"The BJJ road to Black Belt has no obstacles."
No one. Ever.
In public speaking, they will always tell you: "Never ask the audience a question if you don't know what their answer to it will be." That's excellent advice and it can probably save you from needless embarrassment. It's tricky to find those questions in any subject, but more so in Jiu Jitsu, as we have all kinds of people on the mats. On any given day you will find nerds and jocks, conservatives and liberals, rich and poor, Black and White, and many more, all sharpening their swords together on the mats all around the world. Due to all that great diversity, it is virtually impossible to get a universal answer on almost anything. Unless you ask BJJ practitioners if the road to black belt is an easy one.
Then you will get a resounding "no!"
We all have stories to tell and they're not all injuries and back pain. In fact, I have met people who have had no injuries and claim to have no back pain at all. (Lucky bastards!) But even those few lucky ones will tell you about the constant threats to their training.
Here are a few reasons why people stay off the mats sometimes:
Family: This one can mean many things. From aging parents to getting pregnant, there are lots of variables here, but the good thing about it is that many times you can see it coming, and if you don't, you at least know it's a possibility.
Money: This one is funny because the way we spend our money speaks volumes about what our real priorities actually are. Some of us totally have the ability to sign that 12-month contract and even pay in advance, but choose to not commit and live month by month. While that can work out, many times it doesn't. If a rainy day comes and trust me, they will, BJJ is one of the first things to go.
Injuries: Last week's post was wholly dedicated to this one.
Blue Belt: What in the world happens when we get our blue belts? Why do so many of us go MIA? They may have perfect attendance throughout their entire white belt. Once they get promoted, they're like socks in the dryer: They disappear, never to be seen again. The Blue belt curse is real, folks! Again, predictable one.
Schools should, and some do, have a methodology and plan that include a heavy focus on preventing the massive Blue Belt exodus. We as practitioners, especially higher ranked ones should always be ready to encourage them to stay in the game once they get promoted. I really believe prevention is the name of the game here.
Work and career: This is the one where we have to do some heavy adulting because, in the end, it's all about choices. Sometimes it might be out of your control, but most times a little (or not so little) adjustment can do the trick. Maybe you can say "no" to that transfer to Middle of nowhere, ____________ (Insert the name of the state you pick on the most here). Maybe you don't need the extra money that comes with that promotion that will put an end to your rolls forever. In case you're wondering, yes! I do believe 49K a year with Jiu Jitsu beats the crap out of 76K without it. If that's viable for you, that is. Much more to be said here but the bottom line is that many times, we have control over what we think we don't. It comes down to making choices and it is OK to make unconventional ones in order to stay on the mats if that's what makes you happy.
Health: I believe this one is our most important asset. Without it, there is no Jiu Jitsu. So it might actually be a wise decision to take a break to take care of our bodies so we can come back even stronger.
The sad reality is that quitting Jiu Jitsu, permanently or temporarily, is a thing and none of us is immune to it. Knowing the enemy makes it easier to recognize it when it comes after you. Why not have a surprise ready when it does? Planning and being proactive. That's probably the most efficient way to overcome the obstacles on the road.
How do you plan and prepare for the bumps on your Jiu Jitsu road?