Training BJJ for longer periods of time requires a passion for the sport that can withstand the injuries, moments of ego breaking, setbacks, and frustrations. Jiu-jitsu is so incredibly addictive, that even those practitioners that end up leaving – rarely just pack up their Gis and go. In that regard, people who end up quitting BJJ are very inclined to make excuses for their actions.
Let’s be honest, most people who practice grappling martial arts are never going to do them professionally. There are only a few people who can live sustainably from teaching Jiu-Jitsu. There are even fewer who can make a profit from competing.
But having said that, people who are truly committed always find a way to get to the class. They might be able to train only twice a week or have to leave almost every class early. These, however, are not reasons to give up and do not mean that progress in this art is impossible.
Let’s deep dive into some of the reasons why people eventually quit training BJJ.
Critical Reasons For Quitting BJJ
No matter how much you take care of yourself, how fast you tap, your stretching routine, etc. – you can still get injured. Injuries can happen to literally anyone: from total beginners to the best black belts in the world, everyone is equally prone to them. This does not mean, however, that we should quit BJJ immediately if we injure ourselves. In fact, if the injury isn’t that serious, BJJ’s biggest enthusiasts don’t ever stop training, and some others mostly take short breaks. Many of them use that time to see the sport from another angle: taking notes by just observing other people’s sparrings, watching DVD instructionals extensively, etc.
However, if injuries multiply, then even those minor ones become easily problematic and make training more difficult. And as the break from being on the mat gets longer and longer, it’s getting harder to come back. The same goes for serious injuries after which you can’t train for a long time. The gap created due to the lack of BJJ is being replaced by some other activities. For some of us, these other activities will appear more interesting and permanently replace their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Furthermore, people who have experienced the most severe injuries, the ones that not only prevent training but also interfere with daily functioning, may come to the conclusion that this sport simply isn’t worth paying the price.
Injuries are the physical reality of participation in sports. This is especially true of martial arts. You just can’t get away from the fact that activity like BJJ affects your joints, muscles and ligaments.
Time is undoubtedly one of the most important reasons why people quit BJJ.
In general, BJJ eats up an incredible amount of time. Regardless of your occupation or work schedule, it is never fully convenient to train BJJ. If you have a day job, your options are training in the morning or evening.
This means that you either get up super early to go to class at 6 in the morning or regroup after a long working day to spend the evening in the dojo.
None of these scenarios are ‘easy’ when it comes to managing the overall schedule. Especially when you understand the time frame and frequency needed to progress in BJJ, you are giving up most of the hours other people spend in their free time.
In the long run, BJJ requires an incredibly long time frame to truly develop the right skill. In an era of one-day diets or even three-month transformations, the decades required for true BJJ mastery intimidate even the most persistent student.
If we look at just one single belt rank, the average time to acquire a blue belt is 1-2 years.
When we look at how to get to more advanced ranks, we can double or triple that period for the purple or brown belt.
Dedicated fitness and body-building enthusiasts go from obese to fitness-model physique in less time than it can take to get a purple belt.
People earn college degrees in the same time frame.
In fact, entire companies and careers are built in less time.
And then – guess what: when you get a purple belt, you’re barely halfway to the black belt.
It is true, however, that you may be able to shorten your beginner days if you train regularly and if you are athletic. The background of other grappling martial arts also helps a lot.
From another point of view, BJJ requires a lot of training time. Even if you don’t train every day, you’ll be at the academy a few days a week. Regular classes last at least an hour and a half, and often more. Add commute to that, and now that is more than two hours of your time. Now, connect the need to fit BJJ into your life with the time it takes to reach the purple belt. Both of these temporal reasons are a tremendous factor in people turning their backs on Jiu-Jitsu.
Managing Expectations Vs. Reality
If we hold very high expectations of ourselves, the reality may disappoint us. For example, some may think they will become world champions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but in reality, they don’t even win local competitions, so they get discouraged. Such examples could be multiplied indefinitely. The point is that when we have expectations of something and reality does not meet them, we give it up. People for whom BJJ did not meet expectations for different reasons – simply quit BJJ. It is just not for them.
