The Next Belt

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It’s both a pitfall and a hallmark of jiu-jitsu practice that when it’s time to graduate to your next belt, you feel uncertain and insecure. You may say, “Uh-oh…am I really ready?”, or, “I don’t deserve this”, or, “there’s all these people who are better than me…”

You may say, “Uh-oh…am I really ready?” Or, “I don’t deserve this”, or, “there’s all these people who are better than me…”

It’s a common phenomenon at all levels of practice, so we need to be able to deal with it.

What I’ve learned is that usually the belt itself brings you up to the next level. It’s like the ticket to the movie: you get in the door and then you have a chance to experience what’s up on the screen. 

With that in mind, here’s what to do. When your teacher awards you the belt, you fulfill it by training. You become the belt. And in fact that’s what makes you a blue belt. 

My teacher, Mr. Vizzio, will sometimes ask me, “Are you black belt material?” And he isn’t just asking if I can fight, or if I protect myself. He’s asking at a deeper level…are you black belt material? Are you moving in the direction of fulfilling the expectations for black belt, and what that means for your character and attitude?

He wants to know if I’m delivering “black belt” at the level of a human being. If I’m being generous, community-minded, all the other higher-level concepts associated with being a good black belt, beyond simply being an ass-kicker. 

There is something about the entire process of progress in the martial arts, the holistic experience, that is very meaningful and deep. Embracing that at each opportunity – from white to blue belt, blue to purple and so on – is good preparation for what it will be like at black belt. 

And while we can’t force anyone to engage with your next rank at that level, we want you to try it. We want to suggest that you try to see the importance of it now, rather than 10 years from now. If you get it, you can avoid the bad habits and problems that come from a mistaken mindset. 

Part of the practice of martial arts is managing missed opportunities and challenges, making the best of them and learning from them. This is one that you can avoid simply by modifying your mindset and stepping up into the next level of the training.

Listen to the podcast here: The Martial Arts Mind Podcast

For more about our larger project of collaborative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, please visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.

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