BJJ White Belt: An Observation


A lot has been going on.

I could blame it on “life happening”, but life happens every day. Part of it was just lack of discipline, part of it was lack of inspiration, part of it was not prioritizing this blog as high as I normally place it (it is my goal to have 2-3 blog posts per month – obviously not happening recently)

To sum up the tournament, I took third place. It was a great experience, learned a lot from it and it helped solidify certain goals I’m working towards. My goal for 2018 is to compete at least four times, so three more to go!

A few weeks ago, I attended the Northwest Submission Challenge and had the ability to help my coach with some sideline support of my teammates. Basically when Coach Shane wasn’t able to, due to another match happening at the same time, I was helping teammates during their roll with how much time was on the clock and whether or not they were up or down on points. I’d love to do it again. As my knowledge base increases, I’d hope to be more of a asset to my coach and my team than just calling time/points. But I’ll help nonetheless!

As to why I didn’t fight in the NWSC… Professor Robson Moura is coming up today for an RMNU team only “open mat” tonight and RMNU team seminar tomorrow. I prioritized the latter over the former.

Moving on to my “observation”…

I’ve been thinking about my Coach and martial arts instructors lately. In one way or another, my life has been involved in Martial Art circles for 32 of the 38 years I’ve been on this planet. The majority of the closest friends I have had in my life have been with martial artists – both practitioners and instructors. I’m not going to over inflate the notion, but I’d like to think that being in or around the Martial Arts “scene” for that length of time would bring some sort of weight to what I want to say. Hopefully this adds value to the community.

There is a lot that goes into that $100 – $250/month (or more) price tag for your membership. Sometimes, the price makes the uninformed scoff.

A martial art school has to make (enough) money to (at minimum) keep the doors open. You aren’t paying for a product, you are paying for an education.

This is an education. You aren’t just learning a form of self defense.

Physics, leverage, learning how to maximize power through proper torque and technique.

Spatial relationships (properly gauging/commanding/navigating distance), control, timing, speed.

Stress inoculation, confronting fear and your own limits of comfort.

Humility, patience, self control, endurance.

All of these things and more are being taught to you. And as much as you learn about the art, you should also be learning about yourself.

The one thing about an education, or learning a skill, is that it is subject to the law of diminishing returns. If you don’t use it, you lose it. If you don’t apply yourself, you don’t get a return on the investment.

If you come in wondering when the next promotion is going to be, or worse, bugging the instructor on when you or your little Johnny or Janey is getting their next promotion to inflate your or your child’s ego… you are already on the wrong side of the equation. I fully understand the reality of “shopping mall dojos” where belts are practically purchased through a one year or two year program with guaranteed promotions every other month. It can be fairly lucrative to set up a business this way and play off of someone’s ego investment. But there is a cost to the art when that happens. A dilution and poisoning of the well, so to speak.

Forgive me, you might think I am venturing into the territory of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy with my next couple sentences, so be it. It’s not about how much you pay every month. Instructors worth their salt, instructors who can execute on what they teach, instructors with any self respect will not give you or your precious kid a belt.

It must be earned.

Are you growing?

Is your application and knowledge of the art expanding and improving?

Are you connecting the dots at the level you are at?

Are you maturing and helping to pass the knowledge on to the newcomers in your gym?

Yes? Good, the promotion will come. Just keep training.

Back to the money thing that started this off. Mats, disinfectant, mops, lights, space, heating, air, etc. … this all costs money. Most instructors aren’t rolling up to the gym in a Bentley or Tesla or even a fully loaded 4×4. The majority are breaking even to keep everything paid for so the doors stay open; it is a safe bet they aren’t “in it for the money”.

If you feel like you aren’t getting the results or return on investment that you think you should, talk to your Coach/Professor. If you feel like you want to leave and train at another gym, talk to your Coach/Professor. Get down to the issue/s and give them a chance to work it out with you; be open to listening to what they have to say.

I’ve seen countless people try to get out of their agreements for less than honorable reasons. When you signed the payment agreement, you gave a commitment to the Coach that you will pay in good faith and there are legitimate reasons that most agreements have a cancellation policy. If you decide to leave, leave amicably and for the love of God, honor your payment agreement.

Since we are speaking about the Coach/Professor…

Did you know that in BJJ it takes years to reach Black Belt? Like a decade or more. There is no one or two year program to Black Belt in BJJ. That purple belt in your gym? A good six years or so of consistent training, three, four, five times a week. That brown belt? You’re looking at 7-15 years of the same. That black belt… you get the idea. There is a reason the title of Professor is given the respect it is.

Consider this the next time you step on the mat and bow in. Consider for a moment, that transaction of knowledge and learning between your Coach and you during each hour of training. In that small space of time, your Professor is pouring 10, 15, 20, 30 years of knowledge and nuance into the techniques being taught. We’re talking countless hours of mat time working on techniques, countless rolls, tournaments, etc… all of this, funneled into each hour of instruction.

I’m not encouraging a cult following for your Coach. I know there are some shit Coaches out there. Maybe the essence of this piece is just about respect.

Respect for the art and the journey.

Respect for what it takes to keep the doors open.

Respect for what is being poured into you.



**Hey there! First, I just want to express my thanks to you for reading this post. If you find value in the content that I am providing or you know someone who would, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share this post far and wide. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat or even E-mail, if you’d like to send it, feel free! Leave a comment or two, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for reading!**

5 thoughts on “BJJ White Belt: An Observation

  1. “my life has been involved in Martial Art circles for 32 of the 38 years I’ve been on this planet.” I knew you spent some time in another planet… I just knew it.

  2. In a more serious note, most people don’t understand what you say, which makes it sad and turns martial arts into a business for some students and even some teachers. My master used to say that when you’re taking a test, you’re not doing it to get a belt… you already know what it is needed to get that belt, you’re just proving it.

    1. Agreed, my friend. Instead of students they think they are customers, true in a sense but it belittles everything to something purely transacti

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