You Can’t Just Be, You Have to Become

5 min read

Why You Shouldn’t Rush to be Promoted
If you ask a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner’s goal in BJJ, the most popular answer you’ll get is: to become a black belt. Plain and simple. Yet there’s no simple, calculated, nor smooth-paved road to get there. It takes years of dedication and hard work. Your nearest belt up will, too, be a stretch. We all want to progress and get promoted, therefore we can’t feel frustrated or discouraged when asked to train more frequently, harder or for a longer period of time. You’re not just getting a different colored belt tied around your waist; when you are promoted it means you completely embody that rank. You have to grow not only on a technical level, but your BJJ mindset must match that of your respective rank.

Progressing in jiu-jitsu is a lot like growing up. You’ll go through different mental stages throughout your journey. When you’re young, the tendency to misbehave or make immature decisions is higher. In the same way, a very new white belt will try to use their strength rather than technique to get the tap. When we look at behavior – Everyone knows that person too prideful to tap, becomes upset or discouraged when tapped, or boasts when tapping a training partner. Sound familiar? Maybe you know someone like this. Maybe we were once this way. Ultimately, once we progress or “get older” in jiu-jitsu, our behavior and thoughts change. We’ll tap because the technique works and we’ll strive to learn how we got there so we don’t make the same mistake again. And we will have the utmost respect for our training partners, because without them we can’t learn.

So just like you can’t consume alcohol until you’re 21 years old because the chances of you making mature decisions at any younger age are pretty slim; you can’t just be your next belt because you, too, need to mature on the mat. Now, as you progress in jiu-jitsu, you’ll get to understand the technique in a whole new way. You’ll learn the ins and outs of it – how and why it works. You won’t do the technique a certain way simply because “you were told to,” but because you understand the mechanics and why those steps will make the technique successful.

Don’t stress over the amount of time it will take to get to the next belt, because the time will pass anyway. Train hard and consistently. Your mindset will soon evolve from the average individual’s to one of a mature martial artist. When the time comes for you to receive a promotion, you’ll have mentally and technically grown to meet the higher demands and challenges.

[Keep reading for a BJJ goals and game plan worksheet at the end of this article]

Improving Your Game
Wherever you are in your journey, one piece of advice to improve your game which I received from my professor is to “practice your techniques with lower belts (or the same level), but flow roll with higher belts.” That’s where you’re going to learn a whole lot. They have more knowledge than you so don’t try to kick their ass just to save yours, try to understand how they caught you and add those skills to your toolbox.

Prof. Carlos always says, “Choose your battles. Not every roll has to be till the death.” The other day, he and a student were flow rolling. They ended up in a new position from which Professor realized he could set up a submission. He was also able to successfully recreate the set up every time because he knew how he got there. If it had been a fast-paced scramble, he might have missed the opportunity to learn that new set up. So don’t force your way into submissions. Flow, and use your mind to follow along with movements, offenses and defenses. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is the hardest martial art to receive a black belt in, that’s why it’s so effective. It works not because everyone says it does, but because you have actually devoted the time learning the ins and outs of the techniques. Nowadays, everyone is so focused on finding the quickest, most convenient way to get what they want that they end up losing sight of the bigger picture – You can’t just be you have to become; mindset and all.

Take risks, fail and learn. “The black belt has failed more times than the lower belt has ever tried.” So if we do truly want to become a black belt someday we have to stay committed despite the length of time, fears, doubts and discouragement. In the end, we’ll understand that those challenges we thought we couldn’t get past were imperative lessons we couldn’t imagine our journey without.

My husband (and BJJ Professor) and I were discussing our BJJ goals for 2018 when he said, “The people who are not afraid to lose and get their ass kicked are the ones that learn so fast.” I was completely inspired by that. No one wants to lose nor get their ass kicked, but if you always play it safe just to avoid those “losses,” you could potentially never grow nor progress as a martial artist. So this 2018, let’s choose to live #focusedandfearless in our BJJ journey. We can be as open to failing as we are to learning. We can shoot for that take down and get guillotined, or fight to get to our knees but have our backs taken. Screw it! As long as we are taking those risks and observing how we can better ourselves next time. I want to learn fast. Who doesn’t? I’m willing to get my ass kicked to do that. It’s going to take a step, or 5, out of our comfort zone, but eventually it will become habitual and we’ll become mentally stronger. Are you willing to put your fear and ego aside to become a better martial artist?

As we go into 2018, I invite you to get clear on your BJJ goals and create a realistic game plan to launch you into jiu-jitsu success. Here are my goals and game plan. Print your own 2018 BJJ Game Plan Worksheet.