Many instructors know how many conversations with new students have they had expressing frustration that they cannot “pass the guard of that blue belt” or “tap that purple belt”. The worrying thing about these exchanges is that they talk about how easily we can focus on “winning” and lose sight of reality and even our own personal goals. Self-assessments and the desire to progress quickly are not “bad” things, they just need to be managed properly and maturely in ways that support our overall goals and a positive BJJ lifestyle.
Have you ever seen a new person who attends every class, 7 days a week? Within a month of training, this types of a person already have a limited edition Venum Challenger Gi. They have a subscription to dozens of BJJ websites and an impressive DVD collection. They study hours of match footage and spend much of their time on YouTube. On the mat, they are light years ahead of training partners who started at the same time. That person was usually top of the class, a natural athlete who picked things up quickly and was always ahead of the curve.
After a while, everything changed on the mats. The movements seem foreign, everything seems unnatural and for the first time in their life, they suck at something. This type of person no longer has all the answers and is not the smartest guy in the room.
And then, all of a sudden, that person disappears completely. Have they all become creontes and changed academies? Were they injured? Nope – they just entered too much, too soon and they burned out.
When we have a lot of free time and don’t have too many commitments, it’s easy to train a lot. However, as time runs out and the schedule of the day becomes increasingly tense, participation in BJJ classes also becomes more difficult. For some of us, even impossible. For such people, training would mean neglecting their children or threatening to lose their jobs, etc. They do not have time for hobbies in the form of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In general, they barely have time for anything because they are so busy with daily chores.
Another facet of life in the way may come in the form of career opportunities. Everything went well until that big promotion at work. The workweek is now significantly extended, responsibilities may have increased, and you may need to relocate and/or spend a lot of time traveling.
Most people in BJJ today have not started training BJJ as kids. This means that by the time you get to blue belt, you are likely to make big lifestyle changes. Whether it’s a marriage, a child, a mortgage, you’ll be pressured over time. It’s normal for people to devote more time to life than sports, but only if you look at BJJ that way. What people that breakthrough past the blue belt realize, is that Jiu-Jitsu is therapy, just one that is done on the mats instead of a chair.
Due to the aforementioned time frames for improvement at BJJ, you will face changing life circumstances during your journey.
If you are a young, single person, you will probably have quite a bit of freedom to train as much as you can. Nevertheless, as time passes by, some mixture of relationships, careers, and starting a family will pull you in different directions.
Any black belt will confirm the fact that sticking to BJJ requires balancing a large number of responsibilities and life goals. Juggling duty to family, spending time with a romantic partner, and earning a living in collaboration with frequent BJJ training is getting harder and harder as responsibilities pile up.
Part of the BJJ path revolves around learning how to manage everything and keep training. However, each stage of life development offers another obstacle that you will have to overcome if you are deeply committed to the BJJ journey.
Blue Belt Syndrome/Blues/Curse
Getting a higher belt is generally a good thing. However, promotion to the blue belt can also potentially end your jiu-jitsu career. How is that? The reason for this is that this may be the beginning of the so-called “blue belt syndrome”, also called “blue belt blues” or “blue belt curse”. Despite slight differences in names, they all point to the same phenomenon of leaving and quitting BJJ after being given a blue belt. In general, most people have enough enthusiasm to get a blue belt. Then, however, sometimes they do not have enough to continue.
What usually happens is that fresh blue belts are slowly starting to disappear from the gym. Everyone except those who have come very close to the purple belt is susceptible to this syndrome. Even some of the famous grapplers of all time admitted to experiencing the blue belt blues syndrome. Tom DeBlass is one of them: he himself almost quit BJJ at the blue belt. He didn’t, though, and today he’s one of the most influential grapplers in the world. But why does this syndrome occur? What is it that makes people quit BJJ at exactly this level, regardless of age, gender, or location?
The highest blue belt dropout rate is mainly due to several main reasons. Before we look at them, let’s thank Keith Owen for saying his. He argues that if you ever decide to consider quitting BJJ, you should at least wait until you become a purple belt. By then you already know if you like BJJ or not. Chances are if you’re still there, you like the sport, there’s no doubt about it. But also, for some, there may be some valid reasons to think that Jiu-Jitsu is not for them, and that is fine. It only takes patience to find out if you really like this art. After all, quitting BJJ after the first big milestone isn’t exactly a good display of character, is it?
