The Higher the Belt, the Less You Train?
One day before training, another brown belt teammate and I were chatting with one of the newly promoted purple belts, congratulating him on his promotion. This purple belt is an older gentleman, who was super stoked about his promotion. He started joking about how now that he got promoted, he has an even bigger target on his back now that he’s a purple belt and an older guy, nonetheless. He then brought up how the 20-something-year-old colored belts have it so good because they have the energy to train every day and compete a lot…
The brown belt chimed in (he’s 38 and started training at age 30) and mentioned how at white and blue belt, he was training a lot – pretty much five times a week. At purple belt, he still would train a lot and compete here and there, but it was definitely not as much as five times per week like before. At brown belt, he’s trains and competes even less. The purple belt was surprised to hear this – as most think that as you progress through the belt ranks, the more you train.
The reality for most of us – especially those of us who started training Jiu-Jitsu after the age of 30 – is that when we start, we are TOTALLY GUNG HO about Jiu-Jitsu. We think about it all the time and we want to train ALL THE TIME. As white belts, we try to get as much mat time in as we can because we want to try to learn as much as we can as fast as we can. Add in some (or a lot of spaziness) with this new balls-to-the-wall attitude, along with the thrill and excitement of competition and impending stripe and/or belt promotion and you get… your first injuries. This could possibly be the start of many if you’re not paying attention to your body.
If you really think about it, most of our injuries have come at the white and blue belt levels when we’re training 4-6 times per week and absolutely obsessed with Jiu-Jitsu. Then comes the purple belt where we are still pretty obsessed with Jiu-Jitsu, but we’re now smarter about our training, old injuries and/or our limitations. At purple belt, we have crossed the half-way point where we’re in it for the long haul. There’s almost no turning back now, as the amount of blood, sweat, and tears we’ve put in would be a waste if we quit. Training at this point becomes about quality not quantity, with consistency. Injuries still happen, but less frequent than at white and blue belt.
Then comes the brown belt. I think there are different stages to the brown belt only because you are literally 4 stripes away from reaching your goal of becoming a black belt. The first stage feels like you’re back to being a white belt all over again where you’re super excited and more motivated than ever. You throw yourself into training more because you feel like you need to know more than you think since you’re that much closer to black belt. As time goes on, usually within a six-month span, this wears off and you realize that as you get closer to black belt, the scarier it gets and the slower you want to take it. This is not to say that you only train leisurely, but you don’t feel as pressured to train as much as you can during the week when you’re just not feeling it. At this point, you know you’re not going to lose any skills/technique if you take off from training.
Perhaps that as we move through the belts, we realize more and more that there is no rush to get to the next stripe or belt. As we put in our time, the promotions come. And with that realization comes the fact that sometimes Jiu-Jitsu isn’t the only thing going on in our lives and that it is important to stay present in the other areas in our lives. Jiu-Jitsu isn’t a race, especially for those of us who don’t have the luxury of training full-time.