Jiu Jitsu Self Image

When I was brand new I took cues from my training partners. Because of my slow initial growth, they felt that I was an easy roll and wasn’t going to be tapping anyone anytime soon.  I accepted that.  My Jiu Jitsu self-image was that I just wasn’t going to be very good at Jiu Jitsu.

Justly Earned Earl NightingaleThen one day it hit me that I was limiting myself and I shattered my glass bottle and turned up my training intensity.  At first there was a pushback.  Everyone around me still imagined I was imprisoned in that same glass bottle, but over time their image of me changed because mine did first.
Then, I got my Blue Belt and it all changed again.  I didn’t realize how comfortable I had become in my self image as a solid White Belt.  I had gone into a cruising mode and enjoyed too much comfort. The grinding forward that had got me to my current level had fallen off.

Jiu Jitsu Self Image Through The Words Of Earl Nightingale

Εarl Nightingale tells the story of a farmer walking through his pumpkins. The farmer finds a glass jug among his sprouting pumpkins and he shoves a pumpkin into the glass bottle.  Weeks later he returns to find all of the other pumpkins have grown to full size, but the pumpkin he pushed into the jug was limited by the size of the glass jar.

Earl goes on to say that we are like the pumpkins and the glass jar is our self image. I have experienced this limiting Jiu Jitsu self image repeatedly in my journey. And I have broken through glass bottle after glass bottle to continue growing.

Click Play Below To Hear It Straight From Earl Nightingale

You Are Who You Are Going To Be Unless You Choose Otherwise

It seems that each time I adopt a new Jiu Jitsu self image I feel like I have solved the problem for eternity.  Actually I am trading a glass bottle that I had outgrown for a larger one that doesn’t fit as snug.  I didn’t notice the next one until I got to my Blue Belt.  I was feeling like king of the White Belts and coming hard after the Blue and Purple Belts.  Despite the fact that there were no expectations for me to win I would occasionally catch one of those upper belts.

PumpkinBlue Belt

Now I was a Blue Belt.  The White Belts that were behind me started coming after me hard as if it was an episode of Highlander and if they could catch me they would get my belt and powers.  The upper belts I would maybe catch before and feel proud of I now felt an expectation to be competitive with every move of every roll because we were the same belt now.  This is where the Blue Belt Blues settles in for a lot of people.  Thankfully, I had already gone through mine at White Belt.

Purple Belt

After years as a Blue Belt I finally started to get into my groove and after a grueling promotion gauntlet I was awarded my Purple Belt.  I didn’t feel ready.  I felt like a sham – like I didn’t want to come train and get exposed.  How will I deal if that Blue Belt that Lucas Walker Purple Belt Brian Stuebner Caio Terratapped me yesterday when we were both Blues taps me now that I am a Purple?

I had all these extra expectations.  Once again I had settled intoa self image of myself as a Blue Belt and this time my instructor had shattered it for me and made me expand my self image.

I forcefully pushed through the walls of this new glass bottle. I did my hardest most focused work at Purple Belt and had my largest increase of skill.

Brown Belt

A few weeks ago I was awarded my Brown Belt.  I felt very confident and comfortable in my purple belt, but I didn’t feel like I was ready to be promoted.  It was fun to coast through rolls as a seasoned Purple Belt and goof off.

Now, I am back at the very bottom of the deep waters with a long way to swim before I feel comfortable again.  Again, my instructor saw what I needed and essentially let me know it was time to turn it up a notch again.  Thank goodness, because I haven’t felt this hungry in awhile!

So what is the take home from all of this? 

Examine your Jiu Jitsu self image regularly and see if you are still growing or if you have outgrown your current comfort zone. If you are worried about a belt promotion, become the best most technical YOU that you can be, because that dyed fabric won’t mean anything if you don’t have the skills to back it up.

Hone your technique, mindset, and helpfulness to levels that prove to yourself and others that you are ready.  Don’t ever ask your instructor about your promotion, he will tell you when it is time.


  1. Julie Walker

    I enjoy reading about your journey through the different stages of growth – love the jar to self image analogy. Thanks for sharing !!

  2. Eva

    Enjoyed reading your blogs! I can use these as motivation for my martial arts journey-

    1. Glad you are enjoying it!

  3. Lowry

    Another good read, Lucas! It’s interesting to hear about your journey through the ranks

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