Don’t talk about promotions…..
December is a month for promotions in most academies. Competition season is over for the year, and most have spent their time putting in the work on the mats and becoming the best version of themselves throughout the year.
Social media becomes a news feed of personal achievements and the words ‘congratulations’ and ‘parabens’ filled in the comments for the photos.
We all know there is an average time you spend at each belt.
White – 18 months to 2 years
Blue – 2 years
Purple – 3 years
Brown – 2-3 years
Of course each individual is different, we are on our own journey and along the way there are set backs that can stop us from keeping to this average promotion time line. We start families, pick up injuries, move home, move gyms, move jobs, change shift patterns in our work, go travelling and so on….
There are the exceptional individuals who are able to train full time, 2-3 classes per day, maybe they are a Judo black belt or have a background in wrestling that can help accelerate their promotions, and all combined with continuous competition experience that naturally promotes anyone’s jiu jitsu progress. So being promoted to black belt in 5 years is not unheard of.
When a promotion happens, I personally don’t think I’ve seen one where I didn’t think the recipient truly deserved their belt promotion. It’s a happy day and everyone, even if you don’t think you deserve the promotion, thinks you did.
A lot of academies have ‘grading days’ or seminar’s when the promotions happen. So talk goes on before the day of who we think may get promoted. We have our guesses that we discuss amongst a small group, then there are those who are expecting their next belt……
Rule one of belt promotions. Do not expect, then you will never be disappointed.
There are those who have posted (cringingly) on social media. “I thought I was getting my blue belt today, but I just received my 4th stripe”.
“I thought I was getting promoted today, but I guess its just not my time”.
No, just no!
Rule two of belt promotions. Do not speak of your disappointment on social media about your (lack of) promotion. This has just set you back 6-12 months!!!
Then there are those who are doing everything by the book, yet they don’t get promoted.
A good student and team member would;
Turn up and train regularly
Help newer people in class
Help coach a kids class
Help coach or support team mates at a tournament
Have a good attitude in the gym
Each time a grading day or belt promotion would happen, these people would get over looked. What are they doing wrong?
Over the year’s I have built up a huge friendship with so many people in jiu jitsu. Everyone is on their own journey and has different goals in the sport. I meet a lot of women through open mats and women’s only seminars. I’ve also been on a few training camps and met so many great friends, men and women through them.
So when you start seeing your friends being held back, or forgotten when it comes to promotions, the question of ‘Why didn’t they get promoted?’ will always come up.
I have a friend who spent 5 years at white belt. Every tournament they competed in would result in a beautiful new gold medal from tough matches at every competition they entered. But they weren’t getting promoted. This can be a huge dent in someone’s confidence on the mats, and could also result in them getting help through sport psychology, especially as they would continuously watch people being promoted who started jiu jitsu after them.
They knew what to do. Their face didn’t fit at that academy, so they went back to the affiliation academy where they first started. Low and behold, on their grading day they got their blue belt.
This has been the case for a few people, and I read about it often on forums where your ‘face doesn’t fit’. What can you do about it? The sad fact is that you may have to find somewhere else to train. As I previously wrote about changing gyms, one gym does not suit everybody, and each coach will not like everyone that walks through the door and vice versa.
Another friend has spent a number of years at blue belt. They’re a really likeable and popular person in the gym. They’ve competed and won, yet they still remain at blue belt, even though a coach from their gym called them a ‘Seasoned blue belt’, they still have yet to be promoted. Why?
I spoke to a blue belt friend who also has been at the same level for a number of years. They’ve had other black belts comment that they thought they would have been promoted to purple in 2018, but they still stay there, despite training 4-5 times per week, and more if their body allows it. Their fellow training partners see it as a running joke that they got over looked yet again. Their confidence is getting dented, but they continue to keep face and keep training.
What can they do about this? Sadly nothing, it’s all about waiting it out and keep being the popular person in the gym who does everything right. Their day has to finally happen.
When it gets to brown belt, things start to get serious, especially if you been doing everything right and maybe even started your own classes, or gym with the blessing of your head coach.
The grading day or a special seminar is coming up, so you’re putting in the extra hours, helping out more often, coaching at comps, or you have your own little army of jiu jitsu warriors that are smashing it at the competitions or fighting in MMA. You’ve passed the 3 year average, but the promotion doesn’t come…..
Why? There are two reasons, politics and a professor that doesn’t want people to progress to his level.
If you’ve started your own academy with the blessing of your professor, he should be delighted that his teaching is being taught through you to students he doesn’t have time to teach. Jiu jitsu is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and they are holding it back, by holding the brown belt back.
If you’re doing everything right, but politics are what's holding you back. The coaches (or gym owner’s) fear of you leaving the gym and starting your own academy that will be the real reason for the lack of promotion. Sadly you’re not under a good team that has the interest of jiu jitsu at heart, it’s more about the money that’s lining their pockets.
I’ve never expected any belt that I received, but often had people telling me that “You should be promoted by now”. That was always down to my coach to do that job, and I’ve been lucky enough to have stuck to the average time line of belts.
Changing teams 2 years after receiving my brown belt was one of the best things that could have happened. I know that I have a long road ahead, but I feel like I have been given an extra life to put right all of the competitions that I did so badly at in 2019. I’m in a better place to compete, I absolutely LOVE where I train and I learn so much in every class. I’m in no rush to be promoted, brown belt is one of the most fun belts, and it’s a high enough rank that people give you that little bit of respect for. ;)
So ultimately, just forget about the belts and just enjoy the journey.
That is unless you’re face doesn’t fit, you hate your coach or you’re being bullied at your gym – I didn’t talk about this, but it does happen, so you need to find somewhere else to train to make you happy. We don’t put ourselves through this unless it brings us joy, and a copious amount of it too.