The short answer is I consistently trained. I put in 14-16 hours a week for the last couple of years not including teaching kid’s classes. Training 6 sometimes even 7 days a week multiple times a day, and actively sharpening up my technique.
I was awarded my purple belt this weekend. It came as a total shock to me and yes, I did cry. My husband called my name and I couldn’t believe what was happening. He pulls out a worn over-sized looking purple belt hiding inside of his gi and ties it around my waist. He then explains that the reason it looks the way it does is because it was his purple belt (He’s currently a blackbelt.) He has had some of his most important fights in this belt so it is very special to him and now to me. What an honor. My eyes just welled up, guys. We exchanged a loving kiss and embrace. It was then that I thought I am so lucky to share this journey with my husband.
He is my best friend and mentor, and as my Professor – he is my biggest source of knowledge and motivation. He knows what I’m capable of and has seen my growth. He encourages me to let go of my fears, be confident, and take risks. I’ve never had anyone do that for me.
My journey in jiu-jitsu started January 12th of 2015. I came in as the only woman in the class and a little intimidated, which is why I initially wanted to try a class. I was on this mission of self-love and learning to face things alone. Over 3 and a half years later, I am still relentlessly training and feel so much more confident than I was pre-BJJ.
I don’t know much about what it takes to be a good purple belt yet, but I’m excited to share once I learn. I can, however, tell you how I went from white to blue to purple belt in under 4 years and hopefully you’ll leave with the slightest piece of information or inspiration.
White to Blue
Time spent: 1.5 years
I had a really good support system when I started training as a white belt. The first day, a couple of guys adopted me. I learned etiquette such as bowing when walking on and off the mat and scooting over as a courtesy if a higher belt is having a close roll next to you. I continued training jiu-jitsu because of the community. I met some really nice people the first couple of months and that kept me coming back to class. Even when I had to move back home over an hour away from my gym, I would drive every weekend to train. So once you find a reason to stay, go to class, stay consistent, show commitment.
Stay loyal to one academy:
I switched schools only a couple of months into my jiu-jitsu journey. I have now been with Gomez Jiu-jitsu learning under Professor Carlos Gomez for the majority of it. Once I changed schools, I dropped my anchor. I’m not saying don’t train anywhere else ever. I’m saying that if you stick to training at one academy, your instructor or Professor will be able to track your progress from the very beginning. If you bounce around schools, not only will you have to prove yourself over and over again, but you will have to put in the time and learn the different systems and requirements of each school.
As a white belt, think of yourself as a blank canvas. You will be fed so much knowledge in this part of your journey and it is your job to just be open to learning. Respect your Instructor’s knowledge, they have been in your shoes before. Take constructive criticism. Ask questions. Observe all angles when the technique is being demonstrated. Have a good attitude. Don’t be afraid to get tapped out. Ditch the ego.
Ask your Professor how you can improve: It’s no secret. Your Professor or Instructor will tell you EXACTLY what you need to do to get better. It’s easy to fall under the radar if you train at a big school. Stay present on the mat and communicate with your Instructor. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
Drill your fundamentals:
Until you can do them with your eyes closed! I’m serious. Being mounted sucks. So don’t be there in the first place and if you are there, get out quick! Get really good at escaping mount and side control, bridging, shrimping, gripping, movements, controlling your breathing.
Use your technique:
Often times people get caught up using explosive power or being “spazzy,” using strength or athleticism. What happens when you’ve gassed out and aren’t the pumped athletic individual from the beginning of your roll? If you are this way, there is a good chance that you may be skipping details from your technique and forcing your way into positions instead. You may have success in this with other white belts, but it may come back to bite you when rolling with higher belts. You have to assure that you have a solid foundation of the fundamentals and are not skipping steps and building off of bad habits or athleticism from the very beginning. There’s a reason why jiu-jitsu is the most effective martial art, it can be done when you’re 8 or 80 years old. Don’t forget all those little details that your Professor focused on. They matter, and they’ll save your ass when you’re exhausted.
