What do belt colors mean in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu like most martial arts have a belt system.  Wishing that system are ranking structures for youth and adults.  For this article I will be referring to the Adult belts.  The adult belts are as follows: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.  This structure seems simple enough, everyone starts at white belt and works their way to the rank of black belt.  However the journey from white to black is a an arduous journey filled with many ups and downs.  Today we will focus on each belt level and how they apply to the person training.  And what they can expect to focus on at each belt.

White belt- Most definitely the most frustrating belt of them all. Assuming you have never grappled a day in your life, you are starting at the very beginning,  This is very similar to kindergarten.  We learn how interact with our class mates through static drilling.  For example not resisting to much or being what I refer to as a “floppy fish”.  During the technique portion your instructor is showing the basics and fundamentals.   At this point you are learning your “vowels”.  These moves will be the framework of your Jiu Jitsu and they will never go away.  These techniques will make up the foundation to which everything else is built upon.  Most of the techniques learned will look very complicated at first, but as your understanding increases they will become very simple.  As an instructor I like to show these moves stripped away from all set ups and counters, in order to give just the necessary information.  Over loading of information is very common at this point and can inhibit progression.  At this stage of learning it will require a lot of memorization.  Until drilling time has built the pathways in the brain.

Blue belt-  It is a an extremely rewarding feeling being promoted to blue belt, most student don’t feel like beginners anymore.  Given the fact that most blue belts would dominate a large portion of the population.  However in the grand scheme of Jiu Jitsu, a blue belt still has a lot to learn.  At this point you start learning how to spell and put together “words” with you technique.  Meaning now you might be putting one or two moves together.  In a defensive manner, you are recognizing set ups and applying the proper counters.  You may feel like your more experienced training partners are “3-4 steps ahead”, when in reality their timing and anticipation of your reactions are what is catching you.  While at blue belt it is important not to get in the bad habit of doing “anti Jiu Jitsu”.  That is when you simple focus on not getting tapped, not getting swept, or not getting passed simply by holding on to you opponent as hard as you can.  Most people will then brag “Well at least I didn’t get submitted”.  But my rebuttal to that is “well you also did no Jiu Jitsu”.  It is ok to make mistakes at blue belt, as long as we take a good look at what happened and ask questions to help prevent this in the future.  Bottom line is focus on your defense, not just from the first submission but the ones that may follow on as well.

Purple belt-  At this point in your training, you have probably been on the mats anywhere from 3-7 years.  Your foundation from white belt is set, your defense is solid.  But now what?  In school after learning vowels, words, you then learn how to put that together into sentences.  Meaning you should be working on stringing together different series of techniques.  You have learned all these techniques individually and maybe even one or two together, but now it is time to build on these.  The easiest way is to take a certain position, have a favorite technique, and then from there branch out, and learn a way to deal with any counter from that position, so that no matter what you opponent does, you have an option to either advance your position or hit a submission.  Keep in mind, you will only have one or two of these, at this level concepts should be introduced to help you string these “sentences” together to make you much more effective in your passing and submissions.

Brown belt-  While at the belts below brown, you may have been specializing in either guard passing or guard playing.  Now at brown belt you start putting the sentences in paragraphs.  While also expanding your “game”.  Maybe working from half guard to a sweep that leads you right into a guard pass.  It will be important to focus on rounding out your techniques.  Have options from both bottom and top positions.  At brown belt your most likely wont run into a “game changing” technique.  But you can definitely be introduced to concepts that will impact you much more.

Black belt-  Once you have made the long journey and your awarded your black belt, everything you have learned at the previous belts come together to make a beautiful story, novel, or book.  However you want to see it.  Each belt prepares you for the next belt.  And when you reach black belt, now we focus on the finer details.  Smoothing out your novel which is your “Jiu Jitsu game”.  Timing is everything at this level.  We know the techniques, now we develop the timing to pull them off effortlessly.  There is much still to learn at this level, and just because we can read and write doesn’t mean we are done learning.  If you put it into perspective of learning in school, you learn to read and write in a few short years, but you continue to develop your vocabulary and how to use them the rest of your life. Jiu Jitsu is just the same way.

~Greg