The white and blue belt times are the most difficult in Jiu-Jitsu. This is understandable, because these are survival belts. You get beaten as a beginner, on a regular basis. The thing is, once you get your blue belt, you’re not going to get better at BJJ overnight. People work incredibly hard to get to the blue belt and then… suddenly realize that they need to start everything again. It may also take longer to reach the purple belt. In fact, the blue belt is usually the longest time that a BJJ grappler spends at one belt level.
No matter which belt you are, there is a chance you have seen at least one example of blue belt syndrome at your academy. When you look at it, a lot of people come and go through BJJ sport, but most of them either give up right away or at the blue belt.
The vast majority of people will never make it past the blue belt. Only those who are most committed manage to reach the purple belt. There is a saying that, once you reach the purple belt, you will remain faithful to Jiu-Jitsu for life.
Plateaus, Lack Of Visible Progress, Burnouts
At the beginning of our journey in BJJ in particular, we always learn something new at almost every corner. With each training session, we progress quickly. Then, after a while, most of us suddenly run into a wall. The learning process is slowing down. We stop seeing visible progress. We have the impression that our skills are even declining. With such stagnation we begin to wonder why we train at all, what is the purpose of training, etc.
During these difficult times, some will just grit their teeth and keep coming to class hoping that this crisis will pass one day. Others, however, will decide that it is not worth it. They will succumb to the voices in their head that the training sessions are pointless because they are not learning anything new, and therefore they will simply quit BJJ.
One of the more technical reasons for eventually giving up on your BJJ is hitting the plateau. Remember how we already pointed out that getting a blue belt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re instantly better at BJJ? Well, the blue belt is the period when most people hit a barrier or two. You know a bit of grappling, but you lag far behind the most advanced students.
You may actually find out that you are closer to the level of the white belt. This is the time when blue belts go all-out to fix their game, and in the end they make a lot of mistakes that white belts make. Sometimes, this process seems to go backwards and their willingness to train is broken.
The solution is simple and all blue belts know it: Just keep showing up and put the work in. Every purple belt and above used to be a blue belt. They also had their fair share of blue-belt blues as well but just kept showing up. A little persistence will go a long way in making you a lifelong member of the BJJ community, instead of just another blue belt dropout.
When you first start to train BJJ, you are not fully aware of the entire BJJ improvement process. To many, progress seems linear in the initial stages of training. You start picking up the basics quickly.
This phase of the honeymoon can last from a few weeks to a few months. But very quickly, the truth sets in. BJJ progress is cyclical and wavy. Learn a new move and successfully get it to work on someone. You think you’re getting better. Then all of a sudden, you’re rolling with someone else who completely shuts down a move you’ve been proud of just a moment ago.
In the end, it can take weeks to months of constant training and grinding before something ‘clicks’ and you get that ‘aha moment’.
In fact, the longer you have been training and investing in your BJJ, the greater input you must deliver to actually improve.
This phenomenon is often called “plateau”, and can quickly discourage even the most motivated and dedicated students.
Plateaus are a reality in BJJ. While we’ll discuss some solutions for breaking the plateau below, there’s no denying the frustration and helplessness that sets in when you feel like you are not improving day by day.
The people and the atmosphere they create can turn almost any place into heaven or hell. A day with toxic people at a better paid or more interesting job will be harder for most of us than working for less money and doing something boring but in a great team. It is no different with BJJ either. And the best quality mat is not important if the people who roll on it are shitty, egoistic, arrogant or simply do not suit you for various reasons. It is also worth mentioning that the coaches may be too harsh or strict for some, they don’t like the style of their lectures, etc. So it can happen that some people have started training BJJ in the wrong place and – instead of looking for another club – they are so discouraged that they quit the sport.
Lack Of Connection To BJJ Peers Or Community
One of the determining factors as to whether we continued to train or hung up our Gis is whether we have made strong personal connections in our academies, or in the BJJ community in general.
There is a popular saying that we are the average of the 5 people we hang out with the most.
