Confessions of a BJJ White Belt: 10,000 Hours

In Malcom Gladwell’s New York Times best-seller Outliers, a book that examines the ways in which people attain extreme success and/or wealth, he repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule," claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

 

I have heard of this theory before and the more I get into BJJ and the BJJ lifestyle, it has become interesting to me to examine how this theory applies to attaining your black belt (if we are to assume this to be the “mastery” of the art) in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. First of all, we all know that there are different kinds of black belts out there. From paper black belts, and honorary black belts, to the tried and tested “competition proven” black belts, the much agreed upon timeframe of legitimately attaining your black belt seems to be about 10 years.


 

So if we apply the 10,000 hour theory, perhaps we can break down what our training needs to look like if we are to truly master the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu within 10 years.

 

Did you do the math?............no worries, I’ll do it for you.

 

10,000 hours/10 years/52 weeks per year/7 days per week = roughly 2.7 hours per day, but for our purposes we’ll call it 3. That’s 3 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years to “master,” i.e. “achieve your black belt” in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

 

Of course, we must consider the fact that in BJJ we don’t label our black belts as “masters” per se. That honor is only given to the men who have earned their Red Belt like João Alberto Barreto and Oswaldo Alves, men who were training Jiu-Jitsu before most of us were even conceived of.

 

For the purposes of this discussion however, we will use the 10,000 hour rule as it applies to the majority of us who would consider the Black Belt level to be the pinnacle of our BJJ journey.

 

I can tell you, my response to this is, “Holy Cow! That’s a LOT of work for a LONG time!!!”

 

(I can be a little over dramatic)

 

It is rational to assume that there is an ebb and flow to our training days…some days we undertake 4 to 5 hours of blood sweat and tears in an effort to perfect our craft…..and other days we do 1 hour of technique and call it a day because the McRib happens to be back for a limited time only…..

 

Regardless, this “10,000 Hour Rule” smells to me a lot like a little thing called “commitment.”

 

As white belts, we stand at the base of Black Belt Mountain and see a jungle-infested-winding-trail fraught with frustration and danger at every turn…..blue belts waiting in the mist to tear your arms off, purple belts swinging from the trees to choke the life out of you, brown belts who just look at you and smile as a lion does to a baby gazelle…..and then, somewhere atop the clouded peak sits serenely the Black Belt…..a man (or woman) who has committed his (or her) whole life to achieving their goal.

 

It is indeed a long and winding road, and whether you subscribe to the “10,000 Hour Rule” or not, you will never achieve your goal without supreme commitment to it. I have stated, and I will maintain that my goal is to achieve my black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. However, when I look at my own level of commitment, I know it could be better. I struggle at times with getting to the gym while trying to balance my work and family life, as I’m sure a lot of us do. But what we have to remember is that along this path we will all move at our own pace, and the only thing that truly matters is that we keep moving forward.

 

So, my question is…what are your thoughts on commitment to your BJJ goals? And what do you think of the 10,000 Hour Rule as it relates to BJJ?

 

As for me..... I reckon I have about 9,923 hours to go!

 

 

 

Thank you for reading, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

 

Yours in BJJ,

 

-Chris

 

 

 

 

 


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