I recently completed co-author duties with Jean Jacques Machado on his newest book — The Grappler’s Handbook Vol. 2: Tactics for Defense. In this new volume, I wrote a preface of my own that detailed some of my experiences as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu student. The preface was posted on BlackBeltMag.com Aug. 1, 2011. As soon as the preface was online, I started receiving emails that addressed the section that described my time spent as a blue belt — five years to be exact. I was asked how I handled spending that much time at one level. Was I ever frustrated? Did I ever feel like quitting? Those who wrote me were almost in the same situation. They were not surprised to hear that they were not alone. They were surprised, though, that someone not only broke through but also made it all the way to the coveted black-belt rank. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is unique in that there is no set curriculum or guideline for rank advancement. It is almost entirely performance based. There are other factors that play into your ability to move up. Some schools use stripes in between belts to help give students a better idea of their progress. But for most students knowing where they stand can be a big mystery. It is challenging enough wondering how close you are to the next level — imaging what it takes to make it all the way to black belt can seem like an impossible goal — but it can be done. I did it and broke down the five main principles that I believe are essential to helping you reach black-belt level: Make the Commitment Be Consistent Stay Focused Persevere Be Giving In the following weeks, I will be discussing each principle in further detail. Stay Tuned and Train Well. About the Author: Jay Zeballos is a Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2009 gold-medalist black belt under Jean Jacques Machado. He has been training with him for more than a decade. Zeballos is also the co-author of The Grappler's Handbook: Gi and No-Gi Techniques. His most recent book with Machado is The Grappler's Handbook Vol. 2: Tactics for Defense.