When it comes to the discussion of promotions, BJJ guys are supposed to say, “Belts don’t matter to me. I don’t care if I ever get promoted.”
This is the culturally-acceptable, appropriately-humble, and proper answer.
But given that we are human beings with egos, a desire for progress, and a drive to achieve our goals, it is probably not an honest one.
I have witnessed more than one student leave an academy with his head hanging low after not receiving an expected promotion. In the vast majority of these cases, it was simply a matter of the student not training consistently enough.
I even saw one talented guy quit a gym angrily when he didn’t receive the blue belt he thought he was going to get. Unfortunately, if he had just been a little more patient, he would have gotten his belt two weeks later when the other promotions were conducted.
The truth is that most of us are motivated by the next stripe and belt, and this is entirely natural.
I had an interesting conversation with two university graduate students studying human motivational psychology for application in big industry. They were studying the best ways for businesses to reward employees for the greatest performance, and they said that positive reinforcements were an important motivating factor for most people.
“That is why most computer applications have a progress bar: progress is super important to most people!” they said.
To those who dig in their heels and loudly pronounce that they don’t care if they’re promoted, I respond that while that may be the proper spirit for learning BJJ, it is not normal and there is nothing wrong with wanting to have some sort of way to measure and recognize progress.
I have never seen a student refuse a promotion, but I have seen plenty leave class with a fresh stripe of tape on their belts and a big smile. Those same students then resolved to train with renewed enthusiasm so they could feel worthy of their new level.
To those who feel frustrated at not receiving an expected promotion, just keep training. The stripe or belt will come!
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