Dear White Belts,
Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step and arguably hardest step of your jiu-jitsu career. You’ve signed up for jiu-jitsu classes. The days, months, and years that come will be filled with both difficult and exciting moments. There is an old saying in the martial arts, and it holds particularly true in jiu-jitsu.
“A black belt is a white belt that never quit.”
Obviously, you must continuously train in order to achieve your goals and master your craft. In jiu-jitsu, however, it may take a long time for a student to see visible progress. Many students get discouraged, and opt to leave jiu-jitsu early out of frustration.
“Don’t quit” may be the most basic of advice, but how does one keep their eye on the prize when the going gets tough? We asked some students and practitioners at Radius Martial Arts Academy in Fairfield, Connecticut what advice they would give white belts before they first step on the mat.
“If I could go back and to my first day as a white belt and give myself any advice in BJJ or Muay Thai it would be to listen, pay attention to the instructor and work hard. Also, focus, focus, focus,” John Nguyen, white belt.
“One piece of advice I would give myself would be to compete more. I'm sure the more you compete, the easier it gets mentally. Also, I would tell myself that there is just no way of getting over someone's crutch in your face. You're just going to have to deal with the punches as they come,” Kaitlin Cullen, blue belt.
“It all gets easier. Don't overthink, just let everything flow. Remember what you will be taught in class, seminars, live rolls and just work on the proper techniques. Don't worry about failing weather it be in the gym or in competition. It's all a learning experience and a part of the journey. Enjoy it, embrace it,” Kurt Chase-Patrick, brown belt.
“I was told "tap early, tap often.” That phrase serves me well to this day,” Gregory Wheatley, blue belt.
“I would tell all white belts to breathe, and leave their ego at the door. No matter how athletic you are, you will be tied up like a pretzel repeatedly by those who have been training longer than you. As a big guy who fancies myself a strong athlete, it was humbling to be strangled by someone who I outweighed by 80 pounds or more. You will be submitted and beaten, just breathe and let things go. Those who I have seen quit were students who were easily frustrated,” Joe Lipovich, white belt.
“I would have started 10 years earlier, (When I was still a youngster)” Ken Passaro age 72, blue belt
“My biggest fear as a day one white belt was holding someone else back or interfering with their training by not knowing anything. I also was worried about doing something "wrong" or not knowing how to initiate in live rolling exchanges. For example, it's common that a white belt should defer to the higher ranking belt in some schools, where others are more casual. My friend who had trained for a while gave me good advice when he told me to stop worrying about that stuff because higher ranked belts like rolling with white belts to work on their technique and maybe try something new that they just learned. They likely wouldn't take the risk against a more experienced guy which has proved true in my experience,” Douglas Cormack, purple belt.
“I'd say, at first this will feel like drinking water from a fire hose. There will be ups and downs. And early on maybe more times you feel down. And honestly for the first few months it might. But if you can commit today to a 6 month honest effort, then assess where you've come and what you've learned, I believe you will be forever glad you did,” Paul Agosti, white belt.
“Be open to what Jiu-Jitsu has to offer you outside of the academy and off the mat. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is probably one of the biggest lessons that this art has on offer. You become intimately acquainted with the ebb and flow of failure and success. To fail is to learn, so understanding this dichotomy will enhance your overall development as a person. Your ability to translate real-time obstacles and capacity to identify opportunity – even in the most fleeting of moments – will lead to your greater success in whatever you are attempting to accomplsh.” Travis Passaro, black belt.
Do you have any advice for jiu-jitsu beginners? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.