Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is hard. Wait, that’s a bad way to start a blog. Maybe it’s better to say it like Rigan Machado: “Jiu Jitsu is easy, you make it difficult”, which is easy for a Rigan or a Rickson or a Pedro to say. Coral belts have all the fun.
(Note: a coral belt is a belt that alternates black and red. It is awarded once a BJJ practitioner reaches the level of 7th degree black belt, which requires being a black belt for 31 years.)
I read somewhere that 75% of everyone who starts BJJ quits by the time they get their blue belt (1-2 years). More recently, I read an article by Gracie University that makes the numbers smaller. Supposedly, less than 1% of everyone who starts BJJ will ever earn a black belt.
A black belt is just a white belt who never quit.
Statistically, the majority of the people who will ever read this are white or blue belts. Your journey has just started and there’s a long way to go.
How do you stay motivated? With the idea of earning your next stripe? With the idea of earning your next belt? Do you need motivation at all?
I wish that I had a finite answer for you. I wish there was a magic pill that could keep everyone who ever stepped on the mat motivated, but there isn’t.
Being a BJJ grappler in Minnesota can be a difficult thing. We are a long way from the coasts, where the major competitions thrive. Not to mention that our black belt numbers aren’t exactly plentiful. The entire state only has about a dozen black belts. That would be a good school at some of the bigger gyms, let alone an entire state.
As such, most of us have to find our motivation in our own little pockets of the state. We need to find partners who push us. We need to find creativity to keep us thinking. We need to find that thing that makes us want to step back on the mat when the couch looks sooooo comfy.
No seriously. That’s my motivation.
I wasn’t a particularly talented athlete growing up. I seemed doomed to a second or third string role because I just didn’t feel overly motivated in team sports. I parlayed that into being a mediocre rock climber, then a decent kickboxer. Still, nothing clicked. I was quickly approaching 30 and getting antsy about my increasing weight and lack of an outlet. To cut down what could easily become a long, rambling story of my road into jiu jitsu, I’ll tell you that I got tired of feeling complacent.
There are some things in life that can be good enough. I accept that because of the results. I will be happy with a good enough job if it means my family is provided for because they mean more to me than anything, even myself. I am plenty happy with good enough reviews of my books since I can’t control other people’s opinions.
BJJ doesn’t get the same pass.
At the time of writing, I just received my brown belt. I’m in my early thirties (or mid, if you’re gonna be a d*** about it) and I want to train. It’s what I think about. I don’t just want to be good enough. Good enough and black belt should never be in the same sentence. Being an upper belt isn’t a free ride. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Right now I’m on Day 46 of 100 doing 100 hip escapes a day (not including what occurs during rolling or any particular drills in the gym). Why? F*** you, that’s why. I want to. I want to push myself. I want to go home, grab my homemade Bulgarian bag and rip out a few dozen swings-to-squats. I want to choke, armbar and leg lock my day away.
I want to do it because 99% of the world can’t.
Maybe it’s something inside me that feels worried about getting older, out of shape or just plain lethargic. Sometimes when I’m at a park or playground with my son and I see parents who can’t chase after their kids or climb on the equipment it makes me sad. I can’t imagine missing out on that part of my life.
So I get on the mats. I sweat. I work for something that’s built up inside me from so much more than just a desire to compete and excel. This is my life one rep at a time.
And f*** anyone who doesn’t understand. That includes anyone who refuses to get off the couch in favor of watching someone else’s reality or watching someone else compete. They will look back and see a life full of missed opportunities and regret. They will yell at a television because they have no control over their own lives. Believe me when I say, BJJ is the definition of control. I already have regrets in my life, but BJJ won’t ever be one of them.
I can’t tell you what motivation to have. You need to find what works for you. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about fitness, health, being social, getting ready for competitions/mixed martial arts fights or just turning into a dangerous SOB. It’s all good. Just find that thing, focus on it and push yourself harder because of it.
See you on the mats.