From time to time we get reader questions here at Jiu Jitsu Times. As much as possible I like to address these questions from my own experience and outlook, hopefully it helps the asker, or at least someone else in the community!
We recently received the following question:
“I feel like I don’t deserve my new belt; is that normal?”
I will do my best to answer this question…
As I’ve stated many times in many of my articles: belts mean nothing on a grand scale, but can mean everything on the individual level. That is to say: a belt can symbolize a bewildering number of possible combinations of attributes. There are blue belts (and even sometimes white belts) who can readily tap out black belts, and there are black belt world champions who can absolutely demolish anyone you put in front of them. Every person is different.
Belts are given based on certain qualifications:
- Time put in
- Understanding of technique
- Application of that technique (in live rolling or competition)
- Ability to convey technique.
I’ve met practitioners of all ages, chances are a 60 year old blue belt’s ability to apply technique against a resisting opponent/training partner will not be on the same level as someone 40 years younger who has the same grasp of the technique and has put the same amount of time in. The same thing can be said in cases of size disparity, athleticism etc.
Time put in, perhaps, is the only “objective” factor on this list, everything else needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.
I train at the top MMA gym in my region (Strong Style), we have UFC fighters training under the same roof as us, and I can speak from my own personal experience: no two grapplers are created exactly the same. Some of our best fighters don’t hold very high rank in BJJ, but we’ve all seen them out-grapple world class grapplers, does that downgrade their rank? Or bestow rank upon our fighters?
It is perfectly normal to feel uncertain of yourself, and to at times feel that the rank you hold may be undeserved. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, rank is very rarely given to people undeserving of it because it is relatively easy to expose a person who is undeserving of rank. Chances are you deserve the rank you hold, but the best way to verify for yourself in your mind is to visit other gyms’ open mat sessions, or better yet compete. If you do well in a those settings against other people of comparable rank, age and weight, chances are you deserve your rank. If you don’t, put more time on the mat or better yet, talk to your instructor and ask what you need to do. And bear in mind many people are not as cut out for live rolling/competition as others, and that’s okay too, maybe you were promoted because of your understanding of the technique rather than your ability to apply it on a resisting opponent.
Remember, in jiu jitsu the real experience is the journey, not any single destination. Feeling insecure is natural, but don’t let it be a discouragement. Wear your rank with pride.