Student question “I received my blue belt but feel like I don’t deserve it.”



Certain questions about training jiu-jitsu seem to come up again and again over generations if new blue and purple belts. Many of these topics are so much a part of the experience of learning jiu-jitsu that it is helpful to answer these student questions and help many others who are likely going through the same situations.


At Gracie Barra we hear frequently from jiu-jitsu students “I just got promoted to this stripe / blue / purple belt. I don’t feel like I deserve it. Should I refuse the promotion or tell my coach that I don’t want to be promoted yet?”


How does Gracie Barra Handles Belt Promotion Evaluation?


If you have ever felt this way after receiving a belt promotion, understand that you are not alone! Many students secretly feel stressed about going up to a new belt. Find some comfort in the fact that you are not the only one who privately doubts that they deserve a new blue belt.


Your instructor understands the different stages of learning jiu-jitsu well. Your Gracie Barra instructor can see things in your jiu-jitsu that you are not objective enough to see. Your skill development may come at such a slow, gradual rate that is difficult for you to feel that you have improved.


If you received a belt promotion, your instructor observed how you move, your technical.understanding, your commitment and dedication to jiu-jitsu and said “Yep! This student has improved and is ready to level up.”


Your Gracie Barra instructor sees your moving upwards to realizing your potential in jiu-jitsu is a giving you a symbolic recognition of your improvement. Be proud (and humble at the same time) of your accomplishment. You ARE getting better at jiu-jitsu! Trust in your instructor’s educated eye.


So why do so many students feel undeserving if their new jiu-jitsu rank? It is a factor in the infamous “blue belt retirement” where after graduating, the new blue belt is seldom seen again at the school.


Psychologists refer to this feeling of not being adequate despite external achievements as “the Imposter Syndrome” where individuals may be outwardly successful but inside feel like they are a fraud. They are waiting for others to soon realize they are not really good and call them out on it. It can seem silly to outsiders learning that a competent person experiences these feelings, but they are surprisingly common and feel very real.


Understand that it happens to a lot of people and is just your mind playing tricks on you. Remind yourself that success in difficult fields does not happen by accident and your stripe or belt graduation is well earned and deserved.


I’ve had successful competitors whisper to me that they think there has been some mistake in them getting a purple or brown belt. These guys were formidable opponents, highly technical but doubted their own skill.


Most often this lasts for but a short period and wear off and you become mentally accustomed to the new belt.


One thing you can do to alleviate these feelings of not deserving your new belt rank is to resolve to train hard and consistently to feel like you deserve that uncomfortable new rank.


Enjoy your small step forward and renew your enthusiasm for training jiu-jitsu!



See also on Gracie Barra : Learning From Tapping? Yes!

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Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia

Instagram: @markmullen.bjj