Jiu jitsu is hard and you will suck for a long time. There I said it 😆.
I’m serious, Jiu Jitsu is a hard art form to pick up. Because it has lots of weird movements that will take your body time to adjust too as well as just the over all skill set you will need to become proficient in before you can even have an idea of what you’re doing.
In the beginning, you can kind of brute force your way through training. But that’s a quick way to getting injured or burning out.
I like to look at training very much like how you would teach mathematics to students.
Starting as a little kid you learn how to count. You learn the numbers.
You have no idea what they mean.
So when some one asks you how many toys you have you might know the numbers by name but you haven’t quite connected the idea of the number with the corresponding quantity.
All this to say that it takes times to put into practice even the simplest of concepts.
But you have to get these simple concepts down before you can do more complex steps.
Just like how you have to learn to count before you can start to add and subtract.
Once you have a strong foundation in the basics then you can move up into higher levels.
The same thing in Jiu Jitsu. You move up a skill level only to find that you have some weakness that you need to work on or that your skill is not meeting the proficiency of others at your skill or belt rank.
When that happens, a lot of students focus what they’re bad at. They focus only on the fact that they suck in comparison to their peer group. But I can tell you as an instructor with 10+ years of experience that everyone does something really well. It’s just a matter of finding that something.
If you have a good instructor then they may be able to point that out to you or to at least keep you motivated until you find that certain something that you are great at.
If you only focus on what you’re bad at or what you suck at like the poster above. Your mindset is way to negative to make progress.
Instead focus on what you do right and from that figure out what you do well.
It could be a certain move that you are able to hit consistently or maybe your defense is so good that it gives higher belts a hard time.
Keep your mind on the positives and I’m sure it will payoff throughout the entirety of your Jiu Jitsu and life.
The guard is the foundational position in Jiu Jitsu.
It’s what sets us apart from the other grappling arts.
You get points in a tournament for sweeping from your guard.
As well as your opponent — if they manage to pass your guard.
So it’s a very important position.
While there are no shortages of guard techniques online with resources like YouTube and other online training sites gaining in popularity.
Putting it all together is the difficult part.
At all levels of Jiu Jitsu — players seem to struggle on how to effectively play guard and this in turn affects your confidence in your guard.
You’re not going to rely on your guard if you don’t have faith in it right?
If we look at the best guard players right now there is one major common factor that seems to set them apart from all the rest.
This ‘something’ is not unique to them.
It’s not a special ability that they alone possess.
It’s not some innate talent.
In fact, we can replicate what they do and that’s great for us!
If you study the best guard players in the world. They all seem to have a very aggressive guard.
When they play guard they do so with purpose.
They are actively looking for sweeps and constantly searching for submissions.
You thought I was going to say they have a special grip? Or some hidden technique right?
No, it’s just the opposite.
The best competitors are doing the same moves as you or I.
Albeit, maybe at a higher level of course.
But the key detail in their guard is that they go into attack mode as soon as they get their grips.
There is no playing around.
No trying to stall or wait out the match.
They want to submit you and end the match as soon as possible.
The more they go on the offensive. The more openings they create to sweep.
The more you defend. The more your chances of slipping into a submission go up.
Competitors like Nicholas Meregali and Tommy Langaker both utilize this attacking guard style.
The threat of their guard attacks makes even the best passers in the world hesitant.
Their opponents can never get a chance to relax because they are always on edge.
So how does all this help you?
Going forward, if you find yourself having trouble playing guard or you’re not really having a lot of success on bottom.
Next time you roll — mentally prepare yourself to go on the offensive.
Visualize yourself going for the different submissions in your arsenal.
Think about your set ups to those attacks and whatever sweeps that you can combine in between your attacks.
So when you train next time — instead of hanging out in closed guard or spider guard.
Try to chain a few attacks together or maybe be more assertive in hitting your sweeps.
I’m not saying go full 100% porrada on your training partners but try to put yourself in the best position where you can keep attacking.
The top guys aren’t more aggressive than you or me.
It’s the techniques that they use that force them to go on the offensive.
For example, if you have a berimbolo type game. In order to get that style to work — you have to constantly go on the offensive by trying to off balance your opponent and looking to get to the back. Eventually your opponent will slip up.
So the best way to gain more confidence in your guard right way and increase your success rate is to up the level of your guard attacks.
I’ve talked a little bit about this topic on Quora and even made a video on YouTube about the high attrition rate of blue belt students in their practice.
But I think it’s worth examining again. Especially for a lot of my readers that are not familiar this fact. Most practitioners will not progress to blue belt and even less move on from blue belt.
