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Black Belt Training Secrets for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

What makes a black belt a black belt?


Are they born different from other belts? Or do they do something differently from others?


The journey to black belt in BJJ is a long one, and if you hope to get there, you will need all the help you can get.


Here are a few common traits that black belts have.


Everyone’s made from the same cloth

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What one man can do, another man can do. These two sayings capture what many people thought on their first day of Jiu Jitsu. You come into the gym all confident in whatever martial arts skills you have and bam, you get submitted all day long.


And then a thought appears: wait a minute, if I stay here and keep training, I will eventually be able to do that! There’s where the BJJ fascination of many people comes from.


Not everyone can play basketball. If you’re 5’8’’, you’re just not suited for the sport. Not everyone can be a champion swimmer, or a sprinter, or a weightlifter.


But everyone can train and excel in martial arts. No matter your gender, age, height and weight, there’s a style that works for everyone. You just have to come to class and find it. Or rather, have it find you.


Black Belt Consistency 🙂


If there’s any crucial point we have to address, it’s this one. If you get this one right, the rest generally tend to sort themselves out.


The journey to black belt is a long one. It can take 5, 10 or even more years. 5 and under would be considered extremely fast and one who would accomplish that would be called a prodigy. In fact BJ Penn, a famous UFC fighter, got his nickname – The Prodigy – for exactly that reason. 10 is more common.


But here comes the kicker: those years were spent on the mat, for a few hours each week at least. Maybe you can take a week off here or there, or sometimes, even a longer hiatus. But if you want to get better, you’ll have to keep coming back.


Going all out in one single week, training twice a day is not the answer. You likely can’t sustain that level of training and it would only result in sickness or injury. One full week of training is meaningless if it causes you to miss the next three.


It is much better to go to class three times per week, but make it a habit and go every week, month after month. The overall feel of Jiu Jitsu is not something that can be forced: you have to uncover it, piece by piece. Rushing the process can sometimes be alike to trying to bake bread faster. You only end up burning it.


I always like to say, “It’s not IF you’re going to get your Black Belt, it’s WHEN”. If you’re consistent the “when” will always happen so stick with it.

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Attention to detail


Every technique in Jiu Jitsu is a world of its own.


In order for it to work against a resisting opponent, it has to be studied and practiced. If you’re just going through the motions is not enough: you have to understand the intention behind those moves, the rationale for why it is applied when it is and its place in the larger context.


That requires a great degree of attention and focus. If you’re able to pick things up by seeing them, that is great and it will help you learn faster. But it isn’t a substitute for studying the technique.


Like Bruce Lee said:


“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.

After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.

Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”


Bruce Lee is saying that the step from the second to the third stage is achieved by you studying the technique and making it your own.


There are no rules on how you should do this, and giving them would be counterproductive. The only rule is that you should do it – however you choose to go about it.


Become a “lifer”


I think that going into training with the explicit goal of getting a black belt is the wrong way to do it. Let me explain.


When you start out doing something, you first have to figure out if you like it. You may, or you may end up hating it. And if it’s the second, you won’t last long enough to get to the black belt anyway.


If you are just recently new to Jiu Jitsu, feel free to explore and make it fun. Getting all serious about your training can be a recipe for a short career. If you set your sights on a faraway goal, chances are that you will burn out before you get there.


Instead, make it a goal to attend every practice and to bring your full attention to every single one of them. That is how you become good.


Then, if you like BJJ, set a goal for the blue belt. And the next one. And the next one. But always remember why you stayed in the first place.


If you make it to black belt, chances are that you will keep doing this for life and that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will have become a part of it.


That is one of the beautiful things about the art: you can continues to practice it long into your golden years (and it’s never too late to start).


If you opened this blog post with the hopes of learning an actual secret, I’m sorry; but there are none. There’s just blood, sweat and tears, but Jiu Jitsu will give you much more than it takes, that I can promise.

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