The Dangers of Promoting Students Too Quickly in BJJ

The Dangers of Promoting Students Too Quickly in BJJ

Students, how often have you made a friend in class only to lose them to insecurity once they get the blue belt?

Instructors, how often have you promoted a kid for the sake of following a system and knowing damn well the student hasn’t been behaving or paying attention in class?

In martial arts there is a fine line between having an organized system that doesn’t lose track of a student’s progress while at the same time not killing your reputation as an instructor by promoting those who aren’t ready.

Make no mistake about it… over promoting students kills your Jiu-Jitsu program.


Over promoting: time vs progression

First off let me make one thing clean, promoting is not all about how good a student is. Everyone finds self-improvement through martial arts in their own way.

If you have a student who starts training at 300 pounds and within 2 year is down to their ideal weight that is a significant lifestyle improvement.

That student is not only better equipped to defend themselves but has seen self improvement through discipline in your program.

Over promoting places an emphasis on the amount of time or classes a student has trained as opposed to their progression or impact.

Over promoting Students Kills Your Reputation

I have seen it time and time again. An instructor will promote a student they know is not worthy of promotion and this will go on and on until it comes down to give the higher belts and then instructor realizes they’ve made a mistake.

There is something to be said for having a system in place that assures you are able to keep track of student attendance and progress, but you have to be able to stick to your guns and hold a student that is not seeing progress.

I draw so many parallels between my life in martial arts and personal finance. I see the path to the black belt similar to the path to retirement.

“Buy and Hold” may be more affective than day trading but if I knew the market was going to get crushed I wouldn’t want to continue pumping money into a strategy that isn’t getting me anywhere. I would get to retirement without enough money to live on.

Likewise, as a practitioner I respected that there were times in my training that I wasn’t ready for a promotion. I needed to spend more time at that rank in order to continue developing and better appreciate the next level. The last thing I wanted is to become a black belt that couldn’t defend myself.

Over promoting in Jiu-Jitsu kills student retention

For those of you who have been training for a good amount of time, look around… How many people that started with you are still training?

Over Promoting Students Kills Your Jiu-Jitsu Program Sure, there are several reasons why your academy loses students but one of the leading reasons is a students insecurity about their progression and belt rank.

Look, I wish I could tell everyone that “it’s not about the belt” “just shut up and come to class” and I do :), but it’s not going to stop people from getting butt hurt about their rank.

We all go through this… and I can tell you from the experience that is much more satisfying to persevere through those droughts with that carrot dangling in front of you rather than being given the promotion without truly earning it.

Students: Follow the goals, not the belt

I feel the same way on the other side of the belt. When a student is going through a plateau I find it so much more gratifying to coach a student through improvement rather than handing them the lollipop they want.

I recently had a student come up to me saying that they felt bummed they weren’t progressing. I asked him two questions:

1. What part of training is giving you the most trouble?
Answer: “Anytime I’m on my back”

2. What is your goal when you show up to class?
Answer: “I guess I don’t have a goal other than ‘don’t get beat.'”

I told him about the story of when I was a blue belt. At blue, I was doing really well in competitions. I would win just about every match I competed in … as long as I didn’t get put in half guard.

Time and time again I would be at a higher level tournament and I’d get smashed and passed from half-guard.

Instead of promoting me based on the amount of time I was at blue belt my professor gave me a goal. “Pull half guard every single training session from now on.”

A year and a half later the half guard was my best position and I was sweeping just about anyone who got in it.

These are never-ending goals that every student should look forward to.

In your training, create for yourself goals that are independent of belt rank. The very best practitioners on the planet need to have goals in their training in order to fight plateau and continue to evolve and yo should too.

Next Level!

If you want to hear more of my nonsense, check out my free Ebook. I talk about how to build wealth in Jiu-Jitsu terms that any BJJ bum can understand.

Written by Brearin Land