Jiu-jitsu: The Road To Blue Belt

My white belt for jiu-jitsu

My white belt for jiu-jitsu

Wondering how long it will take you to get a blue belt in jiu-jitsu? Funny I was thinking of writing this article “the road to blue belt” about a week or so ago and then I got one.

I remember when I first started I had a goal where I wanted to get a white belt in a year. I wrote it on my wall. I was kinda destination driven. Then there was a bump in the road that knocked me out for 6 months or so.

I hurt my knee. But I got back into it. As time progressed and when the year started to come to a close I started to think I wasn’t a blue belt and I scratched the goal out and replaced it with something like “have fun learning jiu-jitsu”.

That became my goal. Sure I still wanted to get promoted, but it wasn’t the main thing. I thought I’d rather be a good white belt than a bad blue belt.

I had learned that intrinsic rewards were better than extrinsic ones too. In other words you should do something because you enjoy it not because you want the carrot, paycheck, black belt or whatever.

So anyways…

The road to blue belt in jiu-jitsu was a pretty long one for me. I looked back over my history and added up the time that I spent on the mat practicing jiu-jitsu.

I practiced in 3 different schools. Here’s my technical answer to how long it took me to get a blue belt in jiu-jitsu…

About 35 months of training on the mat

  • 14 months with Romulo Melo
  • 4 months CCSF Aug-Dec 2015
  • 4 months CCSF Jan-May 2016
  • 2.5 months Caesar Gracie May-July 2016
  • 4 months CCSF August-December 2016
  • 1 month Romelo Melo December-Jan 2017
  • 4 months CCSF Jan-May 2017
  • 1.5 months CCSF June-July 2017

Normally I practiced 4 days a week. That translates to 16 days a month x 35 months = 560 days. There were times when I managed 5 and others when I did 3. Over the recent summer session at CCSF I did 2 days. But again normally I did 4 days a week.

At Romulo Melo I normally did hour long classes. Occasionally I would do an hour and a half. I’d estimate 4.5 hours a week, 18 hours a month for 15 months = 270 hours.

At Caeser Gracie I did a mix of classes that were 1-1.5 hours long. I’d estimate 4.5-5 hours a week. I’ll round down to 4.5, 18 hours a month for 2.5 months = 45 hours.

At CCSF I probably spent more hours a week on the mat. I also took judo classes there a couple hours a week. Jiujitsu classes were 1-2 hours depending on the class. I’d estimate 6 hours a week doing jiu-jitsu, 24 hours a month for a total of about 17 months = 408 hours.

I actually started at CCSF when I was still going to Romelo’s. I didn’t go there much my first semester so I didn’t include it above.

So between the 3 schools that’s about 705 hours of jiu-jitsu.

So that white belt above saw quite a few hours. In fact I replaced two of the stripes that fell off. The only original stripe on it is the really dark and dirty one. Those stripes were from training with Romelo Melo. They were from 2014-2015.

These numbers are just my experience and are kind of arbitrary

For you – if you’re wondering I have no idea how long it will take.

For me I think it took longer because I changed schools and had a few injuries. Had I stayed with Romelo (my first school) I think I would have gotten it a while ago. 

But…

I couldn’t afford to keep going there and also I wanted to learn some judo. So I went to CCSF.

Obstacles and pain on the path

I hurt both of my knees (bone bruises and a torn meniscus). They seemed to heal pretty good though. I had a rib that bothered me for a long time.

A couple of armbars. Yes, I tapped, but not fast enough as in both cases the person didn’t let go immediately. Tap hard and tap early. Nothing ever popped, but the joints locked.

The only thing that ever popped was my ankle in a toe hold. I didn’t see that coming and then the next thing I knew I heard and felt a pop. It bugged me for a while, but it’s o.k now.

There were a lot of bruises, jammed toes and fingers and I recently cracked the enamel in my tooth. I wasn’t wearing my mouthpiece when I got kneed in the face…

Ahhh…

White belts;)…

Funny some say white belts are sometimes the more dangerous ones. They are a bit more unpredictable and spastic as they haven’t learned much technique so they rely more on strength.

As sensei says, “do the technique”.

CCSF summer 2017 jiu-jitsu class

CCSF summer 2017 jiu-jitsu class

Fun and friends on the path

I have made a lot of friends through jiu-jitsu. Most of the people that I have met have been pretty cool. And despite the pain I have had a lot of fun.

There’s been ups and downs when you don’t think you’re learning or your getting tapped out, but mostly it’s been fun.

I think jiu-jitsu gives you energy too. There have been times when I went in there not feeling very good and then I’ll leave pumped up.

Fear

Jiu-jitsu is scary. Competing is twice as scary. I still get a bit scared before every class. I would get scared of getting hurt. Sometimes it’s scary sparring with new people too.

But I remember and say to myself something sensei Palacio said, “Do the technique”.

I think I also just imagine dark sh*t happening sometimes too. Maybe I have a dark mind. It’s not just jiu-jitsu. Walking over the bridge to the competition the other night I just thought what if I fell of that bridge? And got hit by a car.

Game over.

But actually what’s really scary is not jiujitsu, but the anticipation of it. When you are doing it all the fear pretty much goes away.

It’s a weird mix of excitement, fun and fear.

Sensei promoting me to blue belt

Sensei promoting me to blue belt

How long will it take to get promoted?

Probably longer than you think.

I guess it depends on a number of things, but based on my experience you’re more likely to get promoted if you stick with one school.

Although I think moving around was actually good for me. I got instruction from different teachers, but as far as getting promoted goes it probably didn’t help.

Different schools have different ways of promoting. Guess it’s up to the teacher.

Romelo Melo only did promotions like twice a year or so. During those times he would promote a bunch of people at the same time.

Caeser Gracie seemed to have no formal promotion. I saw Alessandro promote someone at the end of class once.

CCSF doesn’t seem to typically do jiu-jitsu promotions. I only know of one other person who got a blue belt there. CCSF is more focused on judo. They do promotions once or twice a semester for judo.

Sensei, myself and Samir. Both are judo and jiu-jitsu teachers at CCSF.

Sensei, myself and Samir. Both are judo and jiu-jitsu teachers at CCSF.

Getting promoted

I actually got my blue belt after the recent competition on Friday July 21, 2017. That was unexpected. Funny I got a little choked up too. I don’t know it just kinda seemed like an abstract thing.

At times I thought maybe I am doomed to be a white belt forever. Self doubt…

But…

Most of the time I just figured I’d get it eventually and just tried to focus on doing it and having fun. I know other people who trained at CCSF who were white belts for a long time. Some even longer than me, like 4 or 5 years+.

At one time I wondered how long it would take.

It might take longer than expected or it could come sooner. So I’d just say enjoy the ride.

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