Getting to black belt in jiu jitsu takes a long time. And it’s difficult. You’ll faces many ups and downs; wins and losses; aches and injuries; personal and professional roadblocks; and just general burnouts that make you question why you’re still doing this. And even after black belt, there’s still more to come. More intense competition, more degrees and belts, more expectations.
So yeah – it’s a long tough road. But how do you keep at it without getting discouraged?
Remember Why You Started
Throughout the many years of training, it’s important to remember why you chose to do such a sport to begin with. Whether for self defense, for weight loss, as a hobby or to be a world champion, there is a definitive reason why you come to class each day. As you train, those goals can change too. But on those tough drives home from class after getting choked several times to one person or on the flight back from a world tournament, think about where you started and where you are now – and how your reason for training still applies.
Oftentimes, if you don’t stick to a strict schedule, tasks can become less important. Then, the mindset of not needing to go to class sets in. Set yourself a schedule that you can realistically stick to most of the time. Determine whether morning classes or night classes work best, pick how many classes a week you want to get in and tell your family or friends that these days and times are important for your success. Additionally, be conscious of your eating habits. It can be hard to keep your endurance if you’ve eaten badly, so clean up your habits so you can be the best version of yourself during each class. Being consistent also puts you on a path to continue growing in your skills and regulary earn stripes or new belts.
Take a Break – But Only When You Need It
Whether for injury, a need to shift focus or because you’re feeling burnt out, it can be okay to take some time off. Talk to your instructor and devise a plan to stay connected with the gym and come back when the time is right. It may be a good idea to still come to class just to watch. Watching the drills and rolls can ensure you maintain your learning and keep you within the gym. Eventually, you’ll miss the sport and want to come back. For an injury however, it can be hard to not train and let yourself fully heal. Many jiu jitsu athletes come back too early and hurt themselves even more, so be cautious of how your body is feeling and what it needs. Ultimately though, taking a break should only come when you absolutely need it. If you just lost a tournament or had a bad day at class, the best thing you can do for yourself is train the very next day, talk to your coach and fix your mistakes.
It’s also important to not stay in something that you don’t enjoy. If you don’t find instant gratification in jiu jitsu within the first few months, don’t stay just because you feel like you need to. But if you have goals and you feel that jiu jitsu is the place for you – or even just the people within the jiu jitsu community – stick with it. Create a consistent schedule, know that being frustrated is a part of the sport, find your people, change your eating habits, write down your goals and just do it. The black belt will come if you want it badly enough.