Three Reasons You Should Be Happy Your Instructor Passed You Up For A Promotion

I have a confession to make. It took me six years to earn my blue belt.



Some of that can be chalked up to traveling the world, living in three different countries, and never spending more than one year at the same gym.

Work and family obligations also prevented me from going to class more than twice a week.

So, perhaps I have some excuses.

But still.



During those years I saw people, some of whom started later than me, promoted to blue belt and even purple belt.

I think one of them may be one stripe short of a brown belt.

I also have to admit, I have felt the sting of envy on more than one occasion. In fact, I have lost count of how many times I felt like storming out of the gym and throwing my belt to the curb after watching someone with half my experience promoted to the rank above me.

But being held back is not as bad as it seems. In fact, it has its benefits, assuming you have a fair, qualified instructor.

Here are three reasons why.

You know you earned your rank

If you are passed up for a rank, you know you are not at a McDojo that is going to hand out participation awards. You are at a real gym that demands real improvement.

Yes, your instructor knows you are mad that you are the only one who did not move up a rank, and perhaps she even feels a little bad about it.

But she would rather suffer through the guilt of hurting your feelings than jeopardizing the prestige of her gym.

Furthermore, when she finally does wrap that belt around your waist, she wants both you and her to feel rest assured that you earned it.

Your instructor obviously cares about you and your gym.

Embrace the fact that you have someone like her teaching you.

It will humble you

As I have said a million times over, there is nothing worse than cocky martial artists. They are a danger both to themselves and to others.

But as I have also said, cockiness can be cured easily with a healthy dose of reality.

Getting passed up for a promotion is a harsh but effective way for your instructor to remind you that you are not nearly as talented as you think you are.

Take it as a compliment. He does not want your ego hurting you or anyone else.

It will show you what is important

Your instructor promoted all of the other students because they are better than you. Their moves are more precise, their transitions are smoother, and they have a better grasp of the techniques necessary to move up the jiu-jitsu ladder.

Are you feeling depressed yet?

You shouldn’t be.

Jiu-jitsu is not a race. It does not matter who is better than you. What matters is that you are better than the person you were yesterday.

Being passed up for a promotion is a good chance to say to yourself, “Who cares if the other students got their belts before me? I’m not competing with them.”

Your improvement is the only thing that matters in class. Feel grateful for the times you are reminded of that during your BJJ journey.


  1. I whole heartly agree with this letter. It took me 4 years to get my blue belt. I was mad at my coach at the time but he did it for a good simple reason. I was not ready for my blue belt then. Jiu jitsu had more to teach me. When I did get promoted I felt like a blue belt, meaning, I graduated and no longer felt like a white belt. Now I truly feel confident in my abilities to defend myself and my family if I’m ever in a street fight and need to defend myself and them. I guess in a spiritual sense things do happen for a reason whether positive or negative…we need to learn and experience what we need to learn and experience in life.

  2. 6 years? 4 years? I’m sorry I can’t take this article seriously knowing it took you 6 years what most do in 6-12 months.

    • And that is why no one will remember your name. Except that you appear Friday mornings some where in the tower peddling mysterious goods, only to vanish early Sunday morning.

  3. Today marks 5 years as a blue belt, I travel & move heaps but still train consistently, but just don’t hang around at a club for that long, I know purple belts that only started bjj after I got my blue, & some people that I was blue with that are now black. All I know is that the art is getting watered down, & I wanna be a lower rank that people look up to skill wise, rather then a higher rank that people think poorly of skill wise…….


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here