One reason why some people become derailed along the way in their Martial Arts training is due to a condition known as ‘Blue-belt-itis’. This condition was first explained to me by my former training partner Simon Hayes who is probably the only person to be a multiple black belt in BJJ, Judo & Tae-kwon-do and also an Oscar winner.
This occurs when the student reaches a fairly significant milestone in their martial arts training, for example they achieve their Blue Belt in BJJ or compete in their first amateur fight or they win their first gold medal. What happens next? Suddenly they find lots of excuses not to turn up to training. Lots of injuries that they had previously been training around suddenly show up & make it impossible for them to turn up to class.
Why does this happen? Why do some people go to all this effort & then waste it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to continue with your hard work and keep improving & building on the progress that you’ve already made rather than cutting down on your training or dropping off & pretty much throwing it all away?
Previously my training partners & i believed that the cause of Blue-Belt-Itis was that the newly awarded Blue Belt was now under pressure & had a target on his back. All of his training partners who were still white belts would now be gunning for him trying their hardest to tap him out in every session. The pressure would be too much and rather than coming in to face this pressure on a nightly basis the newly promoted blue belt would suddenly get bogged down with work even though they had somehow managed to make it in to training every day for the last six months leading up to the promotion.
I’m not sure if this idea of pressure from your training partners really explains it all though. I think the big reason is that the student pushed really hard to get to the point where they did their best performance but they just aren’t prepared to keep making anything close to that same effort day in & day out to keep improving or maintain their level.
The truth is that no matter how difficult something is it is always possible to get through it if you just need to do it for a short time. This is the reason why some people can get good results with short term drastic diets but as soon as they stop the diet they go back to a worse position than they were before. Martial Arts isn’t a short term solution like a fad diet, its a long term solution where you are continually trying to make small improvements.
For this reason I always like this quote but not sure where i heard it from. ‘It’s not about who’s best, it’s about who’s left’ Anyone can come in and train hard & rough up their training partners for a few weeks, a few months or even a year. Try to keep doing it consistently for five or ten or twenty years. Its this kind of discipline that makes Martial Arts different from other sports.
Its also possible that the student has reached his goal but has then forgotten about the reasons that motivated him to get there in the first place. Maybe they were doing it all for the wrong reasons anyway. But whatever the motivation was that got them started its more important to focus on all the benefits that they gained from training on the way to achieving their goal (for example, fitness, confidence, weight loss), are they really prepared to throw away all these benefits & the progress they’ve made & go back to how they were before?
To get over all these problems I think its important to look as Martial Arts training as a long term part of your life rather than something that you just do for a short time and then forget about. Receiving a belt in BJJ or any other martial art is just an indication of what level you were at on that day but you need to look at it as a level that you need to maintain & improve upon rather than seeing it as a final destination.