Regardless of what religion you practice (if any), I think we can all agree that the most anticipated event of the holiday season is annual BJJ belt promotion time. While not all academies set a designated time of the year to promote students with stripes and new belts, many do, and the result can be an exciting — and, yes, slightly stressful — day to look forward to in the gym.
Of course, not everyone gets the promotion they hope for on this big day, and if you were expecting another stripe or a whole ‘nother belt, it’s understandable that you’d feel disappointed. It’s fine to experience whatever emotions you have when you get passed up for a promotion. Remember, however, that if you’re not one of the people getting ranked up, this day isn’t about you, and you need to accept that.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: Now is not the time to openly sulk. No matter how much you think you deserved a promotion that you didn’t get, you need to put on a smile, clap for your teammates, and process your emotions however you see fit when you’re at home. You should absolutely not make passive-aggressive comments to or about your newly promoted teammates about how ‘worthy’ you perceive them to be of their new rank. Unless you’re the coach who’s promoting them, that’s not your job, and no matter how much you disagree, you need to keep your mouth shut and be happy for your training partners.
If you aren’t sure why you got passed up for a promotion this time around, let the dust settle and then ask your coach what they’d like to see you working on. Belts and stripes are just symbols of progress, after all, and as nice as it is to receive them, you’ll advance further on the mats if you have goals in mind. Try to take the focus off the fabric around your waist and place it instead on what you need to be a better practitioner, teammate, and competitor. Some coaches place heavy emphasis on competition, while others value contributions to the gym (such as going out of your way to help teammates), and others still place class attendance above all else. The more you understand what your coach is looking for, the better able you’ll be to manage those expectations the next time grading comes around.
While we all know that belts and stripes aren’t the reasons we do jiu-jitsu, it’s fine to be excited about receiving them and bummed out when you don’t. Progress in virtually everything in our lives, from video games to our careers to our commute home, is marked by milestones, and a bit of jealousy is to be expected when someone else hits a milestone and you don’t. Put your negative feelings in a separate container from the good ones, though, and show your teammates the love and support they deserve. It’ll be your turn soon enough.