Dear new blue belt,
First of all, congratulations! You, like many others around this time of the year, have made that huge step from being a newbie to being a “bluebie.” You’re legit now. Well, at least more legit than you were as a white belt. You’re now That Guy or Girl who you looked up to when you first started.
And guess what?
Now, it’s your job to be that same BJJ role model to all the new students walking into the gym.
But with a great new belt comes a great new list of challenges, and your biggest one is going to be to keep going.
You’ve probably heard all the jokes and seen all the memes about “disappearing blue belts.” You know, the ones who rank up and then never show up to train again. You probably think that won’t be you, and hopefully, you’ll be right. But I can almost guarantee that there will come a point when it’s almost you.
You see, being a blue belt is rough. This is the first rank in which you’re actually expected to be better than other people. If you’re a white belt who gets beat up by other white belts, it’s all good — you’re kind of “supposed” to suck. But if you’re a blue belt getting clobbered by white belts, well, it’s a bit harder to peel your self-esteem off the mat. You’re “supposed” to be at least halfway decent now. So, when you don’t live up to your own expectations, your confidence is going to take a much bigger hit than it did before.
If you think it’s rough in the gym, though, wait until you go out there and compete. You probably thought you were a hot shot as a white belt, right? You were able to pretty much dominate your division. Hell, that’s a big reason why you got promoted in the first place. So since you’re basically a jiu-jitsu prodigy, there’s no way that’s all going to change just because you’re a blue belt now… right?
The thing with competing as a white belt is that you can be reasonably sure that everyone you’re going up against has a maximum of one, maybe two years of training. When you’re a blue belt, though, that all changes. You’ll probably get some opponents who, like you, have only been doing this for a little while. But you’ll go up against many others who’ve maintained their rank for two, maybe even four years. Lots of professors take a long time to promote their students to purple belt, so you’ll be fighting against people who have literally three times the experience that you do. And your place on (or rather, off) the podium is going to reflect that.
I won’t lie to you: once the excitement of that first major promotion wears off, being a blue belt sucks. For many people, it’s the first time that the mental challenges of jiu-jitsu become tougher than the physical challenges. It’s the first time you’re going to break down after class after getting submitted by someone brand new, wondering how you deserve that strip of fabric holding your gi together when you can’t even hold yourself together. And in many cases, it’s the first time those words are going to enter your mind:
“Maybe this just isn’t for me.”
It’s a scary thought the first time it comes up, especially because it’s so damn loud. But every time you keep showing up to class, it’s going to get quieter and less intimidating. Every time you fight the urge to stay home, your ego is going to have a tougher time butting in and telling you what you should or shouldn’t be. Eventually, you’re going to realize that the time it takes to get better is going to pass whether or not you make the effort to improve, so you may as well keep training.
Bluebie, you have a long journey ahead of you, but it’s not one that countless others before you haven’t taken. What you’re going to go through — the frustration, the failure, the “f*** this” — is nothing new. It’s up to you whether you get tapped out for good or get back up for another go-around. The choice is yours. But personally, I think you’ve come too far to quit now. You’ve achieved a lot so far, but this is only the beginning. Don’t cut your journey short just because the road gets bumpy. One day, when that coveted black belt is being tied around your waist, you’ll look back on this time and be glad you thought of this as a step forward rather than the finish line.
Thanks for the encouragement. As a woman practitioner it can be especially frustrating because most (not all!) of the guys in the class can dominate me, regardless of rank.