Why You Will Quit Jiu-Jitsu

If I ask 100 students, “How long would you like to train jiu-jitsu?”
The majority will answer, “Forever.”
If we ask 100 black belts, “What percentage of white and blue belt students on any given mat, will be training jiu-jitsu in 10 years?”
They usually answer 2-5%.

My experience tells me 10 % of people quit because of the following reasons:
1. Distance – Life moves people around and sometimes away from the mat.
2. Money – Nothing in this world is free so when money is tight, jiu-jitsu classes sometimes take a hit.
3. Family – Family deserves more of your free time than anything else in the world.
4. Work – Sometimes work may get hectic which interferes with your training schedule.
5. Injury – All physical activities run the risk of injury and jiu-jitsu is no exception.

I have found that 10% of jiu-jitsu student quit for the above reasons. However, 90-100% use them as excuses.

I believe that the number one reason students quit is expectations.

Your instructor, training partner, fellow teammates, and you yourself, have expectations.

For instance, you may be a blue belt sparring with a white belt and find yourself in the middle of passing your partner’s guard. Within this scenario, not only is your coach watching you spar, but all of the students at your academy are watching you as well. Your instructor may coach you through the guard pass technique, but all the while, your partner has swept you. Often times, jiu-jitsu students feel so emotionally attached to their belt rank, that having a practitioner with a lower rank  sweep them in front of everyone at their academy, can be a demoralizing experience. You may feel as though you let your coach down by not meeting their expectations of you and you may feel as though the students who were watching you spar, now think less of your jiu-jitsu technique. However, the feeling of demoralization one may feel from a scenario such as this one, is completely subjective and only experienced as a result of someone feeling as though they have not met the expectations of others.

In addition to having a white belt sweep you, your coach may tell your training partner, “nice sweep.” A person’s emotional attachment to perceived expectations (whether real or not), may cause them to overlook the bigger picture. In this instance, passing the guard is a very challenging task. Even if you get swept within your attempt to pass the guard, your attempt at passing the guard should still be counted as a step of progress in your jiu-jitsu journey. Unfortunately, this accomplishment is often overshadowed by a person feeling as though they have not met expectations of others, in this case, overlooking your own progress because your coach complimented your training partner.

Now, imagine having experiences like these for a year. It’s completely understandable that when you hurt your finger or are given more hours at work that would use these as excuses to say, “I have to stop training for a while.” Many students would feel embarrassed to tell their instructor that they wanted to quit training because they felt as though they weren’t doing well. However, if students were actually honest with their instructor and told them that they felt frustrated with their training, then they’d be surprised to learn of how accepting of a response they may receive. If you were to share how you were feeling with your instructor, then they would probably respond, “I remember feeling the same frustrations and you are not letting me down; jiu-jitsu works for us and against us.” And if you mentioned how uncomfortable you feel knowing that the other students on the mat feel that you are not deserving of your belt and how you yourself are starting to feel as if you are not deserving they may respond, “ When on the jiu-jitsu journey, it is important that you compare yourself to nobody but yourself. There will always be someone younger, stronger, and faster than you. Although these characteristics are not prerequisites to learning jiu-jitsu, we cannot deny that being younger, stronger, and faster comes into play when technique is close to equal. ”

Next time you are swept, stuck in a position, or even submitted, remember why you stepped on the mat in the first place. You were looking for something fun and challenging, a place to escape everyday noise while learning techniques and principles that you can apply in a street fight or any life situation. We get all of these benefits and more when train jiu-jitsu. So don’t tap to the expectations of others or your own, but instead, set a new expectation for yourself: Train jiu-jitsu for life.

Don’t let the things that matter least, stand in the way of those which matter most.

Expect Less, Get More.

Check out this video for more insight on how to play jiu-jitsu for the rest of your life.


About KeepItPlayful

I keep it playful for a living.
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26 Responses to Why You Will Quit Jiu-Jitsu

  1. Mark says:

    So true expectations are the problem. I am enjoying your posts

  2. Kristine says:

    Hanging in there but it’s admittedly a struggle. I’ve heard you talk about this in person with regard to our failed expectations. I replay your words in my head over and over and over again- I confess I have to cling to them sometimes. Thank you for giving me something to cling to!! I figure as long as I am still struggling it’s a positive sign. It’s when I stop struggling I will become a statistic.

  3. Magnifico post Ryron!! Muchas gracias por estas enseñanzas…
    Un abrazo!

  4. “Don’t let the things that matter least, stand in the way of those which matter most.”

    Words to live by. Thanks for writing.

  5. delgadogabi says:

    Ryron, I gave all those excuses. Until I started to learn learn the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with amazing people who teaching it, loving it and learning with you, Rener, and all the incredible guys from GA!

  6. Blair says:

    Thank you. Being a blue belt that’s had heart surgery twice. Along with not training for months at a time I get beat by white belts all the time and it is disheartening.
    I needed this article after a hard session last night. Looks like the Jiu Jitsu God’s are smiling on me today.
    Thanks again!

  7. Craig says:

    Ryron as a long-time Gracie Garage member I was recently shocked by the response you got at a local seminar. You asked who wanted to roll with you and got very few responses. You wouldn’t let me go twice, but you couldn’t get more than one or two others, and one of them was also a Gracie Garage member. I nudged the young white belt next to me that was my partner throughout the seminar and encouraged him to roll with you, but he kept refusing. When I told him what an opportunity he was missing I said, “this can either be the time you rolled with Ryron Grace or the time you didn’t.” His response was, “yeah, the time I got tapped by Ryron Gracie.” I was stunned! His expectation was either to never be tapped, which I find impossible for a white belt, or that tapping is something to be frowned on or that reflects negatively on you. Both are awful expectations if the goal is to have fun or learn.

  8. Amy says:

    I haven’t trained since ICP. Great article though! Love reading it!

  9. Nate says:

    Thanks I needed that. I’ve looked down on higher ranks before because I could submit them. I’m wrong. It is a journey and they have earned their rank.

  10. Rob says:

    What I’m going through now. Thanks Ryron

  11. J says:

    Ryron Thank you for writing this entry. Everything I have been feeling lately was in here!! I am merely a novice and find myself getting swept/submitted by my peers every session. This gave me perspective and motivation. Thank you!

  12. I agree with you 100% but you left out one. No GJJA in my area. I love the way you guys train you guys are the only one’s that have a ture structure to your program. What I would love to see is Garcia Academy everywhere

  13. Dominic says:

    So true. Thank you for your insight and reminding me that I’m not the only one that feels this. So many mental things go on when doing jiu jitsu.

  14. cmikewilson says:

    This reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s interpretation of the 10000 hour rule:

    Quoting …

    What these masters were learning was to speak in their own voice. They were learning to act as themselves. In my opinion, this is the hardest thing in the world.

    I understand why Zen masters give their students koans, i.e. unsolvable, logic-defying riddles. They are trying to crack open the young aspirants’ minds by making them hurl themselves over and over into a brick wall of futility until they finally and inevitably give up … and inexplicably succeed.

    To speak in one’s own voice means to let go of all the other voices in our heads. Whose voices? The voices of what is expected of us. Yes, that means the voices of our parents, teachers, mentors. But it means something more elusive too. It means our own expectations of what we should be doing or ought to be thinking—what is “normal” or “right” or “the way it ought to be.”

  15. colin says:

    It’s great to read your posts, I relate to them 100% and feel so much better about myself!

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