After another successful grading last week it’s a good time to remind ourselves what gradings are all about.
Gradings are a tool. Nothing more nothing less. They are a convenient way to do a number of things
- Give students some guidance as to what techniques and drill they should be focused on. This helps make sure you are building your Jiu Jitsu in a sensible order or priorities
- Gives the coaches a sense of where people are. Sometimes people will perform well in sparring with a great “A game” but a grading will higlight what the need to become more well rounded. Sometimes we’ll notice common errors across most students on a particular technique that gives us some feedback on how we’re coaching that technique.
- Gives students an experience that lets them know how they are tracking. Sometimes that will come from direct coach feedback. Oftentimes self feedback is more important. Which techniques were you most comfortable with? Which were you a little uncertain on. Proactive students use gradings to track their own progress – they view it as a test they conduct on themselves more than one we conduct on them.
So what does it take to earn a grade. A number of things. Yes you need to be able to show techniques in the grading at a level of technical excellence appropriate for that grade ( the top control drill we accept for a one stripe candidate needs to be smooth and technical. For a four stripe candidate we would expect it to be flawless). You also need to demonstrate the right attitude in day to day training. Working well with your partner, appropriate behaviour on the mat, taking responsibility for your own learning by asking appropriate questions, getting your reps in in drilling etc etc. And especially for the upper stripes showing you can apply technical knowledge in live sparring. This is not a case of who’s beating who, more a question of this – when we watch you spar do we see you working to implement appropriate plans, or has your theoretical knowledge gone out the window as you revert to a newbie scramble.
Let me finish by saying this. BJJ is not a fast grading art. If you need regular trips to the grading lollipop jar to feel happy, you may find BJJ challenging. We expect as much dedication to training and technical understanding to award a blue belt as some traditional styles now expect for a black belt.
Coloured belts are a big deal in BJJ, which then means stripes are a comparatively big deal as well. Each stripe is almost like a coloured belt in a traditional style. Which raises the question what do we have where those styles would give a stripe? Simple. A “good job” from your partner at the end of the round. A “yes just like that, much better’ show of approval form a coach. The quiet satisfaction as you feel yourself moving more fluidly and effectively in a drilling session. At the end of the day this where the joy of Jiu Jitsu training lies. Not in stripes or belts or gold medals. But in the journey that makes all of those things inevitable at some point.
So come along to gradings. Give your self some feedback on your own progress. If you are new come and have a watch, or jump on and give it a go to see how much you’ve already learned, and get excited about how much there is still to come.
We grade once a month whether you grade up or get to grow into your current grade a bit longer, there’s always another opportunity just around the corner. We have two results from grading – pass or not yet. Be content that this is a marathon not a sprint. And that’s what makes it so much fun.