Throughout my years as an instructor, I’ve noticed that there is a lot more attrition on the road from blue to purple than even from purple to black. I feel if someone can make it to purple, they’re in it for the long haul. The blue to purple gap is the difference between “learning Jiu-Jitsu” and “Jiu-Jitsu is my life.”
So, what happens to a person that makes them lose the thought of quitting and stay in Jiu-Jitsu through black belt and beyond, what can blue belt students do to maintain focus, and how can instructors create an environment that helps eliminate the blue belt turnover rate?
To help answer this question, I got into contact with Dr. Ernest “Waffle” Ellender, a Dave Camarillo black belt, gym owner, and practicing psychologist (PhD in clinical psychology.) He had a lot to say on the topic, so I’ll break it down into easily digestible bits.
1. When someone first starts doing Jiu-Jitsu, they enter a sort of honeymoon period. As a white belt, there are hundreds of new techniques to learn, and this can make for a very interesting and engaging environment, this helps create a sense of novelty and excitement. After they reach blue belt, the honey moon period starts to wear off.
2. After a student reaches the blue belt level, they experience an emotional drop. They still understand the benefits of attending BJJ class, and their body is in a habit of going to Jiu-Jitsu. The emotional drop is the issue that a lot of blue belts have to deal with.
3. Social engagement is incredibly important for consistent training. The issue that some blue belts run into with this is that, through attrition, there might be only a few people left of their original group that are still active in BJJ. Blue belts have to remain engaged with new members and higher belts in order to create an environment that nurtures their interest.
4. Instructors should help blue belts set new goals in order to continue moving forward. At this level, they should start to adopt a martial arts lifestyle. They do this by talking to and reminding them of what they have done and help them see the big picture. The instructor and other higher belts should discuss with the blue belt what the next phase in their martial arts pursuit is in order to help them mature.
This discussion is part of a Psychology of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu podcast we had with Dr. Ernest “Waffle” Ellender. It’s the very first Learn to Grapple podcast. It covers myriad topics, ranging from the psychology of tapping, to the psychology of belts, women in BJJ, injuries, competition, self-defense, and much more.