Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter Cascao Vital. He runs Cascao Evolution BJJ out of Las Vegas nv.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a belt system that is longer and harder to get through then any other martial art. You can get your black belt in other systems in only 2-3 years, but BJJ on average takes 8 – 10 years, and sometimes even longer. BJJ is complex, vast and requires a combination of knowledge, time and applied efficiency against a fully resisting opponent. The sad reality is that the majority of people who start BJJ drop out. Over 90% of people will quit BJJ before they even get to blue belt, and once or if they do reach blue belt, over 90% of them will never make it to black belt. The drop out rate is high. The reasons are usually simple: injury, time management, lack of discipline, family commitments, work obligations, burnout and even financial stress. When looking to improve our arts retention rate, one question does pop up regularly though, would extending the time from white to blue belt help decrease the level of drop outs.
In my eyes, the main reason for the blue belt drop out rate is ego. We all have this idea and internal vision of who we are, and most of the time this view is a bit skewed by our ego. Now, even though this is a normal human function that helps us get through life, it can and does cause a problem in BJJ. As a white belt, brand spanking new to the most effective fighting style on the planet, you are expected to get tapped out, gassed out and be mind blown by every new technique. But, once you have a blue belt tied around your waste, the expectation shifts to you being the one who is getting the tap outs against your training partners and being a true representative of the art with perfection as the goal. When that doesn’t happen according to plan, your ego really struggles with the idea that your internal image of oneself is not matching the reality, thus frustration, excuses and justifications for quitting start to emerge. When you are getting a dose of reality on a nightly basis on how others can defeat you, it becomes very hard to swallow and your mind naturally try’s to avoid these situations in life and on the mats. So the question is, would lengthening the time spent at white belt give the ego time to adjust and adapt to the art, so that when the obstacles at blue belt present themselves, the practioner will perceiver instead of fade away?
My honest opinion is no. By making the blue belt even harder to obtain, the core challenge with the ego will still be present and even more so because the achievement has been raised onto a higher pedestal.
The ego is one of life’s hardest challenges. It is our friend, but often our enemy in so many situations. Students of the art need to truly see that BJJ is a reflection of life, challenging and filled with accomplishments and defeats. The defeats needs to be met with grit, not deflation. When you can truly drop the preconceived ideas that nobody can beat you, nobody is better then you, this should be easy or that you will always win, then what your left with is humbleness, growth and an opportunity to better yourself in countless ways. Life can be hard and BJJ is part of the hard. Get over yourself and lets train!