Many people in the U.S. are blessed to have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt to train with on a regular basis, but that is not true across most of our country.  While the U.S. has become the second home of BJJ, we are still young in the progression and some people may find that they don’t have a black belt to train with in their location.

I want to tell this story for those guys.  Four years ago I began BJJ.  I needed something to motivate me to lose weight and exercise, and running simply didn’t do it for me.  So, I started training at a gym in town run by a taekwondo instructor.  The school had developed a relationship with a black belt, though it was very long distance.  I trained there for nearly two years, but towards the end of that time it became apparent that something was wrong.  While at first, there was plenty of new technique, that had seemed to dry up.  No one was learning anything anymore.   As spokesman for a core group of my training partners, I investigated the issue and found out that the gym no longer had any connection to any BJJ lineage.

I was torn with what to do.  I felt like I’d wasted two years of my life.  I was scheduled to test for a “blue belt.”  After much thought, I decided that I could not do it.  I would either find a connection with a legitimate BJJ school or I would change to a different martial art.  I notified my former gym and left.

After some searching, I found my present gym.  I had to drive 56 miles (one way) to attend and could only do so twice a week.  I quickly learned that I was at the bottom of the pack and lacked the skill to keep up with their students.  They had technique and I did not.  I spoke to a number of my former training partners and the core group started driving up as well, making the sacrifice to train in a real school.  We all vowed to one day open a gym in our own small town, to fill that void.

Fast forward two years.   I have earned my blue belt in the new school.  Most of the core group has either earned their blue belt as well, or they are on the verge of doing so in the coming months.  This is exciting all by itself, but then something happened that none of us could have dreamed would happen so quickly.  We just had the grand opening of the new gym in our town.  We had 5 hours of free seminars by various black belts to encourage new membership (we had nearly 100 people visit the gym that day).  To top it all off, our main instructor received his black belt during our grand opening.

I say all that to say this:   If you train under a black belt, fantastic.  Take advantage of that privilege.  Realize that it is a privilege and don’t waste a moment of it.  If you do not train under a black belt, that is also ok.  Just don’t give up.  Make sure your gym has a connection with a legitimate BJJ lineage and keep working.  One day, your gym can have a black belt.  Who knows? It might be you.

Author: Allen Tate