Train long enough in BJJ as a newcomer and you will either hear this question, or ask it yourself.  I know I have.  Since I began training almost 4 years ago, I’ve asked myself this question over and over.

But I’m not alone.  Google search “How long will it take me to get my Blue Belt in BJJ“.  You’ll see yahoo answers, links to forums, links to blogs and the list goes on.  What is it about that blue length of cloth that vexes so?

To me, it symbolizes achievement.  It’s a physical representation of the hard work, dedication and progression I’ve put into my BJJ journey.

It’s validation!  I won’t be respected until I have it!  It’s the next stage of my journey and I simply won’t move forward mentally in BJJ until I reach it!

Or so I thought.

I started training at Revolution BJJ in January 2011.  Previously, I had trained at another academy for 3 years and due to a series of events, belt promotions did not happen.  When you are a big fish in a little pond, it is easy to delude yourself.  So, when I started at Revolution BJJ, I fully expected to be a blue belt within a month.  After all, there were students of all belt colors there and surely I would be noticed for my skills.  Surely, they would see my spectacular technique!

The ego is a funny thing.  I had convinced myself that I would be able to not only hold my own, but SUBMIT blues, purples and browns.

My first class at Revolution BJJ popped my ego balloon immediately. White belts were submitting me with ease.  The students I rolled with had top notch technique.  Calm, cool and collected they showed me in a few rolls just how much I had to learn.

I started investing myself in training between 3 – 4 nights a week, and I started to gradually get better.  Around July, I started that blue belt chase again.  Mentally, I was so focused on when I would get promoted that I stopped having fun with BJJ.  Every class was more and more frustrating.  I kept looking for the moment where a technique would show everyone that I deserved a blue belt.  And all of that frustration was placed on me by myself.  I had become so consumed with chasing a belt promotion that I forgot to enjoy what I was doing.  I lost sight of why I was training in the first place.  I was embarrassed to talk to anyone at the gym about it because when I said it out loud, I felt like an idiot worrying about a colored piece of cloth.

In August, I competed at a US Grappling Submission Only event.  I placed third in my division and third in absolute.  I was disappointed with my performance as I felt that if I had won gold I would have been promoted to blue.  I felt like I had let myself, my instructor, and my team down.  I was in a rut.

After mulling it over for about a week, I realized that I had focused so much on getting my blue belt, that I’d forgotten how to just enjoy training.  I really had to ask myself a hard and firm “why are you doing BJJ?”.  I came to the realization that I was doing BJJ because I love BJJ.  So, I let go of my belt chase.  I focused on having fun and really learning my techniques.  And you know what?  I’ve gotten LOADS better.  I’m enjoying myself every training session, making huge improvements.  All because I stopped worrying about getting a blue belt.

I am telling my story because I thought there might be white belts out there like myself.  Maybe you’re feeling like you are chasing a belt.  Maybe you’re frustrated.  Maybe you don’t know what to do about it.

My advice to you?  Don’t worry. Relax.  Train. Have fun.  Focus on doing what you love because you love it.  Time on the mat is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.
And getting your blue belt?  Keep training and it will take care of itself.

Don’t worry about average times or when anyone else got promoted.  Just train, train, train. Have faith in the training, and enjoy it.