Poughkeepsie Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Brian McLaughlin shares the secret to his success
After 11 years of training I reached my goal of earning a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Since that fateful Poughkeepsie day a myriad of thoughts, emotions, and memories have flooded my mind. I thought back on all the people I trained with over the years and realized how few of them were able to achieve black belt. I wondered what allowed me to reach this level, what was I doing differently? After careful consideration I‘ve narrowed the field to three essentials that allowed me to reach black belt. Hopefully, you can adopt these values (some of you may already have them) and get on the path to success.
For years I was never extraordinary in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was just an average guy from Poughkeepsie. I didn‘t execute moves or understand concepts any faster than my teammates. I wasn‘t a born athlete nor was I any more kinesthetically aware than the average Jiu-Jitsu student. However, I was able to reach levels in Jiu-Jitsu that nearly everyone around me fell short of. I‘ve come to realize that there were three areas in which I was different from most people in class that accounted for the majority of my success.
The first and arguably most important thing was that I made training a priority in my life. I knew from the day I signed up for class that I would be doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the rest of my life. I decided that being successful in the art was extremely important. Wherever possible I would organize my life to allow me to train and to avoid things that would hinder my progress. I committed myself to doing something that would make me a better martial artist everyday. If it was as simple as stretching a little in the morning, watching an instructional video, or asking my instructor a question, each and every day I did something to improve my Brazilian jiu-jitsu. From time to time I‘ll see someone I used to train with and ask them why they stopped. They will rattle off a series of excuses always ending with ―You know how it is. I always politely nodded, but in reality I don‘t know how it is. No matter what life threw at me I always made sure that I continued my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu path. I might not have been the best athlete in Poughkeepsie, but I was going to make sure I was the most dedicated.
The second key to my advancement in the art, which I firmly believe is the key to success in all things in life, was showing up. Attendance was one part of training that was completely under my control. My goal was simple; I made sure that every week I had more days on the mats than off. This was the single biggest factor that allowed me to surpass my peers. There were students that would mop the mats with me, dominate me with little to no effort. However, they would take vacations from training for a week here and there. They‘d go through stretches where they‘d only make classes twice a week. Little by little my skills improved while there‘s remained constant until there was a complete role reversal. In fact, the person who taught me my very first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class years later became my student. A saying I used to repeat to myself was ―a black belt is simply a white belt who never quit. Traveling from Poughkeepsie to Westchester and the Bronx for training was not always easy, but where there’s a will there is a way.
The last key ingredient was a positive attitude towards training. My first day of training in Poughkeepsie I was 15 years old, I was swept, choked, pinned, and had every joint in my body twisted by a girl half my size. From that day on I adopted the attitude that I am going to get submitted quite a bit in training and that I should accept and welcome it as evidence that I train with quality partners and in an art that is highly effective. I‘ve told this story to many people and the most common response to my anecdote is ―Why did you come back?‖. I always looked at getting tapped out, especially by someone smaller and weaker than me, as a validation of the power of Jiu-Jitsu. In a way getting submitted is the best training asset since it directs you towards where you need improvement. In order to progress and learn you must make yourself vulnerable, take risks while rolling, and not be afraid to tap and tap often. By clinging to your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses you limit your potential and guarantee you will not become an elite grappler. I recall once while training at the AMA Fight club one of the member got caught in a submission and he let out a loud obscenity and punched the mat. The head coach, Jamie Cruz, pulled him back on the mat and made him THANK his training partner and apologize to the entire group for his outburst. I have seen other schools where the instructor scolded his students for getting tapped. Those were schools where fights would break out during training and people would get hurt by not tapping when they should have. I‘ve seen both sides of the coin and can guarantee you that putting your ego aside in training will not only make you a better martial artist it will also lead to a healthier training environment. These three rules seem simple, but they will be the biggest factors deciding your success in martial arts. If you want to achieve your goals you have to prioritize your training, attend often and consistently, and adopt an ego free attitude. Put these ideas into practice and get started on your path to black belt!