As Brazilian jiu-jitsu continues to expand, new schools form all the time. While this is an exciting time for the BJJ community as a whole, it can also put some practitioners in a place of uncertainty. If you’re one of the higher ranks (even if only a blue belt) in your start up school, it can be hard to get a real gauge of how your skills compare to others of a similar rank. That’s where competitions come in.
So, what happens when you lose every match in competition? One Jiu-Jitsu Times reader has started to question his rank, his skill level, and his jiu-jitsu journey altogether. He explains, “I go through serious bouts of depression after every competition and am seriously considering quitting jiu-jitsu.”
Blue belt is notoriously the rank in which most practitioners leave the sport. It even has a name, “Blue Belt Blues”. At what point does it move beyond Blue Belt Blues, and into a more serious risk of depression? Should our reader cut his losses and find something more fulfilling?
I know this struggle personally. At only blue belt, I’m one of the higher ranks at my school. I’m also one of few “higher ranking” females, so it’s not easy to know if my skills really warrant my rank. When a school is new, there are either a ton of white belts, or very few training partners at all. Going into competition can feel like a big gamble, so when you lose, it is a big blow.
How do we improve our training situation? I started by talking to my fellow competitors at tournaments. Most gyms have open mats or cross training opportunities, so it’s vital to establish training relationships outside of your start up gym. It may require a little more effort on your part to travel to a different school (maybe even a different town) for open mats, but it will be worth it. It will also give you an opportunity to train with people closer to your skill level. If you’re more shy in person, you can also utilize social media. The jiu-jitsu community is growing through social media, and you can often see open mats posted on Facebook. You can also host your own open mat at your school!
The hardest part of training Brazilian jiu-jitsu is continuing to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Coming back to the mat after every loss is a humbling admission that you still need more work. BJJ is humbling regardless of your rank, so these lessons will only get harder as you continue to train.
I’m also a blue belt, and I lose a lot more than I win right now. It’s mentally draining every time, but I’d rather lose at blue belt than at purple, brown, and black belt. I’ll probably still lose a lot then too, but I’ll still have more skills at those levels than if I quit now. I will be forty years old one day. There’s no way around that. It’s my choice if I’m forty years old with jiu-jitsu or without it. Even if I lose every match in competition, I know my skills are benefiting me in life. By focusing on the life skills I’ve learned in jiu-jitsu, I’m able to accept the losses with a little more grace.
What advice would you give our reader? Did you face these same challenges at blue belt?