Don’t Quit: Beating the BJJ Blue Belt Blues

Achieving a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu is an important milestone. At the belt promotion ceremony, there are often tears and high fives among classmates who reach the achievement together.  

Yet, a few weeks later, you may be surprised to look around the gym and wonder where all the newly minted blue belts have gone. 

The reality is that they have dropped out. The BJJ Blue Belt Blues have claimed another victim.

Blue Belts know jiu jitsu is tough. Most take a couple of years to achieve their rank. Why then do they suddenly quit after all that hard work? 

The BJJ Blue Belt Blues

Many blue belts feel they do not deserve their rank once they achieve it. They suffer from a form of imposter syndrome. From their perspective, they believe that they lack(ed) the skill necessary to achieve the rank. They also fear that lower belts will eventually expose a skill gap. 

They might be asking: “Now that I have a blue belt? Am I truly a blue belt?” 

As white belts, they were once happy to hunt blue belts to improve their skills and perhaps get a rare tap. Now, as newly minted blue belts, they find themselves hunted by white belts.

While blue belts should typically be the “hunters,” it might seem like they, in fact, are the hunted.

Why do people quit at blue belt?

The blue belt takes time to achieve. In many ways, earning a blue belt can feel like earning a black belt. The blue belt can feel like a lifetime of work in and of itself.  

The belts in jiu jitsu each have their unique characteristics.  Although a blue belt is not the terminal belt, it sure can feel like it.  

After grinding it out for so long to obtain the belt, it is hard to find the motivation to keep going.

Some blue belts quit because they feel they have accomplished what they wanted with jiu-jitsu. For instance, it’s likely that a blue belt can handle a street fight situation with an untrained fighter. That may be all the person wanted to do after a few years of training. 

Beyond the blue belt, the training is (essentially) more specialized, expert-level training.

Blues belts often display a fear of comparison of others. This problem is not unique to just blue belts. However, the issue is first pronounced at this rank because its the time in your jiujitsu journey when expectations about your level and depth of knowledge are manifest.

In addition to these reasons, there are more general reasons why people quit Brazilian jiu-jitsu. 

How to keep training at Blue Belt

The secret to not quitting at the blue belt is to keep training.  All it takes is a little effort to beat the BJJ blue belt blues. 

Even when you feel like you are getting worse, you are actually getting better. It takes time for your body and mind to assimilate techniques and improve. With consistent practice, progress will come. 

Do not compare your progress to that of other students. Ask your instructor to help you focus on your problem areas.

Understand that the blue belt blues are “normal” but that, ultimately, it’s all in your mind.

ANSWERS TO COMMON BJJ BLUE BELT PROBLEMS

Blue Belt IssueSolution
Stagnant growthChange your gameplan when rolling
Believe you will not improve/hit a plateauStop. Keep training
BJJ is getting boringTry something new (seminar, competition, subgame)
Self Esteem (I don’t deserve the belt)Don’t compare yourself and trust your professor
EgoRemember that everyone taps (even Helio)
MotivationSet micro-goals you can achieve. 
InjuryRehab properly. Visit the gym even while off.
Busy / Time CommitmentFind a different class time or training partner. 

Remember a black belt is a white belt (and blue belt) who did not quit. 

Understanding Why People Quit Jiu-Jitsu

There are a few common reasons that people stop practicing jiu jitsu. These include:

JiuJitsu is too hard

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons people quit jiu jitsu is because it is hard. With all the physical rolling and sparring, plus injuries, BJJ is not exactly the easiest thing you will do in your life. Progress in jiu jitsu takes time and hard work. It’s difficult to see progressions and promotions come slow. 

Success in jiu jitsu comes through repeated defeat. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to see why you should keep showing up if you keep having to tap to a submission.

Family/Time Commitments

There is life outside of jiu jitsu. For those with families, life is overstretched as it is. JiuJitsu just may not be a priority for some people. Obligations for work or family take precedent.

In truth, giving up jiu jitsu may be a good thing if it is preventing you from tackling the more important things in life.  Just know that JiuJitsu will always be there and it is never too late to come back. 

Loss of Interest in BJJ

The energy or exciting BJJ it once provided might no longer be present. According to a survey conducted by BJJsurveys.com, “‘having fun’ most commonly rated as the most important motivation for training” among BJJ players. 

Yet, if BJJ ceases to be fun, then what is the point of continuing?

Most athletes are not training for the world championships or rely on BJJ as a source of income. 

The loss of interest can be caused or compounded by a gym’s poor morale or the dropout of friends. 

Or, you may never have connected with the people at your gym in the first place in which case there is little tying you there to keep training. 

If it’s just not fun anymore, one can’t be expected to stay around.

Injuries

Injuries are prevalent in BJJ. Hand and finger injuries are extremely common in jiu jitsu. Likewise, skin rashes are also a frequent issue.

None of this is fun.

Major injuries can permanently end one’s jiujitsu career. Injury prevention and rehabilitation is key to a long jiujitsu career.

Jiu Jitsu is Expensive

In the United States and elsewhere, Jiu Jitsu tends to be on the more expensive side compared to other hobbies. Some might even call BJJ a “rich man’s sport.” 

The monthly training costs typically will exceed a local gym membership. It may not be the most economical way to get in shape and stay fit. BJJ can burn a hole in your pocket if you are not careful if you include seminars and competition. 

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