There are many similarities between a Brazilian jiu-jitsu student and a grapevine. A long time ago, growers found out that if you indulge the vine — giving it lots of water and rich soil — it will produce mediocre grapes. They discovered that in order to produce grapes that are of the highest quality, they actually have to distress the vines. By providing the vines with just enough water and nutrients to survive, the growers force the vines to work hard to produce its grapes. Amazingly, this process brings out the very best concentration and complexity in the grape. You can take the easy path and achieve some success. But if you take the difficult path by forcing yourself to face your most daunting challenges, you will reach heights you never thought possible. Perseverance is by far the biggest obstacle in your path to achieving your black belt. There are also other obstacles that stand in your way. Some are easier than others to break through. Perhaps the most obvious is the seemingly never-ending setbacks you'll face during training. Whether it’s learning the movements or techniques, tapping out a lot during training, or dealing with injuries, you'll encounter many challenges during your journey and it will not stop once you receive your blue belt. In fact, the challenges come at you harder as you move up in rank. However, it is these challenges that help define you not only as a martial artist but also as a person. This is very empowering because with each breakthrough, not only will your technique improve but also your mindset. It is also important to surround yourself with positive energy, both on and off the mat. It’s not enough to think or hope you can make it to black belt — you have to believe it. At the Jean Jacques Machado Academy (as well as my own office), you'll find many motivational quotes and statements hanging on the walls. Everywhere you look, you are reminded that you can accomplish anything if you do two things: Believe in yourself and never quit. Once you get into this mindset, you can and will find motivation anywhere. 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.