I was recently promoted to 3-stripe white belt and this means, I am just a step away from becoming a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt.
I have been training at least three times a week for about 16 months right now, which means I need five months on average to earn a stripe on my white belt.
In case you are wondering why it takes so long for me being a white belt, I wrote here how belt promotions do not come easy in BJJ.
Basically, you cannot “buy” or “follow a fixed curriculum” to get a promotion. You have to earn your belt by proving your proficiency to deserve a promotion from your instructor. By the time you reach blue belt in BJJ, you are validated as street ready by your instructor. This means your instructor believes that you can handle yourself in a real street fight situation against most people regardless of their size and strength.
Not many people make it pass the first stripe on their white belts let alone making it to blue. So, getting 3 stripes was a very proud moment for me because it showed that I managed to survive this relentlessly tormenting yet fun BJJ journey so far.
My first three months of BJJ were the most tormenting and also the most eye opening. I was constantly being folded and torn apart on the mat by my training partners. During this period, I was also the smallest guy and the whitest white belt for months. There were some new people registered and took a trial class after I joined but none of them still trains until now.
I remember getting tapped dozens of times in two minutes and this happened all the time every rolling session. For me, personally, the feeling was not giving up but rather being confused. I had so many questions because it seemed that my partners always had counters to everything that I tried to do. After every roll, I asked a lot of questions to them, the coaches or my instructor on what I needed to do; why did that guy manage to armbar me despite I had kept my elbows closed; why the escape technique I just learned did not work and so on.
Up until I got my first stripe, I did not win a single round of rolling. I always tapped out multiple times and all I did was defending and surviving. If I tried any attack, that was when my partners countered and put me in submissions. It was during this time that I also attempted to participate in my first BJJ tournament. I wanted to check out how I fared against someone who was also a white belt.
My first opponent was a four-stripe white belt and he defeated me via armbar. However, I did score two points after sweeping him using a deep half guard technique and despite of the fact that I lost, those points against someone who had more experience than me gave me the confidence that this thing really, really worked.
It was during my first stripe that my gym had to move to a new place. The new location is located inside a mall gym, so there is more exposure. Some new people joined and I began to have partners that were less experienced so I could work on my attacks. But then again, most of these new people did not last long and I, again, spent most of my time as the least experienced student in class.
Nevertheless, I could really feel the benefit of rolling with higher belts on a regular basis. My defense improved a lot compared to when I started for the first time. I managed to survive several rounds without being submitted or smashed numerous times and when there was a new guy who tried to get physical with me during a roll, I managed to handle him with ease. I really felt the power of jiu jitsu during this period.
When I got my second stripe, I had identified more and more of my weaknesses and strength. I learned how to keep calm under pressure. I began to understand the concept of saving energy and how to find comfort amid chaos and stress. I also recorded my first submission on a higher belt during this period. The higher belts also increased their intensity when they rolled with me, which is good because it probably shows that they began to acknowledge that I had improved on both defense and attacks.
I also began playing more and more with the leg locks, something that I found to be very complex and risky when I first started because I did not like the idea of exposing my feet to my opponent. Nowadays, every time I have the chance, I always try to go for the leg lock. This new found love of leg locks also forced me to be more versatile in my game. The only guard I like to do when I was a one-stripe white belt was the half guard because it does not require a lot of flexibility but now, I need to develop the x-guard and the single x-guard game to get to my opponent’s legs.
Now, I am a three-stripe white belt. There are tons of more things to learn before I get to my blue belt. I still suck at takedowns. I pull guard all the time. My guard retention needs a lot of improvement against explosive guys. My control from a dominant position also needs more fine tuning. And so on. Hopefully, by the time I get my blue belt, I can fix on these issues and become a real legitimate street ready BJJ practitioner.
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