The Black Belt Blog – by Louis Barrios
***Quick announcement: The social event will be changed from October 22nd to at date yet to be set in November, so keep an eye on the next newsletter and for a Facebook Evite.***
Expectations at Evolution Mixed Martial Arts
One of the hardest mental hurdles to get over when training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), is how hard it can be to succeed. While this can be argued for many activities, I have found almost more than any sport, that there are no naturals when it comes to BJJ. Who succeeds, and who doesn’t often comes as a surprise to both the individual athlete and the coaches. A piece of this mental hurdle is something known as the Dunning-Krueger Effect. In short, it is the tendency to overestimate your abilities at a given task. The human brain has the tendency to trick itself into being competent at every activity, even if there is no evidence to suggest that you are capable of anything, Everyone who trains has to deal with this to some extent. When we come to realize that we are not awesome (generally after an instructor shows you the ropes), your brain begins to conclude that you are terrible………… except that your brain is lying to you.
One of the most important concepts I try to relay to new students, is setting appropriate expectations for yourself. It takes 3-6 months to learn enough BJJ basics to start putting it together. In other words, the only expectation I have for a new student when they first start training, is to show up and train. This is not the same as being terrible, as it is unfair to be graded on information you have never seen before. Progress in BJJ is slow and plodding, with many peaks, and more importantly, valleys.
One of ways I impress upon a student the time it takes to improve, I go over the belts and the effort needed to achieve those belts.
White Belt – the belt you receive when you first walk in the door. I have few expectation for white belts other than to take time to be a student, and don’t quit. Moving through white belt is kind of like studying real hard to get a GED (high school equivalency). It takes about a year of steady training to move through this belt.
Blue Belt – Awesome. You know have a GED, and that makes you an expert at……nothing really. This is one of the two large growing belts. My expectation for you as a blue belt, is that no matter what it is that you are doing, it looks like BJJ. I don’t expect you to win, or be awesome, or anything else. It often takes 2-4 years to progress through blue belt. In terms of time and effort, it is comparable to working toward you bachelor’s degree.
Purple Belt – You are now starting to separate yourself from the masses. This is the second of the two growing belts. I would venture to say that most people that begin to train, for whatever reason, do not make it to purple belt. As mentioned before, this is comparable to a bachelor’s degree. At this point in the game, while I do not expect expertise, I do expect good working knowledge and understanding of most positions. This belt level is the first belt level I would expect someone to be able to begin teaching. Most people are purple belt for 2-4 years.
Brown Belt – The master degree of BJJ. Like the master’s degree, the time and effort is similar. At this level I expect a level of expertise, and the ability to handle a variety of situations. I would expect that you could teach most students and most positions. Most people spend 1-3 years as a brown belt.
Black Belt – This is expert level. There is some irony to the phrase expert. To paraphrase an old coach of mine, “When I received my black belt, I was scared. I realized I didn’t know any Jiu Jitsu”. It is not unreasonable to take 10-14 years to progress this far (I nearly took 13). Using my college degree analogy, this is comparable to a doctorate level of education. Black belts begin to explore how vast technique really is. BJJ is endless.