Becoming a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu


If you love Jiu-Jitsu and plan on sticking around you probably have a goal of becoming a black belt one day. On average it will take someone 10-15 years to be awarded the rank of black belt. I don’t remember who I heard this from but it’s very true for me at least, there are two beginner belts… white belt and black belt. For me this journey to black belt took thirteen years and 22 years later I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for having been one of the first group of Americans to have received a black belt from Grandmaster Relson Gracie.

Having a white belt mindset is to me the best to have everyday on the mat or even in life. As a white belt you are thirsty for knowledge and you are curious and motivated to get better. With this mindset the belt doesn’t matter that much and this will keep you going forever. The goal of mastery is impossible to reach but still a worthy goal to strive for. The word mastery to me, is coming up with the most effective and efficient way of doing Jiu-Jitsu. This same process could be applied off the mat as well, learning how to learn is a skill that must be developed for the purpose of gathering general knowledge and specialized knowledge. Being curious will provoke the question Why? This in turn causes us to seek more knowledge and allows us to grow as a being. Find something you are passionate about and you’ll have an endless supply of motivation. 

I remember the first thought I had when I was awarded my black belt on January 17, 2009… now I have to teach this! I was questioning my understanding and ability to effectively teach. To put it bluntly, I was a terrible instructor… my classes were more like watch me do the move and then you do it. I would often say, “Don’t do it like that, do it like me”. I am a visual learner and if i see something, I can do it with a little bit of effort. My style of teaching would only work for people who learn the same way I do. That day I told myself I will learn to be an effective teacher for everyone.

Let’s keep it simple and focus on understanding why a position works and start asking what if this happens or that happens. Solving your Jiu-Jitsu problems and exploring different solutions is one of my favorite ways to learn and it also makes you develop expert problem solving skills. Teaching takes your understanding even deeper into the practice of Jiu-Jitsu. A quote by Aristotle says, “Teaching is the highest form of understanding” and it is so true. If you want to get better at Jiu-Jitsu, learn to teach it and see where that journey takes you. Who knows, maybe one day your passion will become your career. 

I’m so happy and grateful doing something I am passionate about,  impacting lives and making a difference in the lives of the people I share the mats with. Remember, two beginner belts… white is the beginning to learn belt and black is the beginning to understand belt. Jiu-Jitsu really does transform lives, what has Jiu-Jitsu done in your life? Let me know by posting a comment on what’s the biggest reason you train.