The Path to Black belt requires a Map!
When we first start Brazilian jiu-jitsu the sheer excitement, exhaustion and mental challenge gets you hooked. Once you have passed your early days of BJJ froth then comes the confronting thought,
How do I actually get better at this crazy thing?
The path to black belt is a long and winding road littered with many pitfalls, injuries, distractions and plateaus where your progress will stall. How can you go from where you are now to where you want to be?
You are going to need a map! But here is the catch, you are going to have to write the map yourself.
How quickly you master techniques will be a unique process that no one can accurately predict. Even though you may have a great coach/guide, more time on the path does not equal progress in the right direction.
In order to plot your path to Black belt you are going to have to be a keen observer of your teammates, the environment you are in and the feedback you receive each time you train. Then write it down and reflect on it.
We humans do not learn from experience alone but from our ability to reflect on that experience and draw conclusions. To make sure you do not repeat the mistakes of yesterday and take advantage previous successes we have to stop, record the results from each BJJ class/adventure and work through what helped us and what hindered us. Journaling will help inform you as to what needs to happen next class so you can make some forward progress.
As you improve and make progress down this rocky path you will see your teammates: over take you, fall off, get lost and generally get stuck. At various stages you may join them on the sidelines due to injury or some other mishap. But how long you stay there is determined by the attention and energy you bring to fixing mistakes and developing new habits to get you back on the path.
Your coach can definitely help you avoid some mistakes and point you in the right direction but mistakes are an important part of the learning process, provided you can see where you went wrong and adapt your approach. Getting feed back is key.
Without reflection, journaling and planning you are more than likely to repeat the same action. You do not want to spend 10 years on your white belt.
The myth that a Black belt is just a white belt who never gave up is nonsense. In order to make progress on this path it takes a level of dedication and attention to detail that no white belt starts with. Just like growing up, growth and progress is a culmination of improved vision, problem solving and intense experimentation that happens over time.
Below is a simple framework you can use for your own training journal so you can develop your own map quickly and effectively.