Beating the BJJ Blue Belt Bluesadmin
Journalist Lucy Wynne interviews UKBJJ Black Belt coach and competitor Michael D’Aguiar for The BJJ Box to see what he has to say about the ‘blue belt blues’.
The blue belt, the first colored belt, takes time to achieve. In many ways, earning a blue belt can feel like earning a black belt. The blue belt can feel like a lifetime of work in and of itself. There are a few common reasons as to why people may stop practicing jiu jitsu at blue belt, these can include: learning curve/difficulty, family/work commitments, loss of Interest, injuries, financial burdens and more.
Get Used to Being the Nail Before Becoming the Hammer
Black belt coach and competitor Michael D’Aguiar thinks so many people quit BJJ at blue belt because people have simply had enough of being the nail too much and not the hammer enough, “I think it is reality. It’s an amazing achievement, and then the next roll you get completely folded up again by the classes purples, brown & black belts… And you go.. hmm this was tough to get to, can I carry this on? I think the people that swallow their ego very early on and realize this is a long game, enjoy each belt for what it is, and just love training… will always make it to black.”
Thinking of giving up? Why should you carry on past blue belt? You have to accept that as rewarding as promotions are, the counter is that you’re now back at square one. D’Aguiar expands, “For me, my favorite belt was the purple belt. So if you quit at blue, you would never get to experience the feeling of really being in control of your Jiu Jitsu. At purple you start to find your feet I believe. There’s some mega talented blue belts out there for sure but I believe those ones don’t quit right.. they stick around, they enjoy their time on the mats. BJJ is a different story if you are the nail more than the hammer every night. That turning point of becoming the hammer for me.. Is the best feeling BJJ gives you. So yeah, stick around.. earn that feeling.” Remember that everyone taps (even Helio)!
Blue Belts know jiu jitsu is tough. Most take a couple of years to achieve their rank. Why then do they suddenly quit after all that hard work? Well everyone has limits, and everyone has goals; often very different to your own. Just like in life, in jiu jitsu, people have limits.
D’Aguiar says, “If you have the mentality of quitting at blue from the off, then I don’t think you’d do well to get to blue – your mind isn’t in it. But people do have ceilings.. maybe they know they’ll never be purple belts within themselves. Maybe technically that’s their ceiling reached and who can argue if they’re happy with that?”
Being promoted is bound to give some people a sense of imposter syndrome as they don’t feel they are ready or deserving – but if your coach does, you should trust them. Competing at a new rank is nerve-wracking regardless, but the experience you will get from competing is unlike anything else, and D’Aguiar thinks competing is all-round, a good thing, “I think competing is a good thing all round. But don’t forget I’m obviously an active competitor and coach. I believe the self growth you gain from competing is unlike any other and valuable. If you have doubts about your promotion something is wrong. When promoted you should always feel a sense of achievement. A good coach won’t promote you for promotions sake. If they are and you feel this is going on a lot, maybe look elsewhere for your training. At my club, we have a saying, “You only get what you deserve”. Should always feel that way. Don’t doubt yourself – own that belt. Grow into it.”
How Long Will It Take For Me To Get My Blue Belt?
Jiu jitsu is a marathon, or even an ironman – not a sprint. Receiving your blue belt can depend on a variety of different factors; how much you train, how much you absorb, how much you can bring into sparring, your attitude on the mats, commitment to the sport, the list goes on – there is no set tick box. You will get it when you deserve it, and when you get it – you DO deserve it. D’Aguiar says, “I was training for around a year when I got my blue belt.. they say on average it takes two. But I was on the mats religiously, whereas others have work, jobs and are hobbyists. It’s all dependent on a lot of things. Very rarely will someone come in and grapple at blue belt level in 6 months.. if they do – get excited!”
Some blue belts may feel they do not deserve their rank once they achieve it, and the proof is the dropout rate. They suffer from a form of imposter syndrome. From their perspective, they believe that they lack(ed) the skill necessary to achieve the rank. They also fear that lower belts will eventually expose a skill gap. A few things D’Aguiar looks for in a due-to-be-promoted blue belt is, “I believe there are some factors to look for for sure. I look for movement for one, can you move how you should be moving? Turning the right way, escaping the right way, look to make the right decisions mostly. Tie your belt! If you are a blue belt and can’t tie your belt.. have a word as an instructor.. ridiculous. Do you give white belts and newbies that all important BJJ welcome and share the knowledge you know? Take them under your wing, start to become a mat presence. Don’t be a blue belt who is sitting in the corner.. you’ve earned that belt. Earned to be a part of the lineage. Own it.”
What To Do When You Feel Your Jiu Jitsu is Going a Bit Stagnant and Not Improving
If you ever feel like you’re struggling to improve and your progress is feeling a bit stagnant, fear not – there are things that you can do. Going to class is obviously the main thing but D’Aguiar does have a tip to keep you striving for forward steps, he advises, “For me I have things I work on. I never turn up to a BJJ session and just do. I have a plan, a target. I.e. ‘Tonight I want to get to the crucifix in every roll’ – this keeps me striving for forward steps. You’ll find what you need to work on within minutes, for me this stops stagnation.”
Can Anybody Make it to Black Belt?
As Master Jean Jacques Machado says, “A blackbelt is a white belt who never quit” and Prof D’Aguiar agrees, “I believe if you truly want it you can. I wouldn’t say anybody can no. I touched on it above, some people truly do have ‘ceilings’. Their lives don’t allow them to become a black belt. They almost let life lead instead of letting BJJ lead. If you have everything in check and keep turning up – black is an inevitable thing. It’s just another step. I know people that have trained 20+ years and are at brown.. that doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough. Of course they are, they just can’t make the mats, so their time frame is totally different to yours or mine. That’s why BJJ is for everyone, it caters for all. Just have to use your noggin! (brain) The fact you train 2/3 times a week and enjoy it is what it’s all about. Black belt is just a colour belt, who you are as a person on the mats and around it is what matters.”
Don’t Let The BJJ Blue Belt Blues claim another victim!
Sincerely, The BJJ Box.