Three Warning Signs of the Blue Flu
There is an insidious sickness that plagues the jiu jitsu mats. Left unchecked, this plague could wipe out jiu jitsu as we know it. The disease I'm referring to is the tendency of teammates and training partners to stop training after they earn their blue belts. This disease has many names, but I will simply refer to it as "the blue flu."
The longer you train jiu jitsu, the more chance you will have to experience teammates and training partners who, for whatever reason, stop training. Earning any belt promotion can be a very daunting task and the thought of earning a black belt in BJJ can almost seem impossible in your early months of training. For some reason, many practitioners seem to come down with this sickness at Blue Belt, so much so that it has become a common cliche.
It's important to be able to pick up on the symptoms and warning signs of the blue flu. In my nine years, a few common behaviors or comments from my teammates and training partners are below. Be cognizant of these phrases at any belt level, but honestly, I don't see them as much after someone has a few stripes on their blue belts. It's like their system builds up it's defenses and make it less likely to fall prey to these.
Blue flu symptom #1 "I'm gonna take a week off"
If you hear this out of any of your teammates, I would certainly hope that you will take a moment to inquire what's going on? Especially if it's someone who just received their blue belt at the last class and they tell you they're going to take some time off in an almost celebratory tone. Here's what's going on with what they're saying and why it's a dangerous mentality to have and must be exposed.
Jiu jitsu can be so much more than a hobby. When you allow it, it can become a lifestyle or philosophy that can make your entire life better. The people who are able to persevere and make it to the coveted black belt are the ones who have become immersed in jiu jitsu and let it infuse their lives. By taking time off, you are compartmentalizing it as something that you can simply stop and start whenever you like.
Now I'm not trying to say that jiu jitsu is a cult, but maybe I am at the same time. I think of someone who has worked very hard for a year to lose weight and achieve a goal. Common thinking is that once I achieve my goal, I can take some time off and relax and maybe go back to my old eating habits. The danger of this is that this could reverse our progress and set us off on a path that we don't want to go down. A missed week of eating well, can lead to a 2nd week and so on. The same way a missed week of BJJ training could lead to more missed weeks. After that blue belt promotion, it's more important than ever to affirm the journey and get back to class and not derail one's progress.
Blue flu symptom #2 "(Insert reason) is keeping me busy and I have no time for BJJ"
I have seen so many people suddenly become busier at work, at home, or with some other endeavors right around the time they earn their blue belts. How does the universe consistently double and triple everyone's responsibilities after about a year or two of consistent jiu jitsu training?
Everyone is busy. Everyone has life responsibilities. You will not magically have more time if you give up jiu jitsu. A one hour jiu jitsu class each day is around 4% of your total day's time. The irony is that by spending that time in BJJ, you will gain so many more things that will make the other 96% of your day better.
Blue flu symptom #3 "I'm not getting any better"
This is the "It's not you, it's me" excuse applied to BJJ. This is someone who's got the blue flu and it's manifesting not as life getting in the way, but some passive-aggressive notion that the practitioner is not worthy and will never improve. The truth is that you are getting better, but sometimes in the moment you can't see it. I personally, have a number of people I have trained with throughout the years who would literally tie me in knots when I started. For whatever personal reason, they took time off. In my 9 years of BJJ, I took off 1 month because my chiropractor advised that I needed to because I was developing a neck issue. Thankfully, many of these people who stopped training have returned and I no longer get tied in knots. Simply by showing up, you are getting better. You can't help it. You can't stop it.
Another great BJJ Fanatics article about how to have the best white and blue belt mindset can be found here. Check it out!
In the video below, world champion Bernardo Faria reminds newer students what they can always go back to if they find their motivation wavering, the fundamentals.
What do you do if your friend or teammate is showing signs of Blue Flu? First and foremost, stress with them that unless they are hurt or injured, too much time away from training and the mats is rarely a good idea. Another thought would be to point them towards your instructor or higher belts, if you are not, so that they can share their personal stories of the ups and downs of the the long road to those higher belts.
If you're relatively new to BJJ, you will definitely want to check out a definitive guidebook for the white and blue belt here with Vinicius Ferreria's "The Lower Belt Prescription" 4 DVD set. This will help you build the foundation for all future jiu jitsu success.