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Beyond the White Belt: Staying the Course

Nick Hinton Blog, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Uggh. White belts, amirite? Everybody hates them. They spaz, they try to muscle through everything, they have terrible gym etiquette, and they constantly need guidance. Nobody is more likely to injure you on the mat than a white belt. It happened to me. Twice…both times due to a lack of knowledge and experience. Taking a month or two off of training because of someone else’s mistake is beyond frustrating, and dealing with the ring rust afterwards, simply put, sucks.

As I write this blog, I’m actually a 4-stripe White Belt, hopefully on the verge of getting that long-awaited color. The badge. The first real symbol of the trial-by-fire you’ve experienced for at least a year or two, depending on your coach, your training frequency, and your technical ability. The belt that 90% of people who start training never acquire. My hard-earned Blue Belt. It’s close. I know it is, and thinking about that made me think about the journey I’ve traveled so far as a White Belt. I’ve wondered in the past how I would know I was ready, and at times, have even been so bold at times as to think that I was.

The best answer to the question of “When?” I’ve been able to come up with, and surest sign of my actual readiness is this: I’m ready when my Coach understands me to be. It’s never actually anything I can know for myself as a White Belt, by nature of my inexperience. And that inexperience isn’t a bad thing; quite the opposite, in fact. It’s the blank slate by which good, strong Jiu-Jitsu is built. It’s what makes us receptive to the new and makes us comfortable with the potentially terrifying…when channeled effectively. It’s the one thing that prevails through all belt ranks and what I believe Black Belts to understand most intimately….the understanding that as much as you may know and as wise as you may genuinely be, the wealth of knowledge you do not possess will always far outweigh that which you do. That’s why we continue to learn.

I won’t tell you not to spaz. You’ll figure that out for yourself through getting your face mashed into the mat by upper belts enough times for it to finally sink in. I won’t even preach about proper “White Belt Etiquette,” because your gym likely has a clearly-posted and legible set of rules to adhere to. You’ll get zero judgment from me on how hard you’re White-Belting. I’ve been there. Plenty. What I will tell you is this: No matter how ready you think you are, try to understand deeply that your readiness comes in accepting that it isn’t up to you. It’s up to your Coach, and ultimately, the Universe. It’s up to you to be humble and put in the work, not just on the mat, but in life. And for heaven’s sake, always remain thankful you’re still alive to roll again.

Furthermore, don’t ask your coach when you’ll get it, but instead ask what you lack, and what else it would take to get you there. Your coaches will always be happy to give you the information you need to get you there, and help guide you along your path. That’s what they’re there for. Get the info, set your game plan in motion, and level up! Just don’t stop. That’s the only way to guarantee failure.

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UPDATE: I actually received my Blue Belt just 6 days before we had this piece set to publish! Here’s an image from that AWESOME day in my BJJ journey (that’s me on the left)!

A-Game BJJ Nick Hinton receives his blue belt from Black Belt coach James Clingerman


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