The Black Belt Plateau
Yes, you read that right, black belts do have plateaus. For lower belts, it’s hard to believe that anyone at the black belt could encounter a plateau, let alone get bored with Jiu-Jitsu. But it happens… and more then we seem to realize.
I’ve started to notice this with a number of newer black belts – some who doesn’t do Jiu-Jitsu full time and some that own their own academies. Lately the ones who train recreationally haven’t been going to class as much, or they only show up to open mat to spar. They are starting to find more interest in other activities or sports… and have openly admitted that they are bored. For the ones that own their own academy, their plateau is illustrated by the monotony of the same techniques/drilling and the lack of training in class with their students.
I asked one of my black belt (2 stripe) friends if this is normal and his response definitely made a lot of sense and helped put things into perspective:
I felt that lots of times. When I first got my black belt it was like I had graduated school and had no direction. Didn’t want to compete so much anymore so I felt I needed a new direction. That’s when I started my own school. It kept me excited because I was now spreading Jiu-Jitsu and learning to run a business. Sometimes now when I get bored I work on a whole new game like lapel guard or some funky new guard going around. I also threw myself into no-gi and that whole Ashi Garami leg lock stuff because it got me excited again. After 24 years, it’s hard to stay excited but the alternative to walking away would kill me.
My friend is totally right. Getting your black belt is like graduating from college. You just spent a good amount of time in school (from elementary to high school to college). Sometimes you find your niche before graduation (competing, opening a school) and sometimes you don’t and often feel lost when you accomplish something that you’ve worked so hard (and long) for. In between those different stages of school, we go through periods of not liking certain classes, skipping school, etc… much like in Jiu-Jitsu.
So, plateaus – whether you are a white belt or a black belt, is completely normal. Taking breaks are good, but walking away completely is pretty much impossible. The way in which we deal with plateaus and boredom differs by each person, but as long as we know the mats will always be there is what will always bring us back to them.