What about more sparring?
Rolling, or slapping hands and training until someone taps, should be part of your training regime after you have learned how to use that tool safely and productively. Rolling is fun and unstructured, this could account for how much people gravitate towards it. In a less organized setting, you will see people do a warm up, maybe show a couple of moves, and then spend the rest of the time rolling. While this might be fun for some of the students, it is rarely productive, often unsafe, and leads to losing a lot of students who might have otherwise benefited from Jiu Jitsu training.
What I’ve seen consistently work over a large volume of students, is that when we wait until students have a decent understanding of the position hierarchy and how to navigate it, rolling is not just safer and better received, competence while training is much higher. For that reason we hold off on live rolling until the teaching staff feels that the individual student has a good handle on the basics. The length of time this takes varies from student to student. If you want to be fast tracked for this please let your instructor know.
The open mat time is mostly reserved for rolling, however there are many times during the week that the mat is open for additional practice. Basically anytime we are open and there is space available you are welcome to practice. Just check with the teacher running class and limit the practice to things we have covered.
What about belts? Advancing through the ranks?
For adults there are only four colored belts after the white belt; Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black. It takes about ten years of consistent practice on average to earn the Black Belt. Legitimately earning any of the colored belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a difficult task. While a Blue Belt may be earned in as little as a year, it is not uncommon at all for it to take two years or longer.
One of my favorite phrases concerning belts promotions is “One of two things is always said when someone gets a belt in Jiu Jitsu, that it was either too soon, or long overdue… and there is only one of those things that you want people to say about your promotion”. This is important to keep in mind, as belts come slowly in Jiu Jitsu. Once legitimately earned they are something to be proud of for sure.
While belts are simply an arbitrary measure of a student’s ability, they do serve as tangible indicators of progress. It also allows the community at large to know roughly where individual skill level resides. For one thing this allows for competitions, but a secondary purpose is to allow people who don’t know each other at all to have an approximation of another person’s skill level prior to training with them. This assists the student in knowing what level of resistance to offer when they are training with someone new.
What about competitions? Can I compete? Do I have to?
Competition is not at all required. If it is something you wish to do, there are several competition that the academy participates in. If you think you might want to compete we first want you to come with us to a tournament and watch one. If you think it might be your jam, let your instructor know. Understand though that in order to compete for the academy you first need head instructor permission. Beyond that, competition participants are required to advance through the course progression until you get to the advanced classes. We keep potential competitors active in the classes until you and your instructor are ready.