Start By Not Losing

“If they can’t submit you, they will start to respect you.”


Relson Gracie and Dwayne Bowie at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

For a long time, I was one of the only white belts at a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) school full of blue, purple, and brown belts, as well as the black belt who owned the school. Every roll was hard and I was getting smashed. I was getting frustrated, even if mainly with myself. The frustration fueled me to keep showing up, but some days were more difficult than others.

A few months into training, seeing that I was struggling, a blue belt (now brown belt) gave me one of the most generous and useful pieces of advice I have ever received on the mats. We had just finished rolling. He had tapped me, probably several times in the same round. Before the next round started, he pulled me aside and said, “Hey. If they can’t submit you, they will start to respect you.” He then grabbed a new partner, as did I, and we continued to train.

His point was that my approach to rolling was all wrong. I had been trying to win, to beat blue, purple, brown, and black belts with white belt jiu-jitsu. Even if I got lucky, I would never get good by using this approach. Every time I see or hear about a new student getting frustrated because he or she is not winning, I am always reminded of this comment.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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