When some of them are guys from the BJJ community, then their lives and attitudes start to greatly influence our lives and attitudes. If these are highly motivated individuals, who have gone through a lot on their BJJ path, then their friendly advice, support, encouragement and willpower can greatly inspire us to keep training. Even if we intended to give up. Who you are with, that’s who you are.
Also, joining some BJJ forums, pages and groups on social media on the internet can inspire you a lot if you’re down, and people in the BJJ community are always eager to lend a helping hand. It’s a true brotherhood, which is not easy to find in other places and fields of life.
Not Being Challenged
Sometimes we start falling out of love with BJJ when boredom starts to reach us. As a sport, BJJ is rapidly changing and evolving. If you watch footage of the Mundials from ten years ago and compare it to any recent records, you can see big changes both at the colored belts and the black belt levels. The BJJ lifestyle is also growing, as the global impact of sport is at an all-time high.
In order for an individual to be able to appreciate all the benefits of BJJ training, one has to feel the power of BJJ through improving our personality. If we are not challenged by some unpleasant positions during rolls, or some tough partners, or – if you decide to compete – with a highly stressful atmosphere in tournaments … you will probably feel that BJJ does not make you a stronger, bolder, braver, and more integrated person.
There should be at least some form of challenge. It doesn’t have to be a competition, it can be – as already mentioned – heavy rolling in your own gym, deliberately putting yourself in bad positions, and so on.
Sometimes people think they are too old to start train BJJ, or too old after a certain age threshold to continue to train BJJ. Both concepts are not correct, and require a healthy attitude and mindset to take all of the factors into consideration.
Of course, everyone’s body is not the same at 20 or at 50 years old. But that shouldn’t be the reason not to start with this sport, or even worse – to quit BJJ. The following video from the Gracie Academy is truly a phenomenal aid for those who think that they need to quit BJJ at a certain age:
And if this is not enough for you, please read an article here about Alan Phillips of Legacy BJJ In Burbank, California, who is now 71 years old! He has been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 4 years under Alberto Crane. He considers his BJJ Academy as his home.
“Jiu-Jitsu has definitely made me a better person. It gives me the advantage to look at other human beings get the chance to understand more.”
Solutions For Quitting BJJ
Now that we’ve covered the top 11 reasons why people quit BJJ, we’ll also consider some solutions to overcome the obstacles you’ll certainly face if you plan to train in the long run.
These solutions include both philosophical, psychological and practical strategies for the continuation of BJJ training. Hopefully, they can help you to stay on track to continue training BJJ no matter what life brings you in the future.
Managing Your Ego
There is a saying in the BJJ world that you have to “manage your ego”. This truth holds true at all stages of your BJJ development, although it manifests variously at different stages of progress and different belt ranks.
Managing your ego is vital to ensuring that you focus on how BJJ benefits you personally, as opposed to the fact that there will always be some other people that will be better than you. The following quote from the famous BJJ fighter Caio Terra illustrates this perfectly:
If you’re demotivated by the fact that a serious competitor, who may have started training BJJ after you did, can now tap you out, it’s time to check your ego. If you are a dedicated competitor, then training as much as possible and grinding harder than everyone else should be your main focus. You should strive for tough rolls with other highly-skilled teammates.
If you are a recreational or irregular BJJ trainee, then it is best to immediately accept the fact that you will never be at the top of the food chain, especially if you train at a gym with high-level competitors.
The more you can face this reality, the greater your chances of not quitting BJJ. Another phenomenal quote on this topic:
Honest Self-Assessment Of Why You Train BJJ
The top mindset tool for not quitting BJJ is an honest self-assessment of your personal goals in BJJ. This is really something that everyone will need to do at some point, but is rarely discussed openly amongst grapplers. This self-assessment happens all the time, either consciously or unconsciously, and our job is to make it consciously. That way, we can recognize some negative paradigms right on time.
The path of BJJ is nonlinear and is unique to each person participating in martial arts.
If you hope to stick to the BJJ for a long time, you need to be clear about your Why.
Here are just a few questions worth clarifying for yourself so you can accept your BJJ training for what it means to you and the overall role of BJJ in your life.
