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Have a White Belt Mentality

I remember once, a long time ago, being in a seminar, with the Black Belt coach teaching an arm lock. I was a white belt at the time. We went to drill it, and my partner said “He was doing that wrong, I do it this way”. I wasn't very experienced, but I’d been around long enough to know that there were many ways to skin a cat, but this guy insisted we drill the technique his way, rather than what the coach had shown.

Well, next thing, the coach walks over, and of course we’re doing something completely different to what he’d taught, so he corrects us. My partner kept shtum, and then rolled his eyes when he left and went about drilling the way he taught was best. The coach came over again, and now it was his turn to roll his eyes. I made a face that I hoped would let him know that I wasn’t with this guy, but he didn’t bother even correcting us this time.

Later on, it was sparring time, and I watched with a degree of glee as the coach schooled my partner, and tapped him about a dozen times in a few minutes. Then it was my turn, and I expected the same treatment, but instead, I got a nice, technical roll. He must have caught my mortified facial expressions.

The fella I was training with didn’t last much longer in Jiu Jitsu, but that attitude is visible in a lot of people who train Jiu Jitsu. It’s not necessarily so blatant as “I know better”, but you do hear people saying things like “That technique doesn’t suit my game”, or “I do it this way actually”. It’s fairly closed minded I think.

There’s something people like to call “White Belt Mentality”. It’s the idea that you approach learning as though you were a new beginner, fresh into Jiu Jitsu. It’s about letting go of your preconceptions and being open not just to learning new things, but to re-learning things you already know in a new or different way. I’ve been guilty of thinking “I already know that” as I see someone teach something in a class, only to see a detail or method I’d never seen before.

So for hard advice, if you’re becoming more experienced, try to remember what it was like when you were walking into class for the first time. You were nervous but open minded and willing to be taught. That’s the best way to be in training!

See you on the mat,


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