication and commitment to the sport, how well you treat your partners, and your overall willingness to share and learn with your team; these are the things that make up the majority of your promotion eligibility according to your professor.
As you move up in belt color, or watch others progress in the sport, you will notice a difference in the approach to rolling. As a white belt you hang on for dear life, try whatever seems like a good idea (which usually isn’t) and hope for the best. Perseverance and tenacity come into play as a white belt constantly and being receptive to tips from teammates is so important.
Once you receive your blue belt it is likely that the tendency to jump straight into any submission you know is somewhat subdued, and Jiu Jitsu intuition is starting to form in your brain. Have you ever landed in a position and just felt that there was something to do from there, but for the life of you can’t remember what it is? That’s the life of a blue belt in a nutshell. You know how to drill moves independently, and are more competent in escapes, but often have a hard time seeing the big rolling picture to figure out where to go next. As a purple belt you finally feel like you can string together separate techniques to fully form a Jiu Jitsu thought process.
Weight distribution, hand grips, and angle begin to creep into your approach in order to address the precise details of fundamental techniques you’ve let slide so far. Brown belts will find themselves understanding the reasoning and details of new moves just by watching them, since they are well aware of the minute movements involved in each individual step. They use their weight correctly, can think ahead and set up traps for their opponent and react quickly to what their partner tries to trap them with.
Once you get a black belt there’s almost no active mental engagement needed to perform flawless Jiu Jitsu; your body knows what it’s doing, your brain kicks into gear without you asking it to. Maybe you can even form your own version of a fundamental technique to fit your style more- you are amazing.
In order to progress in this way you have to be willing to fail. No matter what rank you are, if you aren’t receptive to advice or guidance then not only will your Jiu Jitsu end up stalling but you will also find yourself quickly losing voluntary partners.
Rolling with someone that assumes they are always on the right track, think they execute each move correctly or view themselves as just plain better than you is the worst. Don’t be that person! Allow your teammates to help you figure out your style, even if what they’re telling you seems like something that won’t work for your body type or skill that’s okay.
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Being able to run through scenarios during drilling is one of the most important parts of Jiu Jitsu development, so don’t stifle you or your partners progression. We all know a person that is so helpful during drills; they never take constructive criticism poorly and clearly apply it to their game. Aren’t they the best? Yes, be them.
Time and effort put into the mats is the other ingredient to belt rank promotion. Instructors and classmates both notice how often you come to class, as well as whether your are putting in work while your there. Nobody expects you to drop everything or show up to class while you’re sick or dealing with personal life outside of the gym, but if you aren’t putting in the hours then you shouldn’t be confused as to why you haven’t seen an improvement in your grappling or a new stripe appear on your belt.
All that said, don’t rush your progression on the mat! It’s natural to want to breeze through belts and constantly improve, but be sure to also enjoy the journey. Take a step back and look at what you’re learning, how much skill and information is being retained that you didn’t have before; even more fun is to watch your friends around you reach goals and be supportive of them. Accept your Jiu Jitsu journey as it happens, even if you feel like you haven’t done enough to be on the ride.
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