Advice probably just wasted on the white belts

Me and my Partner | 0 comments



February 1, 2017

by Bert Obernosterer 


If you grapple long enough, you can’t help sounding like a know-it-all from time to time. When Prof. Martin Guggi invited me to share some words of wisdom, I thought long and hard on what to write about and finally stumbled over an excellent essay by Mary Schmich (published 1997, Chicago tribune) on which I shamelessly based the following opinion piece.

I took the liberty to change it a bit, so that it meets our sweaty requirements. You can find the link to the original essay at the end of the article, as well as a link to an acoustical version. (For all of you who are too lazy to read.)


Before we start there is one important matter at hand. Imagine Morgan Freeman… Got him? You see his countless freckles in front of your eyes? Good, now try to read the following article with his voice inside your head. Because everything sounds much more meaningful when Morgan Freeman narrates it. For a British version try Richard Attenborough.


Wear a mouthpiece.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, wearing a mouthpiece would be it. The long-term benefits of mouthpieces have been proved by scientists and martial artists all over the world, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the light-heartedness of being a beginner. Oh, never mind. You will not understand it until it has faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how many possibilities lay before you.

You are not as clumsy on the mat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or choose to worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to defend a choke by holding your breath. The real troubles on your Jiu-Jitsu journey are going to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind of things that blindside you at 10 a.m. on competition day.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with your training partners. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with you.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old team photos.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to achieve in Jiu. The most interesting grapplers I know didn’t know after 3 years of training where they were heading. Some of the most interesting black belts I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll get promoted, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have students on your own, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll stop training after a month, maybe you’ll roll with your grandchildren on your 75th birthday. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half decided by chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Move, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read instructionals, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read sports magazines. They will only make you feel lazy.

Get to know your instructors, but don’t idolize them. They know more about Jiu than you do, but they are not superior to you in other areas of life.

Be nice to your friends on the mat. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that training partners come and go, but a precious few you should hold on to.

Do competition sparring, but mix it up before it makes you too tense. Do flowrolling, but mix it up before it makes you too soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Martial Art Stars will talk trash. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, the stars of your time were noble and white belts respected their teachers.

Respect your teachers.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you are gifted with superior genetics. Maybe you are a hard worker. Maybe you are obsessed with the art. But you never know if you might hit a wall someday.

Don’t let others mess too much with your ears or by the time you’re 40 they will look like semi-digested meat loafs.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the mouthpiece.



-Based and partly copied on/from the following article:

-Song based on the original essay:





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