I was down at Cronulla in the Sutherland Shire recently and I ran into a friend. He asked me “If you could go back in time and talk to your white belt self, what would you tell yourself?” I thought that this was a great question and that I’d share my answer with you all now.
Yes! rolling hard is great! But Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about longevity. It’s about turning consistent days into weeks. Weeks into Months. and Months into years. To do this you need to vary your intensity so that you do some heavy sessions and some lighter ones. This will mean that you don’t spend so much time in the red zone. But are still able to get your work done. More time on the mat equals more training. This consistent effort over time will be a major influence on your game.
Less is more!
As a white belt I wanted to know everything! Enthusiasm meant I was researching whatever I could. Watching videos and reading articles, on stuff we were working on. As well as things things that we weren’t. This resulted in coming to training and getting confused sometimes. As I’d watched to many videos and wasn’t clear in my mind what I wanted to do. Pick one thing, work on it for a month. Or even 3 months. Taking a deeper more detailed look into positions will be of great benefit in the long run. Chopping and changing the area you are focusing on won’t give you the experience you need. Spending long amounts of time in situations to understand their nuances is important.
Its all in the hips!
If you have a problem the answer always lies in the hips. If you have a look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, you will notice some things. All the larger muscle groups begin at the centre and as you move out toward the edges the muscle get smaller. At its core (pun intended) BJJ is about controlling someones core while not allowing your opponent to control yours. Think about all the times someone controls your core. Mount, Back, side control even closed guard. All these positions allow your opponent to control you while you can’t control them. Now let’s consider how to escape these control positions. Mount escapes basic hip escape or bridge and roll. Even pushing the foot into a half guard involves using your hips. Back control, sliding your hips onto your opponent’s leg. Then moving your back and shoulders to the floor. Again, your hips are the key to success. As the hips are the base of power for your body it makes sense that we should recruit them as much as possible.
Belts aren’t linear! In fact, don’t even worry about them!
Spending too much time wondering about when you will be graded next is an exercise in futility. Also, different people will get belts for different reasons. If all you focus on is the quality of your BJJ then by the time you reach Black Belt, you will be much better off. Spending time thinking about how this person shouldn’t have that belt is pointless. Trust that your instructor has their reasons and focus on what matters. Getting better. And be happy for your teammates! After all, without them you wouldn’t have any training partners.
Don’t ignore certain Techniques!
When I was a white belt, I had a lot of troubles with Triangles. I could never get them. I thought that they weren’t for me. “My legs are too short” etc. In fact, these were excuses. As I progressed to purple belt, I started catching triangles. I couldn’t work out why? I hadn’t practised them? How come I’m catching them now? Over time my body’s understanding of where it needed to be had improved. But because I’d spent so long ignoring them, I now needed to put some serious time into understanding them. This could’ve been avoided had I been more open minded at white belt.
Enjoy the ride!
If you are going to do anything for 10 or more years, you better enjoy it! Take it seriously some days, other times have fun. If you find yourself getting upset and frustrated, take a time out. Reframe your thinking. We spend so much in time, blood, sweat and tears on the mat that if it’s not enjoyable you won’t last. Make friends, train hard and have fun.
So that’s my list. Looking back at my journey to black belt, it’s not so much the destination that’s important. You will learn many things about yourself on the mat. The journey, lessons and friendships are far more valuable than the belt tied to your waist. But this is why it is so highly regarded. So? what are you waiting for? Time to train!