I’ve often found that a lot of white belts get discouraged, because it seems to them to be too hard to advance at BJJ. This can be especially true if they tend to spend time grappling higher belts – and if this is not carefully handled in the particular gym that they are going to, these frustrations can build up and lead to white belts and even blue belts abandoning BJJ rather than pushing onwards to the higher rankings.
So let me suggest an excellent system to advance in BJJ smoothly and with reasonable effort.
The first thing to remember is that you mustn’t set your goals too high.
BJJ is a complex sports form and cannot be learned in a day. Understanding this is the core of improvement.
Show excellence in the smaller things.
This is a core principle not only of BJJ, but also of the martial arts in general. Who shows excellent in small ways will one day show the same excellence in great and important ways.
This means that when you learn a technique, you must focus on mastering it in all its different variations and possible applications. Experiment with the technique, see how it can be applied both by you and against you, see what you can do to counter it.
Absorb each technique completely.
Do not become discouraged if you’re unable to apply it properly a few initial times, as some of the techniques of BJJ, even the initial ones, can be quite complex and difficult to apply correctly and effectively.
As you learn the mechanics of different techniques, you will find that learning a new technique becomes easier, as you’ve built on a base of prior knowledge.
Experiment with each techniques that your instructor teaches you in its way, without thinking of a distant goal, such as winning a major championship.
Instead, focus on excellence in the present moment.
Do what you’re doing at this present moment in the gym as perfectly as you can, even if that is not particularly exemplary, and in time, as each technique that you learn improves, you will find that your game improves as well.
The same thing applies to rolling on the mat.
As you roll with either an equal or senior belt, take the time to learn at every single movement that you spend on the mat. When you practice with equals, learn to focus upon what actually works and equally well upon why it works.
If you’re rolling with a higher belt, you need to focus upon which of your techniques are successful with the higher belt, and which are not.
Then you need to explore why a technique you’re trying to apply is not working on the higher belt.
Don’t be afraid to ask the higher belt for advice as to why a particular technique you’re applying is not working. It might be just a single technique that’s not working, but you need to focus upon getting it to work – if necessary, with the advice of your senior grappling partner.
Similarly, you may wonder how a senior belt is getting past your guard and submitting you. Don’t be afraid to focus upon just how this is occurring and what you can do to prevent it, and by all means ask the advice of the higher belt until you can manage to guard against his or her attacks.
It’s these simple things that will enable you to progress through the higher belts in BJJ effectively over the years.
As you become more and more experienced, of course, the number of people who can possibly teach you and help you to learn will become fewer in number, but you still need to seek those people out and keep learning all through your journey through BJJ, because this cycle of infinite learning is really the essence of any warrior form.