Unwritten & Unspoken
There are a lot of grey areas in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is to be expected. Every combative discipline, based upon reality, has a level of vagueness to it. There are endless unwritten and unspoken segments of the Gentle Art.
WHY does this happen?
Unpredictability. In combat, in reality, in a fight; you can anticipate, you can strategize, but there is ALWAYS a level of unpredictability. The answer to solving this problem -- TIME & EXPERIENCE. Over time and through experience, you will train the circuits in your brain to fire reactions quicker and you will learn the deep complexities of the art. Eventually, the deepest complexities will make the simplest sense. That is called MASTERY.
This is why traditional belt tests are so difficult to administer in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Your understanding of the art comes through practice, struggle, failure, and development of muscle memory. How can you test that? This is a MAJOR problem. So often, students quit due to frustration. When really, they are exactly where they NEED to be, they just don't understand what they should know, feel, or improve upon.
White Belt a.k.a.Elementary School
What you can expect...
In the beginning, expect a tsunami of confusion. Expect to feel as if you walked into another realm of reality or another planet. Expect a feeling of excitement, unlike ANYTHING you have felt before. Improving yourself and gaining knowledge, is one of the NUMBER ONE things you can do to prolong your life and become fulfilled with happiness.
What you struggle with...
You might feel like you aren't getting any better and wonder why you can't make anything work! What's interesting about this--if it were anything else, you would chalk up your frustration to inexperience and the fact that you are a beginner. The problem is, Jiu-Jitsu digs deep into your ego and chokes you into humility. Humility is one of the HARDEST things to develop. Everything in you fights against it. You have YEARS of pride built up and maybe a false sense of personal abilities, insecurities, etc. Most of us start Jiu-Jitsu in adulthood, riddled with bad habits, and some tough life lessons from our past. Then...Jiu-Jitsu reinvents you. White Belt is elementary school. You are just learning the alphabet, then making sentences, pretty soon you will be off into middle school, where you can start to roam a little more free. It is hard for a person to be a beginner. But it is something that will humble you and keep you engaged with life forever.
Ideas to improve...
The two most important parts of your white belt experience:
This means you should be, drilling, watching, studying, asking questions, and finding and developing minor patterns. Jiu-Jitsu is human chess right? Physical training and rolling will be more important later. So white belt is about learning what the game is, figuring out what the pieces are and how they move, and getting to a point, (As Chris Haeuter says) where you can sit down and play a game.
Blue Belt a.k.a Middle School
What you can expect...
Your biggest feeling of gratification yet. After hundreds of classes and countless car rides home, wondering what the hell you just did, it is starting to make sense. Then, just as it is starting to make sense, you start to feel like you are going backwards. A sudden re-emergence of your ego comes back with your new found skill. Only to be crushed again. (It never wins, tap out).
What you struggle with...
White Belt is over. You have a decent grasp on what this Jiu-Jitsu stuff is. Now, your performance is being more and more evaluated. The teachers and teachers aides that you had in elementary school (White Belt), aren't there 24/7anymore. You have to start doing your own work and will be dealing with tougher material. Blue Belt seems like forever and there might even be some Blue Belt bullies who are closing in on Purple. Sometimes it feel like things are getting worse, and then you realize-- your partners were just getting better -- like you. You feel a sense of uncertainty and increased pressure. You might miss that white belt. It was nice, because of the lower expectations lack of pressure. Now it's time to perform!
Ideas to improve...
Focus on three main areas to accelerate your progression.
Purple Belt a.k.a High School
What you can expect...
Hey, you survived! At this point, you are most likely a lifer. You aren't going anywhere and you are actually, quite advanced. You have your own flow on the mat and have developed your own "style". You can expect to have some pretty exciting things happen on the mat. A lot of Purple Belts, finally "catch" a Brown or Black Belt. Don't lie, you know it's exciting. But, like high schoolers, you might think you know it all, and might have someone more experienced put you in your place. You know a lot, but the experience is still missing.
What you will struggle with...
At first, like all belts. Growing pains. As the belt is being tied on, you are whispering to yourself, do I deserve this. You definitely do. It's a simple equation, you have people at the same belt rank who might be 2-5 years ahead of you, it's a big gap. You will grow into it. As I talked about in a previous blog, you are dealing with some un-teachable aspects of Jiu-Jitsu. Namely, transitions, anticipation, and sensitivity. Only experience develops those attributes. Higher belts transition a bit quicker. They have more experience, so they anticipate the road ahead. They have a six sense, and can FEEL the fight better than you. This comes with time sand this is why ROLLING is so important at this belt. Various types of rolling.
Ideas to improve...
Click the button below to read an entire article dedicated to improving at this rank!
Brown Belt a.k.a College
What to expect...
Two kinds of PRESSURE.
Those damn Black Belts are still kicking your butt and even some of the Purple Belts are doing well against you. Well, if tapping, getting swept, and taken down, is a sign of not deserving a rank, then ALL of us, should go hand our belt back. Brown Belt is undergraduate and graduate school rolled into one. You are cramming the final pieces of information in and you are preparing to enter the workforce and will be let loose. Don't waste your time at this Belt. The last thing you would want to have happen is, you get your Black Belt and don't know what to do with it.
Ideas to improve...
Focus on using pressure. I don't necessarily mean, body weight pressure. Use pressure to induce panic. How? Real pressure in Jiu-Jitsu, will make your opponent open up quickly, in ways they usually won't. This pressure, is caused by the threat of offense. When you are advancing position, working a submission, or unbalancing your opponent for a sweep, they HAVE TO react. If they don't, they will lose. When imminent damage is unavoidable for them, they will panic. They will do whatever it take to survive or they will fail and they will NOT survive. Pressure your opponents. Make them always uncomfortable and unsure of what "could" happen. Click below to read more about this belt.
