As a white belt, you often feel tons of mixed emotions about your journey in BJJ. I often find myself wondering when I’m going to get my next stripe, or even belt. But that’s not really the point of the “graceful art.”. No one can blame you for wanting, but the journey is not about just getting. Although it can seem difficult at the beginning to measure your success, or whether you are on the right path. But, with time, you will come to realize how practising grace, humility and, resilience will speed you on your journey.
Perfect the basics
It’s very important that as a white belt you learn how to perform all the basic techniques, and master their names. If you’re wondering why I mention names, it’s because I myself am a white belt, and while executing a move on one of my partners, my coach will yell something like, “Hannah! Ezekiel, come on!” I’ll stop mid-grapple and ask myself, “What the heck is that again?” My coach will respond with, “the choke, grab your sleeve!” In those few moments, my partner will have already submitted me. It’s key to build a solid foundation, to be able to move on to harder techniques in the future. As Jorge Britto (BJJ Toronto) puts it, “Concentrate on your ‘ABCs’. Don’t get ahead of yourself by trying to learn everything […] Imagine you’re going to write a book, and as you go through the process you’re learning the sounds and shapes of each letter, to then learn to fit them together to make words and phrases.”
Flavio Canto agrees. “Practise movements, not only moves,” he says. Focus on perfecting things such as hip escape, breath control, and maintaining hooks while in mount.
The right mentality
As a white belt it’s important not to come to class with a win or lose mentality. Thinking this way from the start, will do a great deal to hinder your progress. There is a reason why the etymology of Jiu-Jitsu derives from the Japanese words, “Ju”(gentle) and “Jutsu” (to make art). In this context, tapping out is all right. It will save you tons of injuries at any stage. Respecting your other partners and learning from them is the only way you will successfully rise through the ranks. Still, it’s a difficult mindset to master. I have to admit that any time I’m done rolling with another peer, and they submit me, I feel a tiny burn in my chest that I “lost.” But I’m learning to replace that thought quickly with, “what did he/she do to get me to tap?” I’ll even ask my peer to redo the move on me and see what I did wrong, or what I could have done to defend myself. I thank my partner at the end of each roll, with a smile on my face, because I know they are there to enlighten me in my journey, not to be the enemy.
Practice good habits
When you begin Jiu Jitsu you also learn that it will impact your entire life, and will force you to develop good eating and sleeping habits in order to be on your A-game. “Practice good habits,” says Carlos Alberto Liberi from Gracie Barra . “Your body is your spirit’s temple. It’s the first vehicle you use to come and go. Just as we have to take care of an automobile that is in a good state of repair, our body too needs to be cared for in order for it to function properly. Therefore, sleep and eat well, as we are what we eat, drink, and as incredible as it may seem, how we sleep.”
When I eat poorly, or don’t get enough sleep, I can feel the effects throughout my entire day, especially when it comes time to train. My focus is scattered and I usually will not even remember the techniques I just learned. By the end of my roll, all my energy is sapped. But once I resolve to take care of my body by getting a good night’s rest and making sure I eat meals loaded with lots of protein and fiber, I feel much better and find myself alert and excited to be at practice. I now carry nuts in my bag to munch on before or after practice. My coach recommends not eating three to four hours before practice in order to stay alert during class.
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