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Rick Baker is a white belt, and we all know white belts are people too. In this instalment of ‘White Belt Fever’, Rick looks at how to deal with feeling like you’re the worst in class.  

We've all been there. You may be there right now. You turn up to the gym, warm up, drill, roll, and you get smashed. Whether it's your fellow white belts or the blues, purples etc. everyone runs through you like a hot knife through butter. You get home, unpack your gi and wonder whether it should go in the laundry bin or the waste bin.

Everyone has bad days, you brush it off, you didn't get much sleep and work sucked, or whatever. You go back to the gym a couple of days later, a spring in your step ready to try out all those moves you looked up on Youtube yesterday and guess what, you get mauled again. You literally feel like you know nothing, and you worry that the eight year old you just walked past on your way home could probably flying arm bar you.

Welcome to the lull, my friends! This is the feeling that you are the worst in the gym, and everyone around you is amazing and progressing at 800000 miles an hour while you are struggling to tie your belt. It feels awful, but this is actually one of the most important parts of Jiu Jitsu. Everyone talks about overcoming adversity through the tap and the ego check you get when rolling, well, this also applies on a much bigger scale. If you look at your Jiu Jitsu journey as a whole, If you just keep turning up, you are going to get better (as long as you're actually paying attention and trying). Keep going, keep marching on and it'll all make sense, you may even be just on the cusp of a break through. Pressure makes diamonds, or so a motivational meme told me. This is important on a grand scale as if you can push past this lull, then can you really figure out your strength of character and apply it to every day life, the confidence you gain from pushing past adversity is applicable to any scary scenario in life, and here you can practice that in a relatively safe manner.

If it is the case that you are the least experienced in the gym and it's not because you're having an off day in particular, then you will get really good at defence really quickly. When I started training in the Gi, I'd already made friends with some of the Blue and high level white belts through my nogi and MMA training. Naturally, I sought them out to roll with. As I knew that I'd struggle with getting subs, I focused on survival, and if the opportunity presented itself for a submission (usually a trap) then I'd go for it.

Eventually, someone else will come along to the gym who is new, and you will be better than them. When that new guy does turn up, don't outright kill him, but don't be afraid to try new stuff either. It's also important to remember that everyone in your gym has been in your position before. Not a single soul was born amazing at Jiu Jitsu and arm barred everyone in the gym in their first session. Sure people have different natural abilities and sizes that can help or hinder them in their Jiu Jitsu journey, but everyone started out with a white belt around their waist tapping like a hummingbird every couple of minutes.

There are other options if you are struggling though. First of all I'd recommend private sessions with your professor or instructor. These may be out of your budget, but every once in a while, treat yourself. I tend to make a mental note of whatever I'd like to learn about or have been struggling with in class, and once I have 2-3 things I'd like to go over, I book a private lesson in to really focus on the details. Take a notepad and a pen with you too and write everything down. Read your notes over when you get home or just for a couple of minutes each day, and before you know it you'll be performing the techniques as if they were second nature. Try not to get too excited and fist bump the air when you smash through someone’s guard with that kneecut though, they can soon escape side control.

Another option is to investigate the beginners classes your gym may offer, or if they don't, have a look around at nearby gyms that do, Most gyms nowadays are pretty cool about cross training, some even promote it, it's great for getting new ideas and tips, but beginners classes can be great gap fillers. Leave your ego at the door and have a go, one of the best things I did was go back to a beginners class even though I thought I was past beginner level. Sure I knew some things, but I realised there were so many holes in my game, and there's no shame in going over the basics again, these are the building blocks in which you develop your Jiu Jitsu, and people will exploit any flaws.

I hope this has been of some use, and once again any questions or things you'd like to see, check out my blog redcornerbluecorner.com or hit me up on twitter: @rickofitall


October 27, 2016 — Jiu Jitsu Style