For some of us, the thought of quitting jiu-itsu doesn’t even enter the realm of possibility. We’d go insane without our weekly fix of human chess. We continually need to challenge our body and mind, test our ego, and connect with our fellow gi wearing brothers and sisters. For some, however, the gentle art is a passing phase that comes and goes like the wind. Oftentimes, events out of our control force us to put our practice on hold. Other times, interests fade, priorities take precedent, and nagging injuries sideline us for the long term. We’ll explore the major reasons why some people quit and hang up their belts for the last time.
Let’s face it, becoming proficient in anything takes time. The average amount of time to earn a blue belt is two years and the highly coveted black strap, ten! That’s a lot of commitment and continual, dedicated practice, week after week, month after month, year after year. In a world where it feels like time is moving faster and faster, the last thing anyone wants to do is waste it.
Now, say you’re a nine-to-fiver and have a normal work schedule. Your training time is usually limited to after work and maybe a weekend day. However, if you’re training an average of three times per week, that doesn’t leave much time for other responsibilities, hobbies, or social events. Add a family to that equation, and you have even less time to dedicate. Another way to label this source of turnover is priorities. Things that are important, or priorities, will need the most amount of time, and recreational activities like jiu-jitsu often take the back burner for many. Some just aren’t willing to commit the time our martial art demands.
Depending on when you start jiu-jitsu will play a big factor in your ability to withstand the repetitive stress experienced from the art. Younger athletes, especially pre-teen and teenagers, can quickly recover from session to session, and will benefit from the unique flexibility, strength, and cardio demands of weekly training. Not to say all young guns are immune from career ending injuries; however, without the responsibilities of work, family, and grown up life, they can afford the time off the mats to heal up and do so much faster than their older teammates.
For those who have a few miles under their belts, chronic pain or a severe injury is enough to keep them off the mats for good. Especially during the white belt years when the body is acclimating to new movement patterns and repetitive thrashings from higher belts, it’s easy to walk away from the pain. If a severe injury is had but an athlete resolves to return, the fear of reinjury or facing another is enough to warrant giving up. There’s a saying in combat sports, “It’s not a matter of if you’ll get injured but when.” For those unwilling to accept this inevitability, the academy door swings both ways.
Typical is the case of young, determined jiu-jitsu competitors who sacrifice everything to chase the dream of becoming World Champion. A goal of this extent requires total commitment to daily training, leaving not much for else more, including a job. If sponsors are sparse and family members are unsupportive, financially at least, our young grappler’s dreams are often shattered. The inability to fulfill basic human needs, like food and shelter via lack of capital, will quickly force these athletes off the mat. Often we hear stories of guys living in their cars or sleeping on the academy mats just to save their pennies for mat fees, basic living expenses, and food. Although jiu-jitsu is not as expensive as some traditional sports that require pricey equipment, it can surely add up.
Mat fees can run anywhere between $75 to $250 per month. Multiply that by 12 months, and it could cost $900 to $3,000 a year to train on a weekly basis at your local academy. Add in equipment and other fees like rash guards, gis, supplements, and tournament expenses, jiu-jitsu can become a pretty expensive endeavor. For those of us who have car, home, and/or school payments, along with living expenses, other gym duties, and social lives, costs can build up quickly. When budgets are tight and recreational activities are given the axe, jiu-jitsu is often the first one to go.
Loss of Motivation
The first few years of any new venture can be challenging. When you’re a white belt, it may take a while to get the grasp of new techniques, to apply moves and transitions, and ultimately, to hold your own. Continually being submitted, forcing your ego aside, and staying resilient when your body, mind, and spirit want to quit is no easy task; especially, when you’re paying money for it. Frustration abounds and the complex matrix that is jiu-jitsu seems like a never ending puzzle, impossible to conquer. Although many of us are hooked after the first session, some are less easily captivated, and the lack of immediate progress can cause loss of interest and motivation.
Add the amount of time it takes to receive a new belt, and you’ve got a recipe for turnover. Luckily there are stripes, or else the seemingly never ending transition from blue to purple would be far too long to endure. Many of us as beginners are hungry for the next belt and hastily desire for the black. If this mindset is never overcome, and the understanding that the reward is in the journey is never had, the road to black belt will be a tedious marathon, easy to abandon.
Changing of Goals
Not everyone comes into jiu-jitsu with their sights set on a black belt. Some people just want to get a good workout without spending hours on a boring treadmill. Others desire to build confidence or learn skills to defend themselves. Some only want the basics of ground fighting to add to their martial arts arsenal. Whatever it is, people have different intentions for training, and those intentions can change over time.
Some MMA fighters have been known to earn only their blue belt in case things go to the ground in the cage. Mainly, they rely on their stand up game to earn victories, but a general understanding of jiu-jitsu is a valuable skillset to have. In cases like this, just a few years of jiu-jitsu is enough. Some people are also turned off by the sport aspect of jiu-jitsu and are content with learning basic self-defense skills. Others are either grossed out or insecure with the idea of grappling with other people in hot and sweaty conditions. Either way, the fact is people are entitled to do what they choose, and quitters just leave more space on the mats for those who are hooked on the gentle art.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those hooked and wouldn’t give up your mat time for anything. People work two jobs, have families, jobs, and commitments, but still find an hour here and there to get a few rolls in. If you’ve ever wondered why some people slap and bump fists, ready to roll one day, then are gone the next, now you know. Life comes at as all differently, but you should feel much more prepared for it, knowing you still train jiu-jitsu.