I began training in 2002 and have seen many training partners come and go - and some that come back again. Let's face it. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a highly effective martial art that requires more than what most people will consistently give. A member of the Gracie family estimated that 90% of those that begin training never make it to blue belt and only 1% of blue belts earn a black belt. That may be true albeit difficult to quantify. I am aware of 5 people that are still training out of more than 100 students that were training with me in 2002. All six of us have experienced set backs in our training for a variety of reasons but somehow we managed to stay on the path. One of my training partners moved back to Japan shortly after we received our blue belts. I didn't hear from him until last week when I received a friend request on Facebook from him. I was happily surprised that he still trains and recently earned his black belt. I experienced a four to five year set back when I only trained a few times per year prior to and during a divorce, establishment of a new business and learning how to manage life as a single parent... but I stayed on the path even when I had no idea how I would ever make my way back toward consistent training. With hindsight I wish I would have trained more consistently through the set back because training would have helped me manage the challenges better. We can learn from those that fall-out and how to not become a member of the wrong side of the statistics. So why do people quit training and what can you do to become a member of the 1% club?
1. Lack of discipline The same reason people start diets they can't keep, sign up for gym memberships they rarely go to, don't make their bed in the morning, etc. The solution requires mental fortitude and following through with your commitment. During your first ninety days of training, commit to attend specific classes without compromise. If you are sore, show up and train. If you are injured, show up and watch. If you are ill (not contagious) but can sit up and watch class, do it. Don't allow that time in your schedule to become compromised with other activities. Show up. I love what Carlos Viera, Cia Paulista Australia Head Coach says about showing up. "There is no secret at all to getting good at Jiu Jitsu. All you have to do is show up and TRAIN." Not enough can be said about showing up. If you need additional accountability to show up, volunteer to help teach kids classes since it will put you on the mat. If you are a higher belt, offer to help teach a fundamentals class. It is rewarding to give back and when people count on you to be there you are much more likely to continue training.
2. Sense of Entitlement These quitters feel their effort deserves more recognition than their results. I bet their parents probably never spanked them or spoiled them. I don't know... I don't relate too well with this mindset. The solution requires you to stop behaving like a princess and serve your teammates. Consider your teammates training needs more important than your own. Avoid comparing your skill set against your teammate and focus on getting 1% better every time you train. Quit looking around to see if anyone else noticed that you tapped someone out. Avoid placing high importance on belt achievement.
3. Impatience in Skill Development Our society tends to cater toward the consumer that wants quick results. This may be one of the byproducts of my last point. The solution lies in your ability to accept that you will not master anything during your first one to two years of training. Focus on drilling fundamental techniques. Arrive early and drill before class and continue drilling or rolling after class.
4. Goals Set Too Low The second highest drop out period is probably at the blue belt level. It sounds pathetic but some people are happy they get that far and consider it good enough. The solution lies in recasting your training goals as you improve. Don't make earning a blue belt your goal, ever. Believe me I was excited when I earned my blue belt and celebrated it with teammates after the ceremony. We must keep in mind that many blue belts quit but many purple belts earn a black belt. If you must focus on setting a belt level as one of your goals, at least make it the purple belt. At least purple belts are much more likely to learn enough about the journey to know that the journey is more important than earning a belt. Focus your goal on skill set competency - learn to play a great guard game, become a takedown specialist, become a bullish guard passer, survive longer against the higher belts, compete "x" amount of times per year, win a gold medal every year, train at least "x" amount of times per week, etc. Better yet, talk to your instructor about what your goals should look.
5. Unable to Balance Work/Family/School/Social/BJJ life. This is a reality we all face but those that reach black belt learned through discipline how to manage it. Whenever you want something bad enough you will figure out how to make it work. The solution requires creative scheduling and understanding the requirements for each of the roles of your life. If you have a family that often needs you around in the evenings, consider training during the daytime or agree on an evening training schedule with your family. You must get their buy-in in order to have an enduring solution. Have a needy boyfriend or girlfriend? Break up with them. Hahaha Just kidding... sort of. Just remember the people that love you should be willing to support your physical, mental and social health. School and work are necessary realities of life and you must learn to manage your time to accommodate their demands and your jiu-jitsu schedule. Consider weekend classes and private lessons. Your goal should be to train at least three times per week. One of my students was a med student that found the benefits of training through that stressful time of his education. When he reached the point of residency he had to reduce his training time but he communicated the change with me and stuck with his schedule even if it was only once or twice per month. Another one of my students is a single parent and doctor with a full schedule. He decided that he was going to make time to train and found time to train a few times per week. I empathize with those that have very buy work, school or life schedules and respect those that create balance in their life to include caring for themselves and training.
6. Injury We will get injured eventually in just about any sport we practice. Learning how to get back on the horse after recovery is hard for some but those that want it bad enough muster up the gumption to show up. The solution lies in your ability to rehabilitate your body while not losing focus of your training schedule. Show up to the mat and watch. Keep your Sacred Training Time sacred. Offer to record the classes and keep time of the rounds. Don't allow your training schedule to become disrupted while you heal. Avoid injuries in the first place by training with less power and more technique. Your mindset should be geared towards learning with your training partners not trying to ALWAYS win and out-power. Make sure you commit to a good rehab and therapy plan to help prevent the same injury from recurring.
7. Financial problems Actually this has more to do with financial planning in most cases but in some cases lack of funds due to job loss etc. can keep you out of the game. The solution begins by talking to your instructor about your situation and find out if there are any temporary solutions to keep you on the mat. Instead of asking for free training ask if you can perform revenue producing work for the school in exchange for some of your tuition fees until your financial situation improves (ie. Hand out fliers at nearby shopping centers or malls). Many schools offer a free open mat training time and reasonable drop-in training fees to make training a couple of times per week affordable even on a strained budget. I normally find that reprioritizing how to spend money and tightening the belt should open up enough funds to keep training.
8. Poor Instructor
If your instructor is an egomaniac, user, unkind, burned out then I totally get it. I understand why someone would want to leave their school. If an instructor is technically deficient and can't easily prove their lineage, it may be time to move on. If an instructor only cares that you pay them but doesn't care your development, it may be time to move on. If an instructor has huge ego and has a bad history of injuring students, it may be time to move on. I have come across instructors that have burned-out on teaching and became more interested in playing with their cell phone during class. They stop rolling with their students (not due to injury) and seem uninterested further explaining techniques to help students understand and keep an unapproachable demeanor. Even in these circumstances we still have a choice to continue training at another school.
9. Too Old The jiu-jitsu lifestyle is one for a lifetime. My first several years of training were intense and I loved it but it wasn't sustainable for a lifetime. As I reached my forties I adjusted the way that I trained so that I can continue to train into my later years. After dislocating a couple of ribs my master told me that I needed to make sure I heal properly so that I can do jiu-jitsu for a lifetime. It resonated with me and I also made some adjustments to how I roll. I am not nearly as intense when I roll as I was during my first several years but I am far more intelligent and use more technique without reliance on athleticism and power. I still ramp it up but not nearly as often as I used to. As I continue to age I will likely reduce that too. So age is also not a reason to walk away either. Keep learning, growing, changing and training!