Lessons From Black Belts

Over the last several years I have interviewed many different BJJ black belts from all over the world.

From multiple-time World Champions and professional MMA fighters to instructors you’ve never heard of, but who have shared great insights about their experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

What did I learn from these conversations? I noticed some common themes, and I would like to share them with you.

They Love BJJ!

In most cases, it takes ten years or more to get a black belt in BJJ. During that long period there are many highs and lows.

Injuries, work and family commitments, schools closing, and instructors moving are just some of the ordeals students may go through. To persevere at something as challenging as BJJ for 10 years takes either a massively unbalanced personality or a deep love of the art (or both in some cases!).

The guys who stick it out that long do it because they love being on the mats every week. It is a constant in their lives and a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life. They love being surrounded by friends who have the common purpose of learning and enjoying the greatest thing they ever experienced.

Some even decide to become academy owners or professional athletes and devote their lives to BJJ.

Learning Is A Lifelong Thing

I can’t remember a BJJ black belt who didn’t express how they continued to learn more about jiu-jitsu every week they got on the mats.

Perhaps it is this attitude of being open and flexible that kept them in the art when so many dropped out?

I remember one black belt who had been in BJJ for over 15 years visit another academy in his travels and see a new variation of a collar choke that he had never seen before.

This type of continued exposure to new techniques (and new details and innovations in the old techniques) allowed him to stay fresh and avoid becoming stagnant.

More often than not, when you meet a black belt in BJJ, you are meeting someone with a flexible and open attitude to continuous learning.

Attitude In Training

Many of the black belts I spoke with had competed at the highest levels of competition. This would not have been possible without a burning desire to win and a competitive type of personality.

Yet these same competitive personalities also exhibited an attitude of setting the ego aside to learn in training. The message was time and time again, “The purpose of training is to learn!”

In contrast, many less experienced belts place an undue amount of importance on rolling, on “who tapped who,” and on trying to win the roll. On the other hand, most of the black belts had tapped out innumerable times in the course of their BJJ journey and had a different attitude towards rolling.

Maybe this is a factor in their ability to persevere over the years of ups and downs and was required to graduate to a black belt.

They enjoyed rolling and looked at it as an opportunity to try different positions and explore the possibilities of their jiu-jitsu.

Read also on Jiu-Jitsu Times: Injuries: An Ounce Of Prevention


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