There Are Many Levels In Jiu-Jitsu: Will You Ever Be A World Champion?

Felipe Pena (standing) faced Gordon Ryan on Sunday at Studio 540 Photo by Kitt Canaria

There are levels in the jiu-jitsu competition world.  And the gaps between those levels can be huge.  A world class blue belt (read: a blue belt who can podium at IBJJF adult World’s or Pans) is on a different level than 99.9% of blue belts who have never seen that level of competition.  So why do these differences exist?  And what do they mean for us as a sport?

I’ve had a few eye opening experiences in my jiu-jitsu career.  I’ll never forget the first time I got to roll with a high level competitor.  I was nearing the end of my time at white belt, at that point in time I could slow down most training partners, and in many cases could hang with purple belts.  I thought I was headed in the right direction.  Then I rolled with JT Torres…and he ever so gently and kindly (he’s a very nice guy) dismantled any semblance of a defensive or offensive game and effortlessly submitted me.

The truth is, I’m a 32-year-old slightly, overweight man with a full time job.  I’m stronger than average, am able to make time to train 5-7 days a week (only once a day though) and on my current trajectory I’ll never be an adult black belt World Champion.  For that matter, I’ll never be able to hang with an adult purple belt world champion.  This isn’t pessimism.  It’s just the truth.

There are levels in competitive jiu-jitsu, and an adult World Champion is set apart from other levels because of the commitment necessary to reach that.  One must completely immerse oneself for a long time to be able to hang on that level.  And the difference between a bronze or a silver medalist and the person who is able to take gold can be huge as well.  It’s just the facts of life.

If you are competing to become a World Champion, be aware that the odds are stacked against you.  There are people who are willing to eat scraps, live in abject poverty, and still train three times a day.  There are people who come from money, whose families are able to support them, and there are people who were born with an innate gift for grappling, who understand moves as soon as they see them and progress at exponential rates.

If you don’t think there are levels to the game, watch the footage of Devhonte Johnson’s match against Gordon Ryan at Grappling Industries over the summer.  Or, for that matter, watch Joe Baize against Gordon Ryan.  Baize is considered one of the most fearsome leglockers in the Midwest… and Ryan was able to easily handle him.

Then watch both of Gordon Ryan’s matches against Felipe Pena.

The waters are deep.  The game is immense.

This isn’t meant to discourage you, the reader, but rather to provide you with some perspective.  What level are you on?  Do you have what it takes to be an adult World Champion?  Or are you happy simply enjoying jiu-jitsu day by day?


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