Do You Suffer From “Rank Overload” After Your BJJ Belt Promotion?

Imagine that you’ve been training BJJ for a few months and have been enjoying everything that’s involved with the training: the technique, the camaraderie, the friendly mat rivalries that you’ve developed with your training partners, the locker room trash-talking, and the fact that there are no expectations or pressure to perform.

Then one day, your instructor rewards you with your belt promotion to the next rank. You got your belt and should be happy, right?

Wrong!

For many grapplers, the first thing that crosses their minds is denial because they don’t think they’re good enough yet for the promotion.

The next thing that crosses their minds are the people they think are better than them that didn’t get promoted and how they’re going to feel. And it doesn’t help as they walk towards the locker room to hear some people whispering about how they shouldn’t have gotten promoted before someone else did. A moment that should be celebrated has now become a moment filled with anxiety and fear.

Does that sound familiar to you? That’s what I call “rank overload.”

Rank overload is an overwhelming pressure to prove yourself worthy of the belt promotion to every classmate that you were promoted ahead of that didn’t agree with your promotion; along with making you feel that you have to prove yourself worthy to be on the new belt line with the “old-timers” that have to welcome you into their group.

Rank overload can force a grappler to change their attitude from enjoying grappling to hating it because of the incredible amount of pressure that they feel to prove themselves to everyone.

Grapplers that suffer from rank overload almost seem apologetic for the fact that they’ve been promoted and expect to be constantly reminded that they not worthy of the belt, especially when competing in tournaments, visiting other schools to train, or when visiting grapplers show up at their school and outperform them.

Rank overload can happens for a number of reasons:

– The student is promoted too soon because the instructor wants to fill his school quickly with senior students

– Students are given social promotions based on the fact they help out the instructor in non-grappling areas and are well-liked

– Instructors are trying to appeal to a certain demographic among prospective students that may be lacking in his school (e.g. adults over 50 and women)

– The student is technically proficient, but lacks self-confidence, has a horrible mat attitude, and wants to stay at a rank where expectations are low and they can exist as mediocre grapplers without being challenged

For whatever reason that it happens, the grappler is put into a pressure cooker (sometimes unknowingly by the instructor, sometimes self-induced).

If the grappler is to survive mentally, they must act quickly to eliminate this mental state before it steals the joy of the art.

If the grappler feels like they’re not ready for the belt, they should be the first person at the gym and the last one to leave…EVERY TRAINING DAY POSSIBLE…trying to become the grappler they think they should be.

Hiding at home from training or agreeing with others that you don’t deserve it won’t help you. The best way to get out of the rank overload hole is to work you way out of it… through constant drilling and mental toughness.

If you follow that approach, you’ll realize that those “haters” that didn’t think you deserve the promotion will have slowly disappeared because you’re kicking their butts all over the mat!

———-

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3 Responses to Do You Suffer From “Rank Overload” After Your BJJ Belt Promotion?

  1. Megan says:

    Good food for thought. I’m testing for my blue belt soon and expect an emotional roller coaster.

  2. One-Stripe says:

    I find myself at the other end of the spectrum; I have been training for about 2 1/2 years about twice per week (not much time bewteen work and family) and have only received one stripe on my white belt. I earned the first stripe after 3 months and nothing since. I don’t want “sympathy promotions” , but I think (perhaps mistakenly) that I have improved sice getting that first stripe….Would asking the instructor what it is that I am missing seem disrepectful?

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