A white belt mentality is very helpful – not only for jiu-jitsu

Published On: Nov 26, 2021

By Daniel Strauss, black belt under Roger Gracie

Training has been a constant part of my life since I was a teenager and I am really not sure where I’d be without it. When I began training jiu-jitsu 15 years ago there were not so many clubs around as there are now. So quite quickly I progressed to the point where I was able to start teaching.

As a skinny kid with a blue belt around my waist, this was quite a challenge for me, and it often meant having to grapple with bigger stronger people who came to the classes and wanted to see if I was legit. This not only forced me to sharpen my skills, it also made me act in a more grown-up way to get taken seriously.

As I got bigger and progressed through the ranks I became more confident in my abilities. This made me more relaxed, both as a teacher and as a person, because I didn’t feelI was in a place where I had anything to prove any more.

Now I teach full-time, but most of the pictures on my Instagram account are not about jiu-jitsu.Another passion of mine is strength training. Years ago I got into DinosaurTraining, a book from the 1990s by a guy called Brooks Kubik. It focuses on functional strength training, looking back at the secrets of 19th century strongman.

I have been doing strength training for years now and I put out videos sharing the methods that have helped me, particularly when it comes to improving grip strength – an often-ignored part of training, but vitally important in so many ways.

I got my black belt seven years ago, so my days of being a novice are a long way behind me. But whether it comes to jiu-jitsu or any other discipline it is important to remember what it is like to be a beginner.

No matter what you do in life, you should walk into every situation thinking that you have something to learn.

As soon as you think you know it all, you close your mind to absorbing new information, and stop yourself from immersing fully in every experience and enjoying it to the full.

But the white belt mentality is not just about being open to new ideas.

It is about being humble, and also grateful for what you have and accepting of whatever situation presents itself to you.

A good everyday example of this is what happens when you can’t train for some reason. I have been lucky with injuries, but they go with the territory and a few years ago I needed shoulder surgery and obviously needed to take some time off the mats.

Setbacks are an inevitable part of life. The humble, white-belt mentality just tells you to accept, and move on. Things can’t go your way all the time, and when they don’t, you just have to acknowledge that this is the way things are. Being injured sucks, but it happens to everyone. Life can’t always go the way you want it, but with the right attitude you can ride out the bad stuff like a champ.

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