Game plan

Train at least 5 days per week. Go to bed early and wake up early for training. Have some sort of caffeine and drink lots of water to stay alert.
Create a technique library. Record a video of technique taught in class to reference it later.
Practice techniques in a realistic setting. Roll at least 3 times per week. Record videos to catch mistakes and successes.
Increase strength, speed and endurance. Create a strength and conditioning plan specifically to improve my personal BJJ game.
Increase overall energy. Eat healthy, minimal processed food and stay hydrated.
Compete 2 times this year. (minimum) Create a successful training camp, save money to compete or find a sponsor.
Focus on one technique every month. Drill it every day, watch videos on it, practice during rolling, learn counters, and counters for counters!

What current rank do you hold in Jiu-jitsu? What are some of your BJJ goals and how to you plan to accomplish them?

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Thanks for reading! –Jules

11 thoughts on “You Can’t Just Be, You Have to Become

  1. The BJJ journey is longer than people imagine! I started BJJ 17 years ago. I did for 6 months or so, I don’t remember so much. But, I’ve been training for 18 months but only 13 months training constantly because the injuries I’ve been over 4 months now waiting for to heal my injurie and I feel my journey is longer than my teammates. Last year I kept training injured worried about learning and not taking time out. I was neglecting to take 3 months out for to heal my ankle and kept training and competing which resulted in other major injury and made me be out since end of July. I did trained couple times on August but after I was done and I’m so regretful in not to hear who loves me the most. I was going with the flow and worried so much about my journey. This year my goal is train but also to accept I have my limitations and no worry about my journey. The BJJ will be always be there for me and my health won’t if I don’t take care. For me become a black belt I need train smart and not worry about my journey because if u keep training eventually u will be a legit black belt. If I didn’t quit 17 years ago today I would be a 1st or 2nd degree black belt. Happy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! Wow. Your journey has definitely had some ups and downs! I’m sorry you were injured. Did you hurt your ankle during training? Yes, that’s true. We have to take care of ourselves so that we are able to heal properly, feel healthy and strong for training. Even if you don’t train, you can still go to class to watch/record a video, drill very light but not roll. However long the journey will be, all these experiences will make us one tough blackbelt!🙏🏽💪🏽👊🏽

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had my ankle sprained and o got 2 thorn ligaments. A week after Worlds in June I had my AC joint messed up and got separation ac joint grade 2. I did the stem cells in October and I’m slowly recovery my my right arm motion range. I only can move 50% but is better than was before. This year I’m not even worried in to train for tournament because I want get a full recovery before I step on the mats for train. Last year I had 4 tournaments where I went with my ankle very injured and I won’t be stubborn like was anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My BJJ goals this year are to get blue stripe, (ideally I hope over that promotion and go straight to blue belt 🤞🏻) Gain back my confidence on the mat, not sit out during rolls and open mats and fit back into my gi’s. Improve my guard game and butterfly game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How does the blue stripe work? I’ve never heard of that. I sit out during rolls too! Lol. Are there a lot of women at your school? Nice! Get those legs nice and strong! 👏🏽 So excited for you!


      1. So, some academies use blue stripe as a 5th stripe on white belt before blue. A lot of it depends on your black belt, and the students progress. There have been people at my school who have gone straight to blue, and a few of them have gotten a blue stripe. It basically states… “You’re ALMOST there… but not quite” It can either be a big motivator to work harder, or it can be a disappointment when some students are expecting to get their belt. There’s a lot of debate about it that I’ve seen. It can be disheartening when you think you are ready for blue, and everyone else gets promoted but you and so some black belts give the blue stripe when they feel the student needs a little push? (that’s my take on it anyway.) At our academy our black belt visits every 6 months or so. My professor can rank white belts but cannot promote to blue (He’s a purple belt.. but really should be brown. haha) I hope that makes sense! (PS. sorry, I just saw this question! haha)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahh I see! That makes sense. Although, I’d rather just be in that in between period and wait until my coach/professor thinks I’m ready for my next belt. What do you think? That’s awesome you have other females to train with.


  3. Ugh, it’s such a tricky subject for me. I think I’d rather be in the in between stage as well and my coach/professor have a conversation with me. However, I am a person who uses promotions as validation. Which isn’t healthy for me and I don’t know for sure how I would react thinking I’m getting promoted and don’t. Though it’s happened before! I think that’s maybe a negative thing our gym has (though we’re working on it) that every time the black belt comes we all expect there to be promotions. But I think personally I am at the point in my journey where I know in my mind I probably wont be ready for blue belt until next fall. As much as I am aiming for this Summer. I think I will know in my heart when I’m ready, and then the decision is up to my professor and coaches.

    Liked by 1 person

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