Belts and Stripes. Are They Important?

There are 2 schools of thought on the subject of belts and stripes in jiu-jitsu.

1) “Belts are not important to me. I don’t care if I stay a white belt forever!”

2) “When I got my blue belt it was one of my proudest achievements!”

Regarding the 1st point of view, the most important thing IS the skills, knowledge and fitness that you derive from training jiu-jitsu. If you trained jiu-jitsu for several years without a belt promotion, you would still have the enormous benefits of the skills, friendships and all of the other reasons that we love to go to the academy.

Secondly, many feel that the pursuit of the next belt shifts the focus from earnest skill acquisition to short sighted emphasis on the next promotion. We have witnessed students who lose focus on learning the art of jiu-jitsu and more on who got a belt and who didn’t. Who tapped who in training and why aren’t they getting promoted yet?

I recall one student saying that they didn’t want to train at any classes when the head instructor was not teaching the class! “You need to get that face time with the Professor if you want to get promoted!” To him, training to improve his jiu-jitsu skills was secondary to playing politics. True story!

Gracie Barra philosophy of jiu-jitsu does believe in the value of belt and stripe promotions.

Why is this so.important?

Because as humans we are goal setting and seeking beings. We see the potential of what is possible when we watch highly skilled black belts demonstrate their abilities. And we need to believe that WE too can get there with dedication and hard work.

But the journey from white belt beginner with their belt tied incorrectly to skilled colored belt is not an easy one. One must overcome many obstacles over months and years. Maintaining ones motivation through challenges is difficult.

When the Professor calls you up to the front of the class to put a new stripe on your belt it provides both a sense of accomplishment and a burst of new motivation. That new stripe or belt is a small but tangible recognition that you ARE improving and another step closer to your goals.

The motivation that comes from a new belt also can help lift a student up to another level in their jiu-jitsu. It is not uncommon for a new blue or purple belt to privately feel unworthy of the new belt. They feel a surge of motivation to tighten up their disciplines and really deserve that new belt!

Any difficult endeavour is filled with both high and low points. I recall feeling discouraged at points in my training. “I don’t feel like I am making any progress sometimes.”

Then after a roll with my instructor, he motioned me over to put another stripe on my purple belt (at the time) which had a great positive effect on my enthusiasm!

The satisfaction of a job well done and renewed enthusiasm for learning jiu-jitsu are important to our jiu-jitsu lives. When you graduate to that next stripe or belt enjoy the recognition and pride that you ARE improving!

See also on Gracie Barra : What Is Your Battle?