- How does Jiu-jitsu benefit me on a personal level?
- What effect would quitting Jiu-jitsu have on my life?
Despite the challenges you will face during training, BJJ has so many amazing benefits. These include things like fitness, improving mental health, self-defense, a sense of community and personal growth.
The reasons for training BJJ change over time as our lives progress, and that’s okay.
The Covid-19 crisis has shown grapplers, more than ever before, how much BJJ helps with coping in very stressful situations, and how much a lack of training can strongly affect anxiety levels and our mental strength.
Regardless, it’s worth taking the time to think about how BJJ benefits your life, every couple of months. If you have specific training reasons that you can actively remind yourself of, you are much more likely to stick to your training. If quitting BJJ is something you want to avoid, don’t neglect thinking about the benefits that BJJ brings into your life.
Level of competitiveness
BJJ is unique in terms of competitions because they are very accessible to most practitioners. Still, real competition at the elite level requires the same dedication as any other professional sport.
The older you start, the harder it will be to reach the elite level of competition in BJJ.
Despite of your individual situation: being a competitive BJJ player at a high level will make you give up or postpone many other life goals.
If you are honest about your competition goals, it will help guide your process of determining how Jiu-Jitsu fits into your life.
If you just want to compete locally, or not at all, and train a few days a week, that’s fine. Just know that the people who train twice a day will become much better than you, rank up faster and get more attention from coaches and the community.
If you are clear with your goals in BJJ, this fact should not bother you as you will benefit from training BJJ. Clear goals may be just what you need to prevent you from quitting BJJ.
Mixing Up Your Training
When it comes to breaking through plateaus, mixing up your training is the key to improving and maintaining your motivation in BJJ.
Once we reach a point in BJJ where we have developed a certain game we like to play, it’s easy to fall into the same patterns every time we roll, over and over again.
The solution for this?
To leave your comfort zone and start trying out new stuff. The usual trick is to self-ban certain techniques or game plans when you roll:
- If you have one typical pass that you always do, force yourself to do another one.
- If you are a leglock-oriented player, stop doing leg locks for some time and start playing traditional top games.
- If you only like to be on top, start pulling guard and engage in the bottom position. Or, go for leg locks instead of battling for top position every time.
- Consider also investing in a BJJ instructional series on a topic your coach does not cover often.
There are so many remedies for breaking plateaus, but the bottom line is: mixing up your training is key to keeping the spirit of that beginner’s mindset that made so many people fall in love with BJJ.
Taking Intentional Breaks From BJJ
In some situations, you may need a pause from training to remind yourself why you started in the first place. In fact, it is quite common for longtime BJJ practitioners to go through phases of a few weeks to months, sometimes years, when they stop training for a while.
Sometimes, maybe that’s exactly what you need to rekindle your passion for BJJ and go back to the “days of old glory” again. In the long run, a little planned time off could be what keeps you going for the years and decades that are required to truly shine in BJJ.
Forgiving Yourself For Quitting BJJ
The ultimate philosophical strategy of preventing permanent quitting of BJJ is to forgive yourself for what distracts you or has taken you away from BJJ. Sometimes life is out of our control and we can’t dedicate everything we want to BJJ.
If you have taken some time off, relax and get back on track again.
Oftentimes, the label of ‘being a quitter’ can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that prevents you from ever returning to training. And it really shouldn’t be that way.
Who cares if a guy who just started when you stopped is submitting you now? People will get better than you whether you show up on the mats or not, whether you face that fact or not.
Returning to BJJ training after time off due to any of the previously discussed factors can be more difficult than starting BJJ at all.
But why should it be so? If BJJ genuinely benefits your life, don’t let momentum or shame stop you from training.
And how will most of the BJJ peers you trained with before the break react? They will be happy to see your face again on the mats!
Quitting BJJ: The Final Thoughts
Ultimately, BJJ is a never-ending grind that you have to enjoy as it is and accept as it is.
There are many different reasons why people quit BJJ altogether.
It will often be a regret they carry for the rest of their lives.
We hope that the strategies presented in this article can assist and prevent you from quitting BJJ, or bring you back after a temporary break.
We will end up with a quote from the BJJSELFHELP site: