Purple Haze: Four Years In

**For more Jiu-jitsu related posts, click here, or click on the Jiu-Jitsu tab at the top of the page, you’ll find four years (and counting) worth of posts about my Journey. Thanks for stopping by!**

But first, a quick plug: DOJO STORM

A locally sourced Podcast, straight out of my Academy, Reign Jiu Jitsu Boise!

Ever wanted to listen to a podcast that gives the nuanced views of a seasoned black belt and the completely brand spanking new questions and views of a white belt? Ever wanted a podcast that had legit intro music that made you think of Street Fighter 2? Well, look no further! I’d call it a fresh take on a Jiu-jitsu focused podcast, definitely meant for those who are in their first couple years, but I’m enjoying listening to it too. I’m probably not doing the description justice. Podcast # 4 was just released yesterday, I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

Go check them out at The Dojo Storm or you can find them on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and I think pretty much anywhere you can find podcasts.

And if you don’t like podcasts… what is wrong with you? There are some legit podcasts out there that are awesome, go learn something!


Today marks four years since I stepped on the mat. Though my reasons for starting aren’t necessarily the same as my reasons for staying, learning Jiu-jitsu has been an awesome journey.

That sounds like a good post to do in the future: reasons for coming, reasons for staying and how they evolve, differ or stay the same. Stay tuned for that one.

As mentioned in my prior post, there are about five or six that are still on the team, having joined either a couple months before or after I did. Four of us are purple belts now. We just didn’t quit. I don’t presume to speak for them, but collectively we’ve seen the Academy have an evolution of it’s own – name changes, upgrades, location changes and more upgrades and improvements. We’ve witnessed our Professor receive his Black Belt from his mentor and teacher, 8x World Champion Robson Moura. And we’ve seen tons of people come through the doors in the last four years, some staying, some moving on. For those that moved on for whatever reason, I hope Jiu-Jitsu has changed their lives for the better and I hope they still train or eventually step on the mats again. I’m grateful for every person that I have interacted with on the mat, it’s been a pleasure, thank you.

It’s been over a month now since my Professor tied the purple belt around my waist and I’ve been chewing on a few things:

  • How do I want to improve my game? What do I want to dive deep and focus on?
  • How can I study, learn and retain Jiu Jitsu better?
  • How can I help my team better than I do now?
  • How can I represent this rank, my academy and Jiu-Jitsu?
  • How do I want to contribute to my team and the Jiu-Jitsu Community through this blog and/or other avenues? (don’t worry, I’ve no delusions of grandeur)
  • How do the questions above fit with my own goals and authentic self?
  • Am I taking myself too seriously?

At many academies, my own included, purple carries with it the title of “Coach” – though I don’t enforce it, and the few times I’ve heard it said in my direction I’ve had to suppress a shy, stupidly sheepish smile.

It could just be the Martial Artist in me, but the higher one goes in rank, the larger emphasis is placed on the responsibility of the wearer, to be the example. As a quick aside, I would also argue for being an example off the mat, too, as we should strive to be better human beings in all areas, but I won’t crawl onto a soap box here about that.

I could be wrong, but looking at different Academies and considering the outliers (where there are a ton of black belts or a ton of white belts) there seems to always be fewer seasoned belts than newer members. There are more white belts than blue, more blue than purple, more purple than brown, etc. Those higher ranks are the ones that just didn’t stop, they didn’t quit, and a natural by-product of that refusal to quit is the knowledge and experience. Which is why, of course, it leads to the example setting in the first place. We seem to inherently, or maybe instinctively know this, but it’s good to remember especially in our first couple years on the mat: the seasoned, higher ranking belts got there because they endured; they put the time in.

Getting to train with and getting to help my teammates is one of those things that makes me feel more like my authentic self than anything. When I am on the mats, I feel this authenticity in an almost indescribable way, especially when I am helping. Without trying to be a wannabe professor on the mats, and following my Professor’s guidance, I’ve striven to help my teammates when and where I can. I know I’m nothing ‘special’, as we have a great team and the majority of us want to see the team improve so there is a natural lean towards helping each other out, but helping, teaching and coaching is something I naturally gravitate towards. I like seeing others improve and succeed.

Two things I’ve really enjoyed when helping my team is being able to sit in the Coach’s Chair at a tournament and help my teammates as they competed or even watching a roll on the sidelines in the academy and helping. Recently, my Professor and I were basically tag-teaming coaching a roll that was happening with two younger belts. I loved it. The second thing I love is on-boarding people who are stepping onto the mats and experiencing Jiu-Jitsu for the first time. I wasn’t able to coach at the last tournament, and depending on how things pan out with vaccines and the COVID cases here in the Treasure Valley, I’m not sure about the upcoming tournament either. Anyways, back to my topic again.

The latter, helping on-board new students, while you don’t get the “rush” and the excitement of the tournament, it still has a massive reward of it’s own and I like helping with this role especially. No, I love doing that. Not sure why, I think it is equally about giving someone a great experience, especially when they’ve never done Jiu-jitsu before and also the teaching/guiding aspect. Funny enough, I started writing this post last week, and I on-boarded a new student that very evening, I had to smile at the timing of it. I love helping and then watching them improve over time and “get it”. It is rewarding and humbling to be able to contribute in that way and help further their journey, even in those small ways.

