At most academies, BJJ promotions can be few and far between. Whether it is a stripe or a new belt, chances are you’ve put in a lot of work before you are considered for or rewarded with a promotion. It can take upwards of a decade or more to achieve your black belt and with only three belt colors between white and black, promotions are hard won and relatively rare.
You’ve been training hard for so long, you begin to get tempted to perhaps take some time off. Or perhaps after getting that blue or purple belt, you start to believe your own hype a little bit and forget what it was like to be a new student and make mistakes, so you decide to begin fixing everyone else’s.
Tom DeBlass was himself recently awarded his third degree on his black belt from his instructor, Ricardo Almeida who Tom has studied with since he was a white belt. With over 400 students at his home academy and many, many more at his over 10 affiliates in the states and abroad, Tom has overseen a number of promotions. The question we wanted to ask Tom was, what are some things that students do after receiving stripe promotions or more importantly belt promotions, that drive him crazy. What pet peeves does he have about after promotion behavior?
Two things immediately came to mind for DeBlass and he shared them with us. Hopefully, these are NOT things you will do the next time you earn a promotion.
“Students that stop training after promotions drive me crazy.”
You have just spent weeks, months, or even years working towards the promotion you just received. Your instructor is rewarding not only your skill, but also your perseverance, dedication, and willingness to make sacrifices for your jiu jitsu. Why in the world would you want to walk away and “take a break” or even simply decrease your training regimen.
If anything, implicit in any promotion is a hope that your inner fire and drive is sparked and burns even more intensely. Moving up the ranks in the color belts opens up the door to new challenges, obstacles and things to learn. This is no time to take time off. It’s great to celebrate and reflect on what you’ve achieved, but there is literally no reason, outside of injury that should keep you from training or being a part of your academy.
As you move up the ranks, your instructor also will begin to rely on you more and more to set the example in your academy. What is the message we send if we get promoted and take a month off, just because? The old saying, “A black belt is a white belt who didn’t quit” doesn’t allow for a month off every time we get promoted.
“Students who ‘coach’ other students during live training once they get promoted also drives me crazy.”
For DeBlass, there are few things as sacred as live training. This is the time for students to use their knowledge, skill, and heart to get through the rounds. He sees a tendency for a student with some experience to want to “share” that experience during actual live rolls. Though on the surface it appears that the senior student is helping educate or inform the lesser experienced student a number of things occur during this process.
First, the senior student is robbing themselves of the opportunity to push themselves outside of their own comfort zones. They are also creating an environment where the lesser experienced student is not being pushed as realistically as they can be. Therefore, neither student is gaining that necessary gut check that live training can provide.
The time for coaching and discussing things comes after the round. At that time, the senior student can provide some feedback and/or address any questions that the newer student may have. This keeps the live training pure and free of any distraction, no matter how informative they seem.
It’s natural to feel like you know a little more than you did before your promotion and it’s great that you are beginning to share what you know, but you must also not become full of yourself and your newfound belt’s supposed knowledge level. Show your knowledge during the live training and help when you can, but don’t stop the live roll to pontificate.
Earning a promotion is an amazing time for any jiu jitsu student, but at the end of the day, we must always keep our perspective. Studying and training BJJ involves many, many hours and the new belt promotion is a covenant between you, your instructor and the martial art itself and is on a really basic level a celebration of your dedication and willingness to never stop. Taking time off or decreasing the amount of time that you normally train because of the promotion, runs counter to everything your instructor just conferred upon you.
And while it’s important to begin seeing yourself as an advocate of jiu jitsu and helping others as you move up the ranks, it’s also important to challenge yourself and keep your coaching and instruction for after live training rounds. Anything you have to say can wait for the 5 or 6 minutes of the round and the student may learn the lesson you’re trying to instill in them during the round, without a word ever spoken about it. Sometimes those can be the best lessons we ever learn.
Now that you’ve heard a little of the BJJ philosophy that has kept Tom and students like Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan at the top of the competitive food chain, you will want to take a look at Tom DeBlass’ best selling “Half Domination” 4 volume BJJ instructional. In this classic, Tom shares all of the secrets of top and bottom half guard that have made his guard one of the hardest guards onthe planet to pass.