What Is A Stripe And How Do I Get One?

When you are newer to a hobby, I think it’s only natural to question if you’re getting any better as time goes on. With jiu-jitsu it’s very difficult to feel like you’re making progress. For those of you who are newer to the gentle art, you’ll notice that certain people have white pieces of tape on the tip of their belt. This is to signify almost like a mini-promotion. Think of a stripe like the series of stages where a baby starts to walk:

  • A baby stands up on their own (stripe)
  • Takes a step and falls (stripe)
  • Takes multiple steps and falls (stripe)
  • Walks a short distance (stripe)
  • Walking becomes the new crawling (belt promotion)

As the title mentions, this was a conversation I had with myself. To help better organize the cascading inner-battle that will follow this sentence, I will use Aaron (A) for the part of me that is trying to remain positive and Insecurity (I) for the part of my brain trying to convince me that I will suck at jiu-jitsu forever. Strap in, it’s going to get weird.

Aaron: Oh wow, that person got a stripe, good for them.

Insecurity: You’ve been doing jiu-jitsu longer than them, why don’t you have a stripe?

A: Well my foot was broken and I couldn’t do jiu-jitsu for a few months, that had to set me back.

I: You’re probably just not that good. Every person you roll with submits you. Maybe you should stop going. Find a new hobby.

A: That’s a little drastic, but maybe I could pay for some private lessons and find out what I’m doing wrong.

I: That’s not going to help. You should have been promoted already, right? Think about it.

A: This is a little short-sighted. Jiu-jitsu is going to be a long journey, it would be like running a marathon and getting pissed that you’re not the first person to reach the one-mile mark. Just need to be patient and keep working at it.

In actuality, this was a much longer conversation over a period of days, but I want to be polite to any readers so I selected snippets from the inner monolog with myself.

Be Patient, Notice The Small Improvements

I’ve played a lot of golf in my life. One of the hardest things for people playing golf is that the sport doesn’t offer too many instant verifications that you are getting better. Jiu-jitsu is a lot like golf in that you can be really terrible at it, but you do one thing well and all of a sudden it leaves you wanting more.

For me, when I first started, I got arm-barred constantly. I stuck my arms out really far and when someone grabbed an arm, I would turn away from them and try to yank it out (which is EXACTLY what you’re not supposed to do). While I don’t yet have my first stripe, I have started to realize when I’m getting in trouble and things I shouldn’t do to get out of said trouble. When you’re new to jiu-jitsu, you don’t always get immediate feedback (either from promotions or submitting partners) that you’re getting better, but trust me, you are.

This is a marathon, not a sprint, be patient.

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