Jiu Jitsu is not easy
Jiu Jitsu is not an easy art or sport. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and humility to progress in the ranks.
In the past, there was this running joke online and on many of the major grappling/mma chat rooms and forums that a Bjj blue belt was all that was needed in order to beat Mike Tyson in his prime.
I’m not sure where it originated but it shows just how much influence and notoriety that Jiu Jitsu gained in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
During that time period in the U.S. there was this hunger for Jiu Jitsu even though there were not enough instructors or higher belts to fill that demand.
Being a blue belt was rare.
They were looked upon as demi-gods among men.
Fast forward to today, and blue belts and all other belts have become significantly more common place.
Yet, I’m sure the trials and tribulations from white to blue are still the same.
Going from unconscious incompetence or wrong intuition to conscious incompetence or wrong analysis.
Blue belt is the stage where you realize that you really don’t know Jiu Jitsu.
You know some Jiu Jitsu techniques and even a few concepts but not how everything fits together and flows.
At white belt you’re ignorant of this fact. Every day you train. You learn something new and get better without trying. Just being able to recall a few moves is a big accomplishment when you first start out.
But starting at blue belt, you have to put more effort into your training and studying techniques. That feeling of leveling up after every session is quickly replaced with plateaus and working toward developing your own style of Jiu Jitsu.
As a blue belt you will need more awareness of your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Of course, your instructor will be there to guide you by showing you techniques and giving you advice. But as you progress, your instructor’s guidance will be less hands on so you will have to be more proactive in training.
That could mean taking private lessons, studying competition videos, competing, etc.
As a white belt there’s no expectation on you to do well in training or competition. Just by showing up consistently most white belts will see exponential progress.
I’m happy when my beginner students can remember past techniques and have the fundamental techniques such as shrimping, rolling (backwards and forwards), and can tie their belt properly. I could care less how they roll in sparring or how many times they get tapped out.
So they actually end up doing better because there is no pressure on them to do well or to have the techniques down one hundred percent.
But at blue belt, you have more experience under your belt. You’re no longer an innocent white belt. Your instructor has higher expectations on you to learn and demonstrate your technique(s) as well as you being able to effectively transmit that technique to newer students.
Many times during my classes, I will pair a newer student with a blue belt (or more advanced belt) with the hope and expectation that they will be able to guide the student in our fundamental techniques or to help them along with more advanced movements.
You represent your academy
Newer guys coming in to your academy are going to look towards you as a representative of your school as well as a target so you will want to do well against them, and higher belts are going to use more advanced techniques and attributes on you like strength and timing as you become more proficient and a tougher training partner.
Or as I like to say. They’re going to take your lunch money but there’s nothing you can do about it but just learn.
The experiential belt
As a blue belt, you will have a few go to techniques but no overall developed game. That’s why many blue belt students spend most of their time experimenting.
Experimenting with different types of guards, passing styles, and submissions. It’s no surprise that many blue belts will go through a phase when they will only use a single technique or style of Jiu Jitsu like berimbolo or wormguard.
Slave to trends
The most experiential belt is also the one that most follows the trends in the sport of Jiu Jitsu.
I remember when I was a blue belt and Eduardo Telles’ turtle guard was popular at the time. Of course, like any fan boy I added it to my game and relied heavily upon it for the majority of my time as a blue belt.
There’s nothing wrong with following the trends in Jiu Jitsu. It’s very important to keep you skills and knowledge updated but many blue belts fall into the trap of building their entire game around that one technique that they saw online.
There will always be this cycle of new techniques or strategies that become popular but then they are replaced by an older move or a technique that was “forgotten” but then rediscovered.
I think a lot of people’s time and energy would be better used by continually developing their fundamental techniques in addition to experimenting with the new guards and passing styles.
You should aim to be well rounded in all the major areas of Jiu Jitsu including: self defense, sport techniques, takedowns, leg locks, escapes, attacks, etc.
You’ve achieved the desired skill level
One argument that I haven’t fully explored in my writing or videos is the fact that many practitioners are happy with the skill level that they’ve developed at blue belt and decide to pursue other goals.
Again, Jiu Jitsu takes a lot of time and study commitment in order to progress. I can see how an blue belt could feel like they’re good enough. If you train at a good academy, then the average blue belt should be able to handle themselves both in a self defense situation against most untrained individuals.
Blue belt blues
If I think about it, being a blue belt is very much like being the unpopular kid in high school. You just have to put in your time and work until your skill level rises and you begin to develop confidence in your game.
My advice to you is that if your practice of Jiu Jitsu is meaningful to you. Then keep at it.
But if you don’t feel that training has any value on your life. Find something that does bring meaning and value. Then pursue that wholeheartedly.