So the day after my 40th Birthday I became a BJJ Purple Belt. Now I’ve seen loads of articles offering advice to Blue Belts covering everything from things they should / shouldn’t worry about, why they quit and why they don’t, as well as everything in between! Now as someone who was a blue belt for over 4 1/2 years I felt I had something to add to the conversation but it felt unauthentic to do it until I’d survived! So here goes here’s a blog some of the things I’ve learnt/ realised /observed at Blue Belt!
You do get a little bit cocky (and scared at first!)
Yup, I will admit it you get a little bit cocky when that new blue belt is tied about your waist. You now know jiu-jitsu! It’s then quickly followed by “oh sugar..I’m now supposed to know jiu-jitsu”. Gone are those days of being able to laugh off any mistake with a nonchalant shrug of white-belted shoulder! But you also quickly realised training is training and crack on with it. You also realise equally as quickly you still have a lot to learn as the higher belts were taking it easier on you and the white belts are definitely not holding back!
Enjoy the Honeymoon!
I found the first 15 – 18 months of competing at Blue Belt was simply awesome! I was a baby blue so there was no expectation to win. I was competing against senior blue belts and all I could do was to try my best. For me, that felt awesome! No pressure and just letting my BJJ flow. The mixture of being an underdog and having a great team of people who didn’t care if I won or lost (in fact they teased me more when I won!) was just an awesome combination!
Conversely, the last couple of years of competing and training has been horrible. Since having a great year competing in 2016 I really felt the pressure in 2017 and beyond. Yes, some of that was simply my own mind playing tricks on me but it was still horrible and contributed to sucking the joy out of my training and competition. I was now one of those seasoned blue belts and I really did overthink things a lot! Plus I forgot one of the big points above, my true friends didn’t care if I won or lost – they were more bother about me being fit, health and training.
People pick up injuries as a white belt but the blue belt seems to be where peoples luck runs out and those niggles start to catch up with people. For me, over 3 years of heavy competing and it all started adding up – knees, elbow, necks and back. Minor injuries are frustrating but more serious ones are just something else. I won’t write much more as I wrote about injuries quite a lot in my last birthday blog but they are definitely something to be dealt with and managed as a blue belt.
BJJ isn’t a quick sport, its something you are involved in for years. This means you experience a host of changes both in terms of your job, family and relationships. In one hand this could mean more training (like a new job with better hours) but more often than not they mean changes and adaptations (parenthood, for example, being a common one!). The key thing is changing your training times, having to visit other gyms or reducing your mat hours doesn’t make you less of a grappler or mean you should quit. You just need to do what you can, how you can.
Finding Your Niche / Rounding Your Game
At white belt, you often have a “game”. I can guarantee you by the end of blue you’ll look back at your white belt game and giggle a little! You will actually start finding your groove so to speak. For example, I now have actually got an identifiable guard rather than just swinging my legs about! Don’t get me wrong it’s still very passable but it exists and it’s mine! During blue belt l also developed a refined love of takedowns, passing and submissions. I have just tweaked the positional control!
The Plateau / Backwards Feeling
Injuries obviously don’t help with this but you stop have the quick progressions in your ability. It happens a little bit at white belt but the curve really smooths rapidly at blue belt. Things slow down and become much more of a steady grind – you really don’t notice things getting better. Plus your teammates are all getting better at the same (or quicker rate) than yourself. If anything at times you feels like you’re stuck or going backwards. Not all gyms (including mine) have a strip system for coloured belts so there isn’t really any extrinsic little motivators – it all has to be you. But I’ll be honest I don’t know a blue belt who made it to purple who hasn’t felt this way more than once. It’s normal and it passes (usually with things clicking and improving again)!
Desire to Quit
Yup, I’m going here. There is a reason why blue belts quit and you hear the phrase “blue belt blues”. When you add the points above up (especially the last one) you end up in a pretty sucky position where you wonder if it’s all worth it. You get that little voice in your head that suggests quitting. Many people won’t admit they thought it but I’ll be honest I was them of them too despite the blog and Instagram pics. BJJ had stopped being fun, I was still suffering from injuries and I thought my technique sucked. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. So, how did I escape? There isn’t really any magic to it. I enjoyed life for a bit. I ate what I wanted and spent some time off the mat with my friends. I also had a great gym of people who’s friendships and support helped to keep me involved.
So there you go by addition to the pile of blogs and articles about being a blue belt! But seriously I hope someone finds it helpful – feel free to let me know anything you think I’ve missed or that you’ve experienced.
Photo Credit – @BJJProblems.com