Blue to purple
Time spent: 2 years, 1.5 months
Train with all body sizes:
You will have to modify your techniques with each body type. Don’t get lazy thinking that it will work the same on everyone. Train with different training partners and experiment. This will allow you to have an answer for every situation.
Train as much as you can:
Two times a week isn’t going to cut it if you are serious about excelling in BJJ. Make the time and most importantly be consistent. I train at least 14-16 hours of jiu-jitsu per week. I have been training pretty much every single day for the past 3.5 years. Yes, there was a point during my blue belt where I didn’t enjoy jiu-jitsu, but I just kept going anyway. Professor implemented an attendance/curriculum card that would allow us to actually see our progress. I wanted my credit and I had a tangible way to track my progression so I just kept coming to class until eventually I fell back in love with it.
Train all aspects of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu:
BJJ is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. If you are only training one aspect of BJJ, you are depriving yourself of imperative life skills. BJJ consists of four phases: Self defense (defending against an attacker/strikes), BJJ with the gi, no-gi, and weapon defense. There is no better way to truly test your BJJ and control than when you are put under stressful situations such as in our Tuesday night self defense class where someone is coming at you with strikes, a gun or a knife. We learn how to neutralize that aggressive opponent, disengage from the situation or finish him. If you aren’t learning everything, you better get started, pronto.
Learn how to flow roll:
Choose your partners to flow roll with. You can control the pace. If the person you’re rolling with is too spazzy, you can bring the pace down to your level using your control. Not every roll has to be to the death. Flow roll with higher belts. You can learn so much while flow rolling.
After a year and a half into my bluebelt, I started to realize that although I was technical, a lot of my training partners were also technical but stronger than me. It was time to add a little aggression and grit into my game.
After competing and losing, a fire lit up in me. I had the technique why couldn’t I win?! I had to work 10 times harder on my technique and also learn how to be AGGRESSIVE. That meant no more Mrs. Nice Girl playing off of my back, getting my guard passed and getting smashed. Instead I would work to be on top. I also had to work on my strength and cardio. You know who to roll light with and who needs some tough lovin’.
Work on your control:
If you control your opponent, you will break them mentally. Half the battle is done. Sometimes it’s not all about submissions, instead work on controlling positions. Tire your opponent out by controlling them then capitalize when they make a mistake or get distracted.
Finish what you started:
It’s easy to get a submission when you’re drilling but when the person is defending, it becomes more difficult so after you shoot that triangle, don’t switch to full guard if they defend a little, be aggressive. Break their posture, get the right angle, lock it up and don’t let go until you get the tap.
You know how they say when you teach something it allows you to understand the concept even better? It’s true. If you don’t already know, my husband and I own our own academy: Gomez Jiu-jitsu in Downtown Los Angeles. I began teaching there at blue belt and it has benefited my game in many ways. Firstly, it required me to grow. Teaching requires confidence. Confidence has only made me a better grappler in the worst situations. You must know how and why a technique will work and what to do when it is defended against. It made me understand techniques from a student perspective and also from an instructor perspective. What are some questions student’s might ask about this move or when trying it? If you are thinking about all of those things, you are learning a technique in an in-depth way even more so than if you were just drilling it solely from a student perspective.
Review what you have learned:
Do you ever find yourself in a familiar position for a technique but can’t quite remember how to execute it? It happens all the time. At the beginning of each class, we take 5-10 mins to review any techniques we want. Fundamentals, something we learned a long time ago, or something we’ve been dying to try. We grab a partner and work together to figure it out. It has helped me so much to revisit past techniques through videos as well. Ask your instructor if it is okay to record techniques. This will help you to stay sharp with all of the steps.
Create your own mantra:
Do you have any self-talk or affirmations? If not, it wouldn’t hurt to create some. Before I roll I ask myself if I want to be the hammer or the nail. Obviously, I choose the hammer. It puts me in a confident and dominant mindset and I find the most success in that headspace. Even if I get smashed, I know that I gave the roll my best and it fires me up for next time.
The best way to level up is to continue working on your jiu-jitsu and enjoy the journey because it’s different for everyone! What did you learn from white to blue? Blue to purple? Brown to black? Let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to say hi on Instagram! Thanks for reading. Oss!