What Does Tom DeBlass Think New Black Belts Should Focus On?
Tom DeBlass has been a black belt for over 9 years now. He recently received the third degree on his black belt, awarded to him by his longtime instructor Ricardo Almeida, himself the very first black belt from the legendary Renzo Gracie.
Not only has he developed his world class jiu jitsu and teaching philosophy as part of a legendary lineage, but he has also used that knowledge to produce high level black belts of his own, namely Garry Tonon, who is currently slated to take another step in his mentor's shoes and begin his MMA career in March.
Tom currently travels to the world to coach, teach and compete, though not necessarily in any specific order. He has produced three of the best selling BJJ and health/fitness instructionals at BJJ Fanatics and currently has several more soon to be released. His "Half Domination" where he reveals all of the techniques that have made his bottom and top half guard game one of the most formidable in grappling is the best selling instructional of all time here at BJJ Fanatics.
BJJ Fanatics caught up with Tom briefly to ask him what he thought someone who has recently earned their black belt should focus on next? What should their next goal be after receiving the black belt?
For DeBlass, there should be two primary focuses of the new black belt.
"For the student who has just earned their black belt, really nothing should really change. They should focus on being the best student they can AND sharing their knowledge."
In typical DeBlass fashion, he answers what seems like a complex question in a way that cuts straight to the essence and core of the issue. And perhaps that is his greatest strength and ability, to remind us that at the core of every situation we believe to be filled with complexities, there can be found a simple truth. For him, the truth is that the day after you've received your black belt is another day. Though you may have spent the last decade or longer working towards the goal, the black belt is not a finish line for DeBlass nor should it be for you.
Being the best student you can be
What does it mean to be the best student you can be for DeBlass? In simplest terms, it means to never stop learning, to never stop trying to get a little bit better, to never stop trying to do more and to work harder. The ways you could accomplish this are going to be highly individual and unique to your particular situation.
By continuing to find ways to challenge yourself, to stretch yourself and get outside your comfort level, you will maintain that love of the art. There will always be something we can get better at. The end of our learning. The end of our jiu jitsu journey is when we become complacent in the comfort zone and no longer seek out the challenges and new obstacles that will continue to refine our skills and us as human beings.
The black belt then is not a stopping point, an arrival, for DeBlass; it is more like a road sign letting you know where you are currently, but the road itself stretches off into the distance and somewhere down that road is the best version of you that there could be.
Share your knowledge
For DeBlass, a black belt that doesn't share their knowledge and help others is not a true black belt. Simply walking into the academy and joining your teammates on the mats for warm ups, classes, etc. will go a long way to sharing yourself with others. Just by being a positive and contributing member of your academy, you will inspire everyone else who is striving to get to where you are.
You could also begin sharing your knowledge by offering your time to help teach classes or privates at your academy. Work with your instructor to see how best you could help them and further impact your school and share your knowledge more broadly.
Sharing your knowledge doesn't have to be as formal either. There are countless opportunities to partner with the new students, offer advice after a hard roll, or share some positive thoughts when someone is struggling and considering leaving. Simply being there and being present will go a long way and the opportunities will begin to present themselves.
Therefore, there is no real secret to DeBlass' advice. For him, nothing should change and the things you've done to get yourself to black belt should continue. The black belt doesn't give you magical powers or make you somehow better than any other student, for DeBlass. It should be a constant reminder of the blood, sweat and tears you've shed along the way and even more so, the laughter you've shared with your friends, teammates and coaches.
If nothing else, being awarded the black belt should promote an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on the road you've come and get yourself right back to work as soon as possible helping others get there with you.
Check out Tom DeBlass' 4 volume "Submission Escapes" instructional that will give you all of his tips and tricks to get out of the most common traps you might find yourself in. If you had a "Get out of jail free" card for the mats, wouldn't you roll with much more confidence? It's time to get that card by taking advantage of all of the escapes Tom DeBlass is going to teach you in this series, available from BJJ Fanatics!