BJJ White Belt: First Stripe

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It’s been about two months since I started the path of learning Brazilian Jiu-JitsuGoing forward, I’ll be writing a series of “BJJ White Belt” posts mixed in with what I write here. I figure it would be cool to document the journey from a white belt perspective.

For those farther along the path it might help remind them of the “good ole days” of being a white belt or maybe even rekindle the fire if things have gotten “blah” in their training. For me, I know that I’ll be able to look back on these posts and see where I’ve come from.

So yeah, the title of the post and the pic in the featured image above? That happened last Monday, 05/08/2017.

For those who don’t have any martial arts background, stripes on a belt basically indicate progression along the way to the next rank or belt. Depending on the system a stripe can mean anything from a quarter, a third or even halfway to the next level. For example, in another life I studied Tae Kwon Do (ITF) for about eleven years. In that system, a stripe was the halfway mark to the next belt. From what I understand in BJJ, a white belt earns four stripes before being close to eligibility for testing the next belt.

Monday night was a great session, ending like we do most nights with some rolling. I was dripping sweat and lining up with my fellow students for dismissal. I noticed our Coach, Shane, had grabbed the tape he uses for stripes on belts. Like most systems I’ve encountered, the white stripes are usually medical tape (some use electrical tape as they come in various colors). I’m thinking to myself, “Cool, somebody might be getting a stripe tonight, wonder who it is?” And then he walks up to me!

It was an awesome feeling: surprise, acknowledgement, accomplishment and a little sprinkling of pride (the good kind) all rolled into one.

From talking with him after it all went down, our Coach looks for certain indicators in our progression before giving that first stripe out. For the sake of intellectual honesty, the thought had crossed my mind within the past week about “when” I’d get that first stripe but, I also figured that I was at least another month from getting there.

So, it definitely came earlier than expected and I am grateful to have earned it. Like my Coach has said, it is really about your own journey in this art. You can look to others as markers and examples, but you can’t necessarily compare yourself to them. In many ways, it is you vs you. Improving daily, weekly, monthly. One step at a time. Am I better than I was yesterday? Last week? Last month?

Me VS ME: that is definitely something I can relate to.

As far as BJJ is concerned. There is improvement, a little bit at a time. Things are beginning to click, a little bit at a time. My defense is getting a little bit better. I’m a little bit more aware of what’s going on around me, even if it is a case of, “Now what the fuck do I do?!?”. I’ve been able to successfully execute a move or two that we’ve practiced earlier in class before getting into some live rolling. For me, the exciting part of that was actually finding the opening, “Ah, there it is!” and getting it done.

I still feel like a fish out of water most times, but I feel like I’m flopping closer to the water than I was before.

I’m still loving it.

I enjoy the balance that our Coach places between getting many reps in on a move we’ll work that night and on stress testing it with live rolling. This helps me see how important it is to find the harmony between the two so I get the mechanics of the move down and also understand how it can or can’t work in a roll, especially when your partner knows what you are trying to do.

I’m enjoying through both personal experience and witnessing in real time, how there is a place for strength, but also a place for technique. I can see now from just a little “inside view” why BJJ blew up the UFC and changed the game completely. So much goes into this, body mechanics, positioning, leverage, etc.

I’ve noticed how strategy can and is a big factor. Many…many times I’ve been sidetracked by my coaches or a senior student with what I thought was the “attack” only to be baited or flanked into the real trap. Humbling, eye-opening and fucking brilliant. Again, keep in mind, this is just a new white belt speaking. I know I’ve got a way to go.

Going forward, I’m currently rethinking/retooling my weight training and conditioning programs. I think I am on the right track but I still feel something is missing so I’ll have to play with it a bit and do some fine tuning. I also either need to find a way to put a hard drive in my brain to playback what I’ve learned, or start taking notes. I think the notebook would be easiest…

I’ll get there.

One step at a time.

17 thoughts on “BJJ White Belt: First Stripe

  1. Coming from a wrestling background and moving into the BJJ arena, I have spent time doing both while simultaneously strength training. For me, the following exercises work best for grappling: the deadlift, kettlebell swings, turkish get-ups, chin ups, and any kind of squat. The first four get your hinge stronger and build your grip. I bench press because “every day is chest day,” but I don’t think it is all that necessary for BJJ.

  2. Got my first stripe the first time I submitted someone, it was almost magical. We had been working straight ankle locks all week and during a roll I suddenly saw the opening. I fell into that lock like nothing I’ve had since. I still think about that all the time and it was a huge step for me.

  3. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is such a great martial arts. I have so much respect for my professor and his trainers. I tried Shotokan Karate and hated the teacher for a number of good reasons, so I quit. It was a great decision! Because less then 2 years later my older brother said I should look into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, because he said it was a much better martial arts for someone like me. I was told that not all teachers will be like the last one. When I decided to finally join a BJJ class I was so happy that the professor was a very good teacher, not having a bad ego and not insulting my intelligence once. Now I hope to get my first stripe hopefully, but not rushing it. I’m just glad I found a martial art that I love doing. Congratulations on the stripe and wish you the best on your BJJ journey.

    1. A good teacher makes all the difference! Almost 10 months in now and this has been the most challenging and rewarding martial art I’ve trained. You get with a good teacher and a good team and no matter how hard the training was, or how bad you felt you sucked, you’ll keep coming back. Thanks for taking the time to read. I usually do a couple BJJ White Belt posts per month, hopefully you can relate and/or enjoy those! Keep at it! 😎👊🏻

  4. I, too, had a background in the Chang Hun style of TKD(3rd Dan) before beginning BJJ. I’m 52, and started just over two years ago.
    It’s certainly been an experience trying to learn technique without having a stated set curriculum. I think this is a good think, but requires a change of mindset. Good luck to you on your journey!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      Nice to see a fellow TKD man in the ranks. I agree, it’s definitely not linear in the options for progression. BJJ is more like a web or a three dimensional chess board, or a large house with a shit ton of rooms. Haha. I’m sure I could think of more.

      Good skill and luck on your journey as well! 😎👊🏻

  5. Great Read, as a white belt 6 classes in I could very much relate. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to my first stripe. In my case I was looking to put my kids(4 boys) in BJJ for their confidence and ended up finding a great school had literally just opened up 5 mins away from my house. Long story short I signed up my whole family lol, wife, kids and me…. we are hooked. My youngest is 5 years old and he cant lay next to you without trying to submit or mount you hahahaha love it. My question is how is your journey so far? you started the thread May of 2017 and I am interested as to how its been so far. Cheers.

    1. Joe,
      Thank you so much for visiting the site, reading and your thoughtful response and question!

      As you will see, there are a good handful of posts regarding my journey up to where I am now as a Blue Belt. (those posts are called “Into the Blue”)

      I too, have four children, my oldest daughter is the only one that trains currently but I am hoping to get the others in eventually. Having living in a home where my family practiced a mutual martial art, there is something awesome about that kind of shared experience.

      The Journey overall has been challenging and highly rewarding. I’ve competed a handful of times, seen teammates come and go with the ebbs and flows of life, and in my own small way, have been able to help newer teammates grow and watch them go from white to blue.

      I thoroughly enjoy practicing BJJ and find it to be a great catharsis for everyday life where we can’t choke people out without going to jail! lol

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