In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu it takes around 10 years of committed regular practice to become a black belt. This is unusual in the martial arts world.
Other popular arts like Karate and Judo typically take a committed practitioner 3 years to get a blue belt.
There’s only five belts in BJJ. White, Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. There’s actually a sixth belt—coral—but because 99.9% of people will never attain anywhere near that level it isn’t usually counted.
I talk about the belts because there’s a curious phenomenon that surrounds them and it’s usually called The Blue Belt Blues. It goes by different names, but it refers to the fact that most people quit BJJ at blue belt.
Blue belt usually takes people between 1-2 years to achieve, and it’s a huge milestone. It’s your first coloured belt, you’re not seen as one of the white belts any longer, and it’s usually the belt that you’ll stay at the longest. It’s the belt where you start to move from beginner to practiced practitioner.
So why do so many people quit when things just start getting good? Why do people quit when they’ve just started to learn a bit?
Lots of reasons. They get a new partner and stop doing their hobbies, they get a new job at find bigger demands on their time, they have a kid, they get injured, they lose confidence. All kinds of reasons.
But I think there’s one reason that’s more popular than the rest: you’re now stuck in The Middle.
BJJ—like anything else—is exciting when you first start it. It’s all new, you’re learning new things every time you turn up and you feel like you’re making constant progress.
We all remember that feeling when we start learning something new. It’s amazing.
Then the newness wears off and it becomes routine. Routine isn’t as exciting anymore. In fact, it’s a bit boring. When routine sets in and things start to feel like a chore, well, that’s when most people quit. The Middle.
The Middle is when you’ve gotten skilled at something but not to a very impressive level. It’s the bit after being a beginner, but not much further on from that. You’ve learned a few things but not enough to impress anybody.
The Middle is where things get boring. Where things become routine, samey and difficult. It’s where you’ll need to fight the hardest to maintain your routine but I can promise you it’s worth it.
The Middle is where most people quit. The Middle is littered with failed dreams and broken attempts. It’s waiting to swallow you too.
When you hit The Middle, knuckle down. Now isn’t necessarily the time where things get difficult, it’s just where things become hard to continue. Where you’ll have to use some grit and determination to stick at it.
Don’t let The Middle swallow you. Rise past it, and reach The End.