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Everything you need to know about promotions in BJJ

There are three types of people that go through the Jiu Jitsu ranks. The person who has been a blue belt for 4 years and thought they should have been a purple belt 2 years ago. The person who feels like an imposter every time they get promoted. The person who enjoys the journey as it comes to them. Having coached people through expectations on all sides of the promotion equation I have learned one huge thing...It is not up to you! You have no right to expect that your coach will do something or not. They earned the right to coach, which means they have the right to promote.

Promotions in Jiu Jitsu mean different things to different coaches. Some coaches are very logical. If you show up to a certain amount of classes, a certain amount of time passes and can perform the curriculum you will be promoted. Some coaches rely heavily on how you roll, both in practice and in tournaments. Still others “feel” when you are making progress and reward you as such.

Having been around many coaches who have differing opinions I can say one thing for certain. They have all earned the right to have the opinion that they have. Most black belt coaches in BJJ have trained BJJ for 10+ years. A lot of them competed, fought, rolled, and sharpened their craft over time. These coaches have developed strong feelings towards what they find to be important in a Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

If you ask 10 black belts, from 10 different schools what makes a Jiu Jitsu black belt you will get 10 different answers. This is a normal phenomenon when dealing with concepts from what I call the emotional mind. Asking the above questions is like asking 10 people what love means to them. We project what it is we sensed when we have felt the thing. What we find to be important when describing abstract ideas are shaped by our senses and experiences. No two people understand love in the exact same way as no two black belts understand what it is to be a black belt in the same way.

It takes years and a lot of practice to start to understand the nuance of a BJJ black belt. Being a Jiu Jitsu black belt myself I am not sure I fully grasp it yet (or if I ever will). It seems to have a moving goal post of expectations. The more I “know” the more I realize that I don’t know, much like love in my earlier analogy. This feeling has forced me to move from a logical mind way of thinking to that emotional mind way of thinking. It allows me to appreciate the beauty in an infinite knowledge ocean that is Jiu Jitsu.

In this infinite knowledge ocean of Jiu Jitsu your instructor has sailed to a certain point. He/she is where they are and that is his/her vantage point. They have explored as much of the ocean as they could in the amount of time that they have been training. Insert a random 4 stripe white belt whose boat has recently just left shore. This boat is yelling at the black belt boat that they should be going a certain direction. Why does the boat that just left the shores know how to navigate the seas better than the ship that has been out for decades?

In short, it doesn’t. The white belt boat has ego, maybe some knowledge, but very little wisdom. They do not know the ins and outs of the seas. It is up to the coach boat to have the wisdom to guide the white belt boat to a successful (whatever your definition is) Jiu Jitsu career. Just like it is silly for a boat that has never been out to sea to tell an experienced boat how to do things, so too is it silly for you to think you know when you are ready for a belt promotion or you think you don’t deserve one.

If you are that boat, but still have anxiety try to let go of judgement. Let go of the judgement of a roll with a higher belt. Let go of the judgement of yourself when you have an off day. Let go of the expectations of the sport as a whole. Create a habit of living in the moment when you step on the mat. If you desire to live in the moment on the mat but don’t know where to start feel free to reach out. Building habits for businesses and individuals is my career at MyOdisee and it has served as a great tool for me to be a better Jiu Jitsu coach.

You are where you are and in this moment, that is perfect. Happy training my friends!


PS. Check out the FIre and Water camp that is hosted in Milwaukee, Wi December 11 & 12 or February 19 & 20. More info is on this site. Click the hamburger symbol and click on fire and water camp!

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