The Blue Belt Blues
The Blue Belt Blues
In Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) moving forward beyond your blue belt can be a crux. You find yourself at a plateau where it seems as though you are learning nothing new. Even worse, nothing you try seems to be working anymore. Many people drop out at this pivotal juncture in their journey. Don’t give up! Surviving your blue belt will test your resolve. This belt is a true test of your grit. It marks your ability to persevere through the most difficult challenges, and will decide your commitment to the journey. The blue belt often has a large plateau, where it may feel as though you are learning nothing new. Lower belts may seem to be passing you by left and right. It is in these thoughts that the difficulty of the blue belt blues really lies.
So how do you get passed the blue belt blues?
Let go of the ego!
Never let the belt go to your head. Even a black belt loses, even against lower belts. While you may question everything, remember that jiu jitsu is a continual learning lesson of humility. Do not lose hope. All the belts above you have gone through exactly what you are going through. Find the fun in your day to day training. That’s why you do jiu jitsu, remember? Remembering to have fun allows you to let go of the pressure to perform. It is in your head, no one else’s. Accepting the losses, the bad days, and the hardships is a learned skill. It can take time to develop an ego that stays motivated even on the worst days. So lose the ego, and no matter what: keep going.
Focus on the learning process
Understanding your learning process will help you lessen the frustration of this plateau, and also help you move through the “blue belt blues” more efficiently. Set up a goal meeting with your coach or professor. Your instructors are there to give you insight. They will help define a clear direction for you to go.
Mat time is your best friend. Focusing on a few techniques will help develop the foundation needed if you want to excel.
What is flow training?
Flow training is the act of effortlessly moving between positions and techniques with a partner. Neither of you is using much strength or resistance. It is based almost entirely on the knowledge of techniques, and the fluid application of them.
You want to be mindless. You are playing a game of chess with a partner. You are using nearly no strength or pressure, instead you are relying purely on technique. You are each making a move and reacting slowly to the move. At first this is very slow and deliberate. As you and your training partner improve at flow training the muscle memory kicks in and you begin to speed up the movement.
Flowing with upper belts can be easier, as they are well practiced. They have learned to let go of the strength and power. This style of training tests your knowledge of counters, attacks, defense, escapes and control. By focusing purely on the technical side, the tit for tat style of thinking, you can find holes in your game. You will quickly notice where you have been relying on strength. By filling those holes with proper technique you are continuing to improve.
Use a jiu jitsu journal
Assist the mental process by using your journal. If you have never created a training journal, do so NOW! If you have a journal, revisit techniques and perfect their execution. Writing about the rolls and challenges you go through at each mat session can assist you recognize the areas that need improvement. You can begin to internalize the art, and move forward with a more mental game.
The “blue belt blues” can wear down even the most driven of us. Remember to let go of your ego and find the fun in BJJ. Always embrace the learning process. The details will get you back to the basics and give you time to internalize what you have learned. Flow training is useful at every level, but at the blue belt it will help you slow down and commit the techniques to muscle memory. Write, read and repeat, your journal will reinforce your learning, adding to the muscle memory. More than anything: keep at it, and keep training!
See you on the mats.