It took me over 10 years to get my black belt in Jiu Jitsu. During that time, I learned a lot of lessons. In the hopes that it will help some of you on your journey, here is some advice I wish I had been given when I was a white belt:
Consistency is Key
Prioritize consistent training over hard training. I would rather see you roll 4-5 days a week consistently, than 1-2 hard days. The problem with rolling hard every class is that the next day, you are beat up and exhausted, with little to no motivation to go back and train. If you do go back and train, you get run down and your motivation starts to take a hit. Instead of this approach, train consistently, without the pressure of training hard every day. Some days you should just drill, other days roll only with lower belts, other days roll lightly as best you can. Whatever you need to do to continue showing up multiple times a week and stay consistent.
Get Involved and Stay Committed to Other Arts
Do not quit the other arts. I trained judo, wrestling, and striking briefly when I was a white belt. My advice to myself then would be to keep up with these arts and incorporate them into my training. Whether that means once a week, once a month, or once every couple of months, I know that it would have significantly improved my jiu jitsu journey. If anything, I would have also been a black belt in judo by this time. Whether that means wrestling clubs at schools or in the community, anything you can do to get involved. If a competition is available in these arts, even better! Do it.
Create Healthy Diet and Recovery Habits
Habits take a long time to build, and I wish I had started prioritizing a healthy diet and lifestyle when I was a white belt. When you are young, you can get away with eating any food you want or getting little sleep, and showing up the next day ready to train. As you make your way to black belt, the years inevitably tick away. Getting older means you need to be watching what you are eating and your lifestyle habits. My advice would be to create habits now that will benefit your older (black belt) self in the future.
Do Not Stop Lifting Weights
A stronger version of you is a better version of you. Lifting weights improves jiu jitsu and also prevents injury in jiu jitsu, which means you can be more consistent. I lifted weights during the early years of my jiu jitsu career, but stopped on and off throughout the decade. My advice would be to keep lifting, and consider it a part of your training. It will benefit you in the future.
Learn How to Study Jiu Jitsu
It’s boring, and no one wants to sit in front of a computer when they can actually roll with friends, but it has to be done. Studying jiu jitsu online is one of the best ways to improve quickly and develop a greater understanding of how and why jiu jitsu works. Like the healthy diet and lifestyle, my advice would be to start learning how to study jiu jitsu as a white belt. Push yourself to incorporate this into your routine. I would tell myself that it is helpful and worth the time.
Travel When Possible to Learn from Others
I traveled a lot to compete, but sometimes I wish I had used those resources to go to seminars of world class black belts and learn different styles. Of course you learn a lot from tournaments, but every now and then, choose a seminar over a tournament to get a taste of different styles and improve your game outside of your home gym’s instruction.
Jiu Jitsu Can Be Your Career
For almost the entire decade that I trained, I was told by family members and friends that jiu jitsu was just a hobby, a past-time. I was told that I needed to focus on my career. I am proud of myself for going to university and getting my undergraduate and masters, but I wish I had been told that jiu jitsu could be more than a hobby. I always believed it for myself, but it was hard to stay motivated with outside pressure pushing me to be “successful” in society’s eyes. For a while, I was in denial of following my path. I would tell myself as a white belt that it is okay to commit to jiu jitsu. Don’t hold yourself back because of what other people expect or want from you. If you know it’s your path, then follow it.
Most of all, enjoy the journey. I hope that this advice is helpful. I would love to hear what advice you would tell yourself as a white belt, or even just as your younger self. Let me know in the comments on Instagram and Facebook.