Bjj students are generally a pretty high energy, motivated lot. It takes a certain type of mind set to show up at the academy week after week and learn what has been called the world’s most complicated martial art.
But then things start to make sense and your professor awards a stripe or 2 on your white belt and you are on your way to that coveted blue belt.
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As a fresh new white belt you are at the bottom of the “totem pole” and are overwhelmed by the deluge of new information. All of those complicated techniques with so many details! With a blue belt around your waist you have instant “mat credit” and might feel some inner swagger that you have shredded the symbolic white belt of the beginner.
So how close are you to being a blue belt? If you tapped a blue belt in training does it mean you deserve to wear the blue belt?
Here are 4 points your instructor is watching for in your bjj
1) Do you have at least 2 or 3 techniques from each position that you can execute in live rolling?
You can not have blind spots on your bjj. If you arrive in a position and don’t have a solid technical answer that means you have some studying to do. You can’t have 20 variations from spider guard, but don’t know how to escape the mount. Doing an Incredible Hulk bench press is not considered a technical solution to escape bottom!
Do you give your back to your opponent to try to escape mount?
Do you try to cross collar choke your opponent INSIDE their closed guard?
2) Can you defend against a bigger, stronger opponent?
Grandmaster Helio Gracie notably said that a blue belt in bjj should be able to defend themselves against a bigger opponent. Can you? This doesn’t mean that a 110 lbs. girl should be easily submitting men 70 lbs heavier. This does mean that your bjj should be of a high enough technical level that you have the tools to deal with a stronger opponent.
I see some students that can dominate the majority of their smaller, weaker opponents in rolling and pull off some impressive submissions. But when they are matched with anyone larger, their game disappears when they may no longer rely on superior athleticism. I like to say that we are not studying a martial art in order to beat smaller or weaker opponents!
3) A basic level of self defense knowledge
Most people who start bjj classes do so because they are interested in self defense. As they progress in their study of bjj, they develop a greater interest in the sport bjj aspect. But we must never forget the martial art aspect of bjj. There is no sadder sight than a purple belt who specializes in berimbolo who panics when caught in a common headlock by a stronger opponent (yes, I’ve actually seen it!).
You should have some knowledge of common street fight situations (ex. escape guillotine choke, headlock on the ground) and be able to execute against a fully resisting opponent. These are techniques against an opponent who is NOT trying to do bjj to you, but an unskilled but aggressive opponent.
4) Balanced positions and knowledge of the basic techniques of bjj
You might be a terrific wrestler or have some years in no-gi submission wrestling, but if you can not demonstrate a cross collar choke from the rear mount, are you really a blue belt in bjj? A high level of skill in another grappling discipline does not automatically mean that you are a bjj blue belt, even if you can hang with them in rolling.
Traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu as taught by the Gracie family is in the kimono. If you want to be a blue belt, you must learn the techniques in the kimono!
Can you execute some takedowns? Are you great when on top but as helpless as a dead cockroach when on your back?You have to have some balance in your jiu-jitsu and be prepared to fight in any of the positions.
read also: The Blue Belt Blues
Share with Gracie Barra readers when you felt ready for your blue belt
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan