Posted on September 16, 2021
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is growing in popularity across the globe. However, turnover remains high amongst BJJ students, particularly at the lower belt ranks.
In fact, students “quitting BJJ at blue belt” is so common according to many instructors that the very phrase is now a meme in the BJJ world.
Given how addicting and fun grappling is for most people who sign up after their trial, why is it that so many people quit BJJ?
In this article, we explore some of the reasons people quit BJJ after getting started and discuss a few tips to keep you training BJJ for the long haul.
Let’s jump in!
Truthfully, the vast majority of people who start BJJ will quit before they reach purple belt, typically either as a white belt or blue belt.
While there are theoretically an infinite number of reasons people quit BJJ, a few common reasons emerge that help explain the different causes for quitting BJJ.
This is the most boring yet most common reasons many people will quit. They simply lack the time to train or are otherwise unable or unwilling to carve out the time to train enough each week to improve.
The first few BJJ classes often have you starry-eyed and enamored with the new sport.
However, when the reality of carving out the 3 or 4 good training sessions each week required for skill improvement, things can get tricky.
Whether you are juggling kids and a career or simply prefer to crack a beer and play video games in the evening, committing to Jiu Jitsu will require some amount of sacrifice regardless of your life’s current setup.
For some people, the time commitment is simply too big of an ask, and they cannot or will not sustain the long-term schedule required for BJJ mastery.
The second reason many quit is tough to succinctly name. Essentially, your early days in BJJ are spent getting smashed by essentially everyone on the mat.
A 6-month white belt may tap you out as often as a blue, purple, or even black belt in practice.
However, a few months of training starts putting you on even footing with the previously 6-month white belt. Maybe you survive a bit longer with the blue belts as well. Perhaps eventually you make it to blue belt before the skill and competition gap hits you.
This is where reality sets in. As a white and even blue belt, you are not good enough to know how much better the advanced students are compared to you.
You will start making moves work on people near your level, and the improvement seems amazing.
Then you roll with an upper belt who completely shuts down and counters your newly developing techniques, and you realize what an uphill battle it will be to catch up.
Especially when you realize the players who are younger than you are years (or even decades) ahead of you in their BJJ development, it becomes clear that there are people training who you have no hope of beating in a real match.
This realization typically occurs sometime during your blue belt years, which probably explains the stereotype of quitting at blue.
At this point, your reasons for training BJJ must go beyond wanting to tap everyone out, because for 99 percent of practitioners, there will always be another player who is leagues ahead of you in BJJ skill.
If you can accept this fact, then your hopes for long term BJJ commitment are high.
However, if the reality of your status in the BJJ totem pole breaks your morale, you may end up quitting.
Injuries are a reality of combat sports and despite being called ‘the gentle art,’ BJJ is no exception.
The early wear and tear on your body becomes apparent.
Your fingers ache from gripping the rough BJJ Gi fabric, your feet and knees are scraped up from mat burn, and your ears might just start getting a bit puffier than normal.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The real injuries can begin in your first week, but you will probably get seriously injured by the time you make it midway through blue belt.
By real injuries, we mean moderate to major damage to joints or other body structures that keep you off the mat for at least a week and may affect your job, depending on what you do.
These are not necessarily permanent injuries, however its quite common to injure the knee, shoulder, and neck areas, among others, when training BJJ.
Whether its just a bit of time off, a month or two of physical therapy, or full-on surgery, bouncing back after an injury can be a challenge.
While you were healing, your teammates were still improving. When you come back to the mats, you will be behind.
Getting past this hurdle and back on the BJJ train after an injury can be mentally tough, and this crossroad in your BJJ journey separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to long term BJJ training.
Life encompasses all the additional reasons you may end up quitting BJJ. Maybe your career picks up and your free time dwindles. Perhaps you have to move locations and cannot find another gym you like.
Any number of life events can keep you off the mat.
As with getting injured, at some point a long term BJJ commitment will require you to start training after forced time off.
If you can get past this, your hopes for training BJJ long term are pretty good.
However, many people simply quit once life pulls them away for long enough.
The following are a few of our top recommendations for overcoming the internal and external forces in life that want you to quit BJJ.
Finding a clear reason beyond tapping people out for why you do BJJ can help you stay committed long term.
When the going gets tough, you have an off day, week, or month, or you are coming back from a major injury, you need an internally motivating reason to train.
Maybe it’s for health and fitness, community, or other beneficial effects on your life.
The goal should not depend on others. For example, the goal of winning a competition depends on who else shows up.
However, the goal of training 3 times a week to stay fit and connected to your team only depends on you getting your butt to the gym for class.
Regardless, when you think about quitting, you need the strong why in your life to keep you training during your darkest hours.
You have surely heard the cliche that you have to ‘manage your ego.’
Despite the term’s overuse, the bottom line is that commitment to training will require facing your ego both short-term and long-term.
In line with the previous topic of realistic goal setting in BJJ, managing ego is vital to ensuring you focus on how BJJ benefits you personally.
If the fact that a serious competitor, who may have started BJJ after you did, can now tap you out demotivates you, it’s time to check your ego.
If you are a committed competitor, then training as much as possible and grinding harder than everyone else should be your primary focus.
You should relish the tough rolls will other dedicated teammates.
Avoid getting stuck in a rut of relying on the same techniques forever. As your game evolves, its key to try out new positions and submissions even if you won’t get as many submissions in the short term.
If your game becomes too linear or 1 dimensional, you risk not only getting bored in training, but also may fail to find solutions for beating opponent’s when your plan A gets shut down.
In fact, trying new moves is similar to being a white belt again, because you will probably suck and be uncoordinated when you try a new technique for the first time.
Relish the novelty and use it to stay engaged with your training.
Taking deliberately planned time off from BJJ may seem counterintuitive for not quitting Jiu Jitsu. However, it is vital that you give yourself room to explore other interests or go on adventures that might keep you off the mats.
Building flexibility in your long-term training to go on vacation, take a backpacking trip, or finish a major project should ultimately make BJJ sustainable for the years required to achieve mastery.
Give yourself intentional time off when needed. As long as you get back on the mats, its all part of the journey.
Our final tip for staying committed to BJJ is to forgive yourself when you cannot dedicate everything you want to BJJ or life gets in the way.
Sometimes, the shame of being off the mats keeps people off the mats.
Do not fall into this trap.
Once you get back to regular training, you will resent how long you spent feeling guilty and dodging BJJ.
However, you must forgive yourself when life keeps you off the mats.
There are many reasons people quit BJJ and the strategies for avoiding quitting change depending on your individual needs and realities.
Regardless of the forces that try to keep you off the mats, staying committed to Jiu Jitsu will ultimately be so rewarding you will eternally thank yourself for staying the course towards the elusive goal of grappling mastery.
Good luck and happy training!
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