A Bruce Lee Quote and a Blue Belt Lesson

Like many jiu-jitsu practitioners, my early martial arts imagination was captured by the movies.
Bruce Lee of those 70’s Kung Fu movies remains perhaps the largest martial arts movie star decades after his death. Bruce Lee was only a “paper tiger” but a martial artist who was far ahead of his time in philosophy and left us many of his ideas in great quotes.

My favorite quote of his:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee

So,what does a Bruce Lee quote about 10,000 kicks have to do with brazilian jiu-jitsu you might ask?

read also: The Evolution of Skill – From Fundamentals to Advanced

A personal story from my own jiu-jitsu learning.

I think back to when I was a blue belt living in a small city and did not have access to a black belt instructor. I had previously been able to train under a high level black belt instructor and had a decent knowledge and number of techniques.


When a black belt would come to visit my city for a seminar, it was like Xmas because you could get all of your questions answered! There wasn’t  Youtube at the time and techniques were not so easy to come by.

Importantly, I would get an opportunity to roll with a black belt and directly experience the black belt level of skill. As I caught my breath and retired my belt after the roll, I would always ask for feedback on my jiu-jitsu.

And 2 different black belts gave me similar feedback:

Black belt #1: “You TRIED a lot of different things in the roll. But were not doing the individual techniques with great precision and effectiveness.”

Black belt #2: “I can see that you know many different moves, BUT you were never able to put me in trouble with them or make me feel uncomfortable.”


What they were saying was that they observed I knew many techniques at a BLUE belt LEVEL.

I could show you a hip bump sweep, but did not yet have a depth of knowledge and the details about how to make the technique truly effective. I knew the techniques at a basic mechanical level but lacked the understanding of WHY they worked.

This is common for a blue belt level of experience in bjj. Someone once said that blue belt can be a belt of “technique collectors”. And this is true! You have to build your bjj vocabulary and there are a LOT of techniques to assimilate.

But always bear in mind that it is the techniques that you have drilled for thousands of repetitions and know more deeply that will be most effective for your jiu-jitsu!

read also: Don’t Ignore the Basics : Advanced Techniques Too Quickly

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