Jiu-Jitsu Is A Journey, Not A Goal
by Ryan Young, Professor, Kama Jiu-Jitsu
It’s a Long Journey.
As every day goes by, I’m always encouraged by the number of people joining our art and our academy as white belts. White belts are important because it’s today’s white belts that will be the professors of tomorrow and the innovators years from now. As I sometimes think about my 27 years in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, I think about how much the art as changed since I first stepped onto the mat.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people step onto mats every day all over the world!
As great as this is, I must remind you, that for every 30 people who step onto the mats as a white belt, it is likely that only one of you will earn your blue belt.
What’s that, you say?
It sucks, but it’s very close to most academies’ reality.
Professors dream of having legions of students they’ve taught, guided, and helped to earn the right to wear the coveted black belt. Earning a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt will be one of the most challenging things one can strive for in life.
As Master Rickson once said when someone asked him what it takes for the average person to earn a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt…
“The average person never earns a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt.”
A Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt is truly an exclusive and extraordinary achievement.
It’s not because a small group of black belts want to keep their ranks small and exclusive only to the chosen few. It’s really not.
The problem (for some), is that your path to a blue belt (let alone a purple, brown, or ultimately, a black belt) IS A JOURNEY – a journey that will be full of hurdles that most people in life never have to encounter, let alone conquer.
Personally, I think the blue belt is the most difficult belt to earn. Earning the blue belt forces you to completely change your lifestyle; your exercise habits, your diet, your mentality and approach to difficult situations, conquering your fears, having your mind dictate to your body (vs the other way around).
All those things need to be addressed if you ever expect to simply earn your blue belt!
Now, don’t get me wrong. We want to award a blue belt to those who have earned the right to wear one. Speaking for myself, nothing is more rewarding for a jiu-jitsu “professor” than putting a new belt around a student. A new belt represents achievement of two parties; the student, as well as the professor.
So yes, I feel just as good putting a new belt on a student as they feel getting it put on them. We also take it so seriously, we don’t simply hand the new belt to the student; we physically put the belt onto them.
Goal: Blue Belt
If you just look at your next belt as a goal to reach, it will likely never come. We as Americans are very goal/task oriented, which is only good if we “task” the correct target/goal. If you continue to look at the next belt as the “goal,” you will likely be disappointed. So many things need to take place before you can even think of earning your blue belt.
Your INDIVIDUAL “goals” should be – to execute the armlock from the guard efficiently, to be able to escape the mount with little effort, to be able to hold the cross-side position, etc, not “to get my blue belt.” All these little accomplishments (attained goals) will result in you learning enough to earn your next belt; but you need to know what goals to pursue while on your journey.
If you don’t enjoy the journey itself, believe me, you will quit.
You will make up a ton of excuses for why you never got better (it was too hard, my professor never paid attention to me, private / group sessions are too expensive, my schedule is too hectic, it’s a long drive, etc); believe me, I did that for 10 years of my training. I never did “quit,” but I did get to a point where in some months, I trained once a month, if I was lucky.
At that point, I really didn’t care if I continued on as a purple belt. Since I had been wearing that belt for 14 years, I just resigned myself to the belief that purple belt was as high as I was going to get.
Then, in late 2007, I stopped caring about my rank.
Once I no longer cared about my rank, things began changing big time.
Once I didn’t care about the goal of attaining my next belt, that’s where training became fun again. When it became fun again, I trained more. When it became fun again, I began to ask my instructors where I needed to improve next. When it became fun again, I looked forward to reaching for my next achievement.
I just wanted to get back on the mat and train consistently, because once you get bitten by the jiu-jitsu “bug,” you’ll feel like crap if you don’t get to train regularly.
And that’s where most of my improvement came.
Before I knew it, I earned my brown belt.
The next four years (as a brown belt), were the quickest four years of my life. Jiu-jitsu was incredibly fun and enjoyable by then. I was training almost everyday with a great mix of people of different levels; the black belts to give me a challenge, the lower belts to help me work through my techniques, while allowing me to help take their technique to the next level.
It will be the same for you, too, if you just believe what I’m telling you.
Remember, IT’S A JOURNEY, and a long one at that. It took a bigger commitment to earn a Kama Jiu-Jitsu black belt than it was for me to earn my bachelor’s degree in finance. Heck, it may be even more difficult than earning a masters degree (I think… but since I don’t have one of those, I could be wrong)!
Just know, that the Kama Jiu-Jitsu journey I’m on is a lifelong endeavor and it’s been worth every minute!
We just want to continue to bring more and more people along for the ride.
Now get your butt back on the mat and get back to your journey!
Our jiu-jitsu school campuses in Orange County, CA service Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Foothill Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, Trabuco Canyon, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, Tustin, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Huntington Beach.
Kama Jiu-Jitsu, Laguna Niguel Campus
23500 Club House Drive
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
We are located inside the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club
Kama Jiu-Jitsu, Irvine Campus
5 Ethel Coplen Way
Irvine, CA 92612
We are located inside the Racquet Club of Irvine