Jiu-Jitsu Letter


What really matters? The Combatives card is an interesting tool. White belts need it to keep track of their progress, and instructors need it to keep track of their students. And yes, mere attendance in the basics classes is enough to earn stripes.

We typically award a stripe (on white belts) for every twenty classes. It’s a big deal and it’s not a big deal. People forget how hard it was to get in the door, and they forget how hard it is to keep coming back.

And after completing the cycle twice, the students are allowed to participate in reflex development (RD) classes, where they start combining techniques. It’s not sparring. I like to compare jiu-jitsu practice to practice in other sports, and in this case, RD classes are like learning the triangle offense with a cooperative defense. No one ever watches that and complains, “That’s not realistic."1 But you hear that in regards to jiu-jitsu practice all the time.

It’s useful at first as a motivational tool. If you’re worried about the checkmarks, that’s fine and normal. But all students eventually understand that it’s not nearly as important as proficiency in the technique. They will see that they can have a marked up card and still suck, or have relatively few marks and not suck.

  1. I’ve found that I’ve been saying, “That’s not realistic,” more often when teaching and certain questions are asked. But that’s just because when teaching a technique, we often pause to give detail, and it sometimes looks like those pauses are part of the move. ↩︎

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