Dear White Belt: Relax, We’ve All Been Where You Are Now

When you’re in the infancy of your jiu-jitsu journey, every minor and major milestone seems so far away. Way farther away than you’ll ever reach, to be sure. The purple and brown and black belts — hell, even the blue belts — all seem like they’re performing on a level that you’ll never reach. How are they moving like that? How did they catch you in that submission? How did they anticipate your next move before you even thought to make it?

What many newer practitioners don’t see (because they aren’t around to see it) is the struggle that all of their advanced teammates endured during their own white belt stage. There was a time when they, too, didn’t know the difference between spider guard and lasso guard. Even the most accomplished champions of the sport were once clumsy beginners who had to concentrate for at least five seconds before remembering how to do an armbar.

The only reason why these more advanced athletes are more advanced now is that they kept showing up. Some probably progressed faster than others, but ultimately, they are where they are today because they pushed through the exact same struggles you’re experiencing now. They may have trained at a more elite academy or had the time and resources to attend more classes, but the doubts, fears, and frustrations that you have now are the very same that they experienced years ago.

As you stumble your way forward in jiu-jitsu, remember that comparing your own skills to those of your more advanced teammates is only detrimental to your journey. If you keep showing up and trying your best, everything that you’re struggling with now will eventually get easier. Eventually, you will stop getting submitted so much, and you will start hitting more submissions in training. You will start anticipating your opponents’ moves before they even happen, and you will start thinking a few steps ahead. It just takes time and lots and lots of practice to get there.

For now, the only person you need to compare yourself to is yourself. Give yourself credit for how far you’ve come, and remind yourself that literally everyone in the room with you who’s kicking your butt was once a day-one white belt. As long as you stick with it, you will one day be the person who’s destroying all the newbies’ hopes and dreams… and then encouraging them to keep on trying anyway.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here