Twice A Blue Belt

BJJ is a marathon, not a sprint”

I’ve trained and competed regularly now for nearly two years and recently received my blue belt … for the second time.

Fifteen years ago I gave up jiujitsu to focus on my final years of high school. This was only shortly after receiving Blue Belt No. 1 and at the time, my very flawed logic was simple. Like many new students, jiujitsu was an all or nothing proposition. If I was going to study more then that meant training less and, in turn, my jiujitsu would quickly deteriorate. So, being young and stupid, I thought I’d save myself the frustration and embarrassment of falling behind my training buddies and gave it up altogether.

Of course, I regret that decision massively. If I’d kept up my training – even at 1 or 2 sessions a month to start with – I’m certain it wouldn’t have been too long before I settled back into a nice rhythm of 2 or 3 sessions a week. And 15 years later I’d be writing a very different blog … potentially as a black belt!

Most of that regret centres on the fact that I missed out on 15+ years of jiujitsu’s many health benefits.

On the physical side, few sports offer a more balanced, whole-of-body workout. Flexibility, coordination, balance, speed, strength and stamina are all tested and honed. I’ve lost over 5 kilos since I started training and am A LOT fitter.

On the mental side, a good jiujitsu match plays out more like a game of chess (or, at my skill level, checkers) than it does a battle of brute force. The mind is constantly engaged by an endless list of techniques, tactics and strategies to learn, road test and hopefully one day master. Nothing serves as a better mental distraction from my day job then a round of free rolls at the end of class.

All of this would have been invaluable during the various stressful patches I went through (and we all go through) during my late teens and twenties.

This time around I’m keen to stick with jiujitsu for the long haul. Of course, it’s still very early days but I think there are few key things I’ll need to bear in mind to make that happen.

Jiujitsu is a marathon not a sprint. If I try too hard to speed up my progression, jiujitsu will start to feel more like hard work and less like an enjoyable past time. Sure, there are times when I’ll need to push myself but there are also times when it’s fine to coast. I need to relax and be comfortable learning at my own pace even if that means watching some of my training buddies get their next promotion quicker than I do. Better to reach purple belt in 3 years and continue, than reach it in 1 and stop because I’m jaded and tired!

At some point I’m going to get injured. In jiujitsu, injuries are inevitable but that shouldn’t discourage me or keep me off the mats longer than needed. If I accept that now then I’ll be more likely to bounce back after an extended stint on the bench. In the end, all I (and my training buddies) can do is minimise how frequent and severe injuries are by training safely and practising good injury management. Of course, these are skills in themselves and will take time and discipline to implement. There’s been countless white belts who’ve never experienced a jiujitsu injury but there’s never been a black belt who could boast the same thing. Not a single one.

Life will get in the way of jiujitsu. Again, this is inevitable. Whether it’s a busy patch at work, or an unexpected family crisis, at some stage jiujitsu will need to take a back seat. This is completely fine. Yes, when I eventually get back on the mats my jiujitsu will be rusty but everyone who’s trained long enough goes through this (multiple times) and so it all evens out in the end. As hard as it might seem to do at the time, no one ever regrets returning to jiujitsu after a stint on the sidelines.

Those of you who’ve trained long enough might see these insights as nothing more than simple common sense, and those of you who’ve just started out might see them as the ramblings of someone who doesn’t take jiujitsu seriously enough! But I’m confident there’ll be a few of you out there who’ll find this blog relatable and useful.

Everyone’s training philosophy is different and training philosophies change over time but the truth will always be this – You will never regret sticking with jiujitsu but you’ll ALWAYS regret giving it up. Take it from me.

Happy training!

-This article was authored by Michael G. and posted here with his permission.

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