In many ways, I believe helping others with their Jiu-Jitsu journey provides me with some answers to the questions above. This is at the heart of why I’ve written what I have regarding my own journey, in a hope that it could help in some way. Though my posts aren’t as numerous, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, or decreasing any more.

Just Don’t Stop

Now that I’ve sufficiently mused over my own journey and what I love doing, the remainder of this post will focus on that helping thing I kept rambling on about.

So, let’s talk about frustrations in training.

Are you feeling like your Jiu-jitsu is absolute dog shit? Are you frustrated with your training and progress? Does it seem like others are getting it and progressing and you just…aren’t? Are you thinking you may just be burnt out?

What do you do?

Well, first off I’m not going to sell you some easy, three step plan for four easy payments of $99.99.

Let’s start by looking at the big picture first and get some perspective and then we’ll look at a few other things. There is this phenomena experienced in Jiu-Jitsu academies, I dare say the world over. Though it happens, it seems people question the validity of what I’m about to say. This phenomena seems to make people feel like they are not progressing, when in fact, they are but are actually blind to it, often mistaking it for personal plateaus which can happen, too.

The phenomena or blind spot?

Everyone (outliers excluded) progressing and getting better at the same rate (or close to it).

This happens. Ideally – higher belts and more experienced Jitsukas please correct me if I am wrong here – ideally it is happening more often than other detractors to training because the entire team is putting in the work, honing their skills, working on their game and continually being better than the version of themselves that last stepped on to the mat. Ideally.

So start there. Are you coming to class regularly? Do you see a lot of the same faces in that regular schedule? Do you feel like you’re constantly chasing your teammates who have a better game than you and you don’t seem to be able to jump ahead? It could just very well be that everyone is improving, including you, but you just can’t see it. You are not only learning the same set of techniques and how to apply them, but you are also learning how each of you deploys them in live rolling and adapting to it.

It’s something to consider.

Secondly, speak to your Professor about it. Get his or her insight into your progress and why you are feeling frustrated and stuck. They have more than likely been around the way for 10, 15, 20 years or so and, whether you agree with it or not, have seen these frustrations and felt them themselves more than once. Your frustration isn’t unique, it is just new to you. And that is OK. Talk to them. Don’t let your frustration fester. And if you can’t bring yourself to speak to them due to not wanting to be embarassed, recognize that is pride talking. Shake it off and go speak to them. I’m a natural encourager, but I don’t like to bullshit my teammates. If I’m giving a compliment to a white belt or another teammate: I damn well mean it. Shitty Professors aside, yes, you are paying a monthly membership to be there, but most Professors want to retain their students by helping them increase their skill level. If they bullshit you, that will only work for so long before you realize your skills are just not improving and get so frustrated that you leave to another gym or quit altogether.

How about looking at what it is that is frustrating you, exactly?

Take some time to identify it.

Is it getting stuck in a position during live rolls and though you know a few techniques to escape, it feels impossible? Well, the obstacle is actually the way! Two easy examples from my journey: Side Control and Passing various open guards.

A solid side control is a bitch to get out of. Yeah, the pressure of a cross face with that shoulder driving into your jaw can be quite uncomfortable to say the least. It still is. But to be stuck in side control against someone who fully understands how to control you there as the name implies, is a whole different level of suck. So, how is the obstacle the solution? I would start every live roll giving my training partner side control. If my Professor wasn’t doing situational/positional live rolls and was allowing us to start neutral, I’d simply ask my partner to put me in side control. Again and again and again. I did this at open mat as well. This did two things for me: it gave me the ability to continually work all the escapes I had been taught (and as I got better at them, this gave my teammates the ability to improve their side control game… see how that works?) and it also helped me be more comfortable with the pressure and frustration of being held in side control. This in turn fed into being able to be better at my escapes because I was more calm.

And the cycle continues in a positive direction.

Passing someone’s Open Guard (of any variant) can and is a bitch, too. You’re off balance, getting swept, submitted and all sorts of ninjatastic nastiness. But the same principle applies here, too. The obstacle is the way through. I wouldn’t say I’m “the best” as passing open guards or escaping side control for that matter. But taking that deep dive method allowed me to improve breaking down the various open guards, control the limbs, keep my balance and pass more effectively. Again, this in turn helps my teammates improve their various guard retention skills, etc. And the cycle continues. The thing that is holding you back could the thing that can propel you forward. Embrace it, my friend.

Another thing to consider regarding whatever frustration you are having is to just pause for a moment or two. Is the throw just not working right during practice? Pause. Observe the other teammates, ask for help, talk to your partner and see if you are missing a step. Just… pause. Sometimes taking a second, a breath, laughing at your self and shaking it off does wonders.

Just don’t stop. You probably had hit frustrating points in your journey before and you broke through those. This, too, shall pass. I’m not trying to provide all the answers here. This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list of all the frustrations you could be having. Sometimes it isn’t that easy, just having all the answers. Sometimes, even if I had the answers and wrote them out, they still need to be discovered and experienced in your own time.

Just don’t stop. That’s the best advice I can give you. I’m not saying keep doing the same damn thing over and over again. Pause. Get input. Reflect.

Just don’t stop.

See you on the mats.

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