There’s less pressure:Once you earn a black belt, there are no promotions, no ranks, not more colors for a very long time. This takes alot of pressure off your back. Even though we like to say, “rank isn’t important,” the simple fact is we are very proud of our ranks and usually want to earn the next one. So much training time and effort go into earning the black belt over 10 years that it’s a big relief when the goal is reached. Now you can just go train jiu-jitsu and keep getting better.

Rank isn’t important:While I’m extremely proud of the accomplishment, it’s even more obvious than ever that the rank isn’t important; the person is. What a person is willing to put into their training determines what they get out of it. If they put in a few hours here and there, they will get minimal results. If they put in blood, sweat, and tears they will see great results. Preserving the art of jiu-jitsu, however, is far more important and a far bigger deal than just earning a belt.

You aren’t that good:Don’t get me wrong! I’ve never seen a black belt who can’t handle himself against any newbie off the street. But, as white and blue belt especially, the black belts seem almost untouchable. They let you get any position you choose and then escape effortlessly. As purple and brown belts you take a total beat down from them almost every time. It seems like you’re getting beaten even more easily than before.

Here’s the secret! It’s not always as easy as we make it seem. We are just calm and don’t let you know if something is endangering us. Instead, we stay cool, and look for our escape or next move. Purple and brown belts especially still give me a heck of a fight. But i can’t let them see that. So I put on my calm face and go out there and submit them as quickly as possible. White and blue belts still make basic and fundamental mistakes, so I give them whatever position they wish and escape from it. This lets them see and learn where they need to work. I do it over and over until they correct the issue. Along those lines, my favorite thing to do to new blue belts is leg lock them over and over again until they learn to defend their legs and maintain a good base.

It’s not that the black belts are that good, though. It’s that we know how to stay calm and just keep on going!

Apply Jiu-Jitsu everywhere . Jiu-Jitsu is such an amazing art and teaches, not only fighting movement and techniques; but also values and concepts that can be applied to our everyday lives.

Knowing when to go with the flow and when to stand your ground, for example. This concept is not only important to a fighter, but paramount to everyday life. There are those times at work when people say things and you just have to let it slide. Yet, other times, you need to say, “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”

Learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations will take you to the next level at work. Just imagine being that person who isn’t afraid of confrontation or breaching the difficult subjects.

The list goes on and anyone training long enough knows exactly what I mean.

Random people ask you for promotions: It’s sad to say, but there are a bunch of wimps out there that just want an easy promotion. In all honesty, both Tony Rinaldi and Master Pedro Sauer warned me this would happen. Almost immediately after being promoted people contacted me to become “affiliated” so they could earn the rank they “deserved.” No way, Now how!!! I don’t want affiliates, not yet. See my number 1 for more information on that.

What you say is taken as gospel: You have to be really careful as a black belt. It’s amazing how many people will simply take you at your word. I get it, they trust in your experience. But, as Ronald Regan once said, “Trust, but verify.” Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it’s the perfect fit for you. Heck, I might even… wrong!!

Black Belts are targets: Everyone and their mother wants to test their metal against you; especially brown belts. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why that is. I remember being all the different ranks and just wanting to see how I do against a black belt. Especially because, when I was coming up through the ranks, black belts were exceptionally rare in my area. But damn…I never realized just how many people want a piece of you.

Learning only stops when you die: I realize this sounds very cliche, but things are cliche because they are said often. They’re said often because they’re true. And nothing could be more true than the infinite learning cycle in jiu-jitsu. You can always polish a technique, find a better mechanic, and learn a new method. Then, just as you feel you have it, someone throws another wrinkle in the mix and you need to start the process all over again.

I was recently speaking to Pedro Sauer, 8th degree under Helio and Rickson. He is 58 years old and said he’s currently in the process of relearning much of his jiu-jitsu so that he can adapt to his weaker/older body. This is a man who’s been a black belt longer than most people have been training (earned black belt in 1985). He is still learning and building his jiu-jitsu! Simply amazing.

What do you think of this list? What have you learned since earning your most recent belt? Anything? Everything? Comment and let me know!

See you on the mats!

Bill Jones is the head instructor and president of Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. He has been training martial arts since 1985 and holds several black belt ranks, including a Black Belt under Master Pedro Sauer. If you would like to learn more, contact bill at

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