White Belt Mindset

Since c*vid sucks and we were kept from our loved ones, friends, and hobbies we enjoy doing (like jiu jitsu), Gracie Barra Online offered their members free access to their online courses. If you couldn’t go to your gym mats, or if you didn’t own your own set of mats at home, then online videos were the next best thing.

While perusing the site, I stumbled upon a video from Braulio Estima – 4th Degree Black Belt in jiu jitsu (also former training partner of UFC star Georges St-Pierre) on some lessons he learned when he was a white belt that helped him throughout his jiu jitsu career.

Here is a transcript from the video that I took that I thought was a good way to approach having a positive mindset when it comes to being a white belt in jiu jitsu…

“I remember there was six months that I was new to the academy and had no clue how to fight, what was my objective, and what I was supposed to be doing right, and I remember that I end up all the time on the bottom. And that’s why I ended up having the closed guard as my safe zone where I could control my opponent without being surprised. Also my main game was going to the lapel chokes and for the arm bars, a technique that I am going to share with you guys today after this okay. So, but one lesson that I had that was very important lesson for me which was How to Deal with Expectations. You know I remember, there was a seminar coming and I was sure I was going to get my blue belt, I even bought a blue belt and put it in my backpack and left it in the sitting area. The seminar goes, and I don’t even remember what the seminar was about, I was thinking about was – the belt, the belt, the belt – and the seminar finishes, the professor closes the class, didn’t give no belt to nobody. I passed in front of him a few times just make sure maybe he forgot about me. Ignored, nothing happened. I go home, I cry, you know three days no training. And I realized that expectations just makes you open up doors to frustrations and for disappointment right. Since then I decided when I’m going to train, I’m going to train to be as good as I could ever be, do my best, not expecting no belt and when it’s time will be. And I blink my eyes I’m here black belt and with a very good lesson that I took for life as well.

I’ve gotten discouraged in this sport more that a few times. I’ve had injuries that kept me out for weeks. I’ve been choked and submitted in front of the head instructor while he was telling me how to not get choked and submitted. I’ve had to postpone my training due to the pandemic. But I’ve also had little wins, like my training partners telling me it was hard to pass my guard. Or having the head instructor praise a technique I demonstrated that I just learned. All of this combined has helped develop a positive healthy mindset towards my journey so far in jiu jitsu.

Will I keep getting hurt? Yes.
Will I miss time due to injury? I hope not but probably.
Will I keep getting choked and submitted? Yes.
Will I keep showing up regardless? Yes absolutley.

Since joining in October 2021, I’ve had to learn to temper my expectations and be realistic about my improvement in this sport. I have to slow down my movements and be present on the mat. White belts tend to be frantic and panicky. That will lead to injury and possibly quitting. And I want to be in this sport as long as I can, and you do too.

Give jiu jitsu a try. The snow is melting, the days are longer, and it’s getting warmer. Time to get out there and learn something new while challenging yourself. And what better way than to try and not be choked or have a limb broken by a sweaty stranger while rolling around with them!

See you on the mats, fellow white belt.

UPDATE, March 21: I found this cool website called BJJ Mental Models. After listening to a podcast episode with Brailio Estima as the guest, I checked out the website https://bjjmentalmodels.com

There is a section about having a beginners mindset. Here is a great list for white belts like me to remember and help keep our egos in check:

To cultivate a Beginner’s Mind, catch and prevent your self from:

-adding your two cents to a lesson if you’re not adding any value

-getting defensive or angry when someone criticizes your technique

-getting upset when you are dominated during sparring

-avoiding sparring partners because you think they’ll beat you

-feeling the need to explain or defend every decision when you make a mistake or receive feedback.

https://bjjmentalmodels.com/beginners-mind/

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