Photo: Rickson Gracie promoting Brandon Hetzler to black belt after he submitted all of his opponents at the 2010 Jiujitsu Pan Ams.
The road to a black belt is usually a long and hard one full of ups and downs. The average time to get promoted to black is from 8 to 15 years. For some BJJ practitioners, the journey was accelerated. What did they more than the rest of us? It depends on the person. Some are just phenoms while others were training 3 times a day and were surrounded by world class instructors.
Rickson and his son Kron Gracie have extremely high standards, yet they promoted Brandon Hetzler to the rank of black belt in a little under 8 years. What did Brandon do differently than the other? He immersed himself in the art and in the teaching of his instructors.
Going through the muck:
People often ask me how I got my black belt from master Rickson Gracie and Professor Kron Gracie in less than 8 years (it normally takes around 10-15 years)
It was several things. Lots of private lessons, lots of trips to Los Angeles (every 2-3 months) lots of notes, lots of video notes, attended every seminar Rickson did in the United States, believing in what I was taught and drilling it over and over, asking a ton of questions, doing everything they asked me to, hard work and being respectful.
Finally but probably the most important, having “attention to detail.” The traditional arts and the Marine Corps really taught me about attention to detail. When Rickson or Kron would teach I would watch intensely. I would try and focus on their every move. If their little pinky was bent slightly, then I would bend mine the same way. I would watch their breathing methods, their angles, their foot placement, hip placement and all the way to their facial expressions. I watched how they walked, how they tied their belts, how they projected their energy etc.
So there you go. Those are the exact things I did to receive my black belt in under 8 years from two of the hardest people to receive it from.
You must go through the Shu Ha Ri process to truly become great in martial arts. No shortcuts and no excuses. You must be willing to go through the muck to reach your goals.
Jugoshin Ryu Jujutsu.