Are you there God? It's Just Me, Waiting for My Next Jiu-Jitsu Belt...
Updated: Apr 6
Getting your next jiu-jitsu belt is a justification of your accomplishments and training paying off. It's a great feeling when your coach ties that belt around your waist just before he throws you or the rest of your gym beats you with their belts (as is the promotion tradition). I literally cried when I received my purple belt.
But sometimes, despite your best efforts, that promotion ceremony comes up and you're not called for your next belt. Going beyond that, maybe you're consistently training, thinking you're doing everything right, seeing the signs of that coming belt, and then it doesn't come when you think it will…
Are you there, God?: the jiu-jitsu version
If you don’t get the title reference to this article, it refers to “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Bloom. Every American girl read this book back in the 90s and early 2000s when we were growing up. I’m thinking I should read it again for the nostalgia. The book is about a girl who was a late bloomer in getting her period while watching all of her friends “become women” by getting theirs before. (I don’t get her rush... I’ll gladly go back to not having my period. Guess I just gotta wait for pregnancy or menopause).
The idea of Margaret feeling less than because of her friends and waiting for something to happen to her, is something that we’ve all experienced in some part of our lives: be it waiting to get on a team after practicing forever or waiting for that first kiss after all your friends have gotten theirs. In BJJ, when you see all your friends training and getting promoted, it makes you feel that you're not good at jiu-jitsu and it will be forever until you're promoted. You may even feel like your time was wasted in training and may want to quit.
Trying not to get jealous in the gym
I’m sure many people in the jiu-jitsu community have felt the same way when it comes to ranking up. You see your friend that maybe trains twice a week rank up and maybe you train every day and have been the same rank for a few months. This was me while waiting for my purple belt...
Obviously, there was a part of me that was anxious and wanted to get my purple belt 4 years before I got it. I’ve gone through 6 years as a blue belt and saw many of my friends in the US, China, and elsewhere rank up on their belts and it seemed like I stayed the same. I would roll with someone, make stupid mistakes, and think “Dang…. This is why I’m not a purple belt yet...”
I’d miss a class because of work or social stuff and then think to myself “This is one day less that I’m not working towards my purple belt and all the people training right now are going to surpass me…” It was getting so unhealthy in my mind where I was secretly unhappy for people who ranked up because they weren’t me.
I remember actually crying during a promotion ceremony in my bjj gym in Shanghai where many of my training partners got promoted. I sat there, feeling like an idiot because many people knew how long I've been training, the fact that I really wanted my purple belt, AND I was sitting there with tears rolling down my face.
A part of me still feels this way as I train and make my way towards my brown and eventually to my black belts. I miss days, I get injured, or just have a normal life outside of bjj and then start to believe I suck, and I will have another 6 years at the purple belt level. Then I think then I’ll be 85 by the time I receive my black belt. I was, and still am, the meanest person in my own head when it comes to my whole jiu-jitsu journey.
Taking your own steps on YOUR BJJ journey
What I constantly try to remember is that “My jiu-jitsu journey is my own” and when the time comes for me to get my next belt, it will be the right time. This is a mantra that I think every person who is anxious about getting that next belt or stripe should have when they start to think that they’re not improving while everyone else gets ranked. You know what work you put in. You know how much you train. Your own goals do not have to match the people around you. You really do need to just put blinders on when it comes to people around you and stay in your own lane on your bjj journey. Otherwise, your mindset will kill your desire to train.
In the same vein, you have to be realistic about the amount of time and effort you're putting in to align with your jiu-jitsu goals. Some people need more classes, drilling hours or even more videos to help them become better. It's just doing what you know will help and then continuing to do those same things over and over again.
Keep Training BJJ and Stay Positive
You'd be surprised how rewarding the things outside of a belt are when you keep training bjj. Your growth is obvious in ways that aren't defined by a belt color or a few stripes. I know that when I'm training, I noticed certain steps in my game that are as clear as ever that I couldn’t see before.
Also, because my coaches know that I want to improve and they want me to improve, they are always helpful in providing resources to help me up my game and make clear changes in my jiu-jitsu.
All in all, I know, and I hope that you know that your time is coming for you to get that next belt as long as you keep training and do what you can do to improve. If you feel like you’re hopeless in training and want to talk to someone, you can always message me at @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj on Instagram. I hope I can be a resource of comfort for you. Just keep training and everything will pay off, both on and off the bjj mats.