There is so much more to be said about each belt, There is so much to be discovered and put into language. That's what give the art it's beauty. It's infinite and perspective is something that everyone has to themselves and eventually, through mastery, will share with those around them!
Minimalism is a lifestyle concept that teaches you how to do more with less. It helps you strategize how to remove materialistic and unimportant objects that don't provide value to your life.
Minimalism gives you a taste of freedom. Less decisions, less junk, more value, and more action. I am fascinated by this concept and try to implicate it in my life and into my training. However, it wasn't always this way.
I was fortunate to begin training Jiu-Jitsu at an early age. I can remember sitting in my 6th grade class, with a notebook, and jotting down notes on Jiu-Jitsu. I would write down techniques, make up mind maps, list all of my setups, whatever came to mind.
Nearly two decades later, I reflect back on how I MINIMIZED those cluttered and chaotic scribbles from a LARGE notebook, to ONE page. It took me awhile and took a deep understanding of the art. It took a lot of effort and intense, honest reflection, to analyze what's needed for success.
Jiu-Jitsu at it's core, is minimalist. The art centers around the concept of, "maximum efficiency - minimal effort". Humans, as like everything else, have complicated it. With 24/7 access to BJJ information, we can't get enough. We are satisfied by a gluttonous, craving of "more". But more is not always better and more is rarely necessary.
STEP ONE: Analyze the elements.
The elements of Jiu-Jitsu are the molecules and cells of each technique. They are the inner workings. Base, leverage, weight distribution, timing, angles, etc. These elements are the foundation for the techniques we learn. They are what's behind the magic and invincibility of the art.
The problem we face; we forget this and we don't have to work hard to figure anything out anymore. What used to be hours on the mat and brainstorming with teammates is traded for Google and YouTube.
I have a way to help focus on this. I call it the "Pyramid of Execution". This is a pyramid that is made up of THREE layers.
As you pursue Jiu-Jitsu mastery, your partners begin to defend your initial, "basic" attacks. When this happens, you have TWO directions to go.
Number ONE, is why some people frequently struggle with executing basic techniques. They search for other moves and collecttechniques, while neglecting the most important elements of the moves they know.
Number TWO, is why people like Rickson Gracie, Roger Gracie, and even other athletes, like Michael Jordan, or Dan Gable dominate their craft with simple form. They aren't "one in a million", like people think. They are enlightened beings who realized they should develop and fix what they know, instead of reinventing the wheel. The valued simplicity.
When a move fails you, revert back to WHY, analyze the elements, instead of looking for another move. If you exhaust the elements, now it might be time to try something else.
Did the "basic" arm bar not work, simply because of your opppknents defense? Or, was it because you had poor timing, poor angles, poor base, etc.
Treat every "basic" technique like it's the MOST VALUABLE THING YOU OWN and you will never abandon it. They aren't basic moves, they are THE MOVES. One day, you will have Black Belt eyes and the "basics" will be seen like never before. You will abandon the flare for the functional.
STEP TWO: Remove steps
In your training, ALWAYS remember the following...Every step within a technique has a counter. If you have a move with 6 steps, your opponent, has 6 chances to counter.
Teaching kid's classes for the last 11 years forced me to strip down the techniques in Jiu-Jitsu to the bare minimum. Originally, I thought it might create a less effective form of the technique. What I quickly realized was, fewer steps, meant fewer counters, and WAY LESS complication.
Try this exercise: Pick three of your best techniques. Maybe a triangle, half guard sweep, arm bar from mount. Anything you want. Teach them to someone. How many steps did it take you for each one?
After this awakening, declutter the move. Remove the waste and junk. Keep what you need and what is necessary. This will leave your opponent with few options to counter and shorten your path to victory.
STEP THREE: Find concepts in the chaos.
How many techniques do you know. Hundreds maybe? Here is the truth, you don't and won't use all of them. Your brain and body do not have the muscle memory for all of them.
If you really want to enter the majestic realm of Black Belt, you will need to get a firm grasp on the concepts. You will have to condense and organize all those techniques, to have better control and not be forced to react to 20 different things.
Anticipation is mastery. Black Belts can anticipate and don't need to react as much. Why? Concepts. While you are figuring out how to get there, they already know the road and are waiting for you with a friendly choke!
Find two ways to block twenty things.
Find four takedowns, that can be done from one position.
One concept can be stronger than 50 techniques.
When you understand Jiu-Jitsu concepts, you will be able to sit in a neutral zone where you can roll swiftly through a FEW necessary moves. You won't be lost in a position trying to remember what you know.
When passing open guard, never let your opponent put the soles of their feet against you.
As you are passing and they try to, remove the foot and keep progressing.
This idea, this concept, will allow you to move freely and flow with your opponents movements. Your opponent has freedom of movement. If you focus individually on executing 20 different guard passes, you will hit a wall. Focus on NOT letting the "dirty feet" (That is what Rickson Gracie callsthis drill/concept) touch you, and you will have most likely passed guard with something not even categorized as technique.
I know dozens of guard passes and use four. Not by choice or preference. I reverse engineered the position and only do what I need to do. Your brain will slow, your speed will go, and your strength will die. Technique is invincible.
SIMPLIFY, MINIMIZE, and ORGANZIZE your Jiu-Jitsu. Don't over complicate it. When you can accomplish something as intricate as Jiu-Jitsu in a simple way...That is ART.