The journey from beginner to expert – physical and psychological development: We all begin as white belts. Our common desire is to gain expertise. In physical terms it’s easy to identify what changes – it is skill. When we first begin we enter as klutzes who can bare shrimp across the mat, but by the time you’re a black belt you will spin effortlessly into a beautiful armbar from underneath a tough opponent without a second thought. But what about the psychological angle? What changes most from beginner to expert? Is it confidence? Do we become more confident? Not always. I know quite a few world champions who are nervous wreaks before competition or even before a hard session. I know others who fervently believe they have inadequate skills despite winning world titles and having great renown as competitors. Is it knowledge? Not always. Some champions have vast amounts of knowledge, but others have a sparse number of and no interest in adding more and they are very successful at the highest levels. In my the single most dominant psychological trait among experts that emerged as they went from white belt to black is A CALM MIND THAT ENABLES THEM TO PROBLEM SOLVE UNDER STRESS. Almost every champion and Jiu jitsu expert I knew had this characteristic. As white belts we quickly become FRANTIC when sparring begins. Watch any beginners class and the dominant characteristic you’ll see is LEADING TO ERROR AND EXHAUSTION. when you watch the black belt class you will observe extreme examples calm under stress that enables students to get out of seemingly hopeless situations and recover. Learning to develop that essential MENTAL CALM is every bit as important as developing your physical skills. Indeed, i would so far as to say that the physical skills will prove to be of rather limited value if they are not accompanied by a mental calm that judiciously guides their use. When don’t just pay attention to the physical skills, pay attention to your state of mind.