GB Student Question “I’m a new bluebelt”

Recently a GB student asks “I was just promoted to blue belt by my Professor after the tournament. I’m not sure that I feel ready. What should I be working on?”
First of all congratulations on your blue belt! What a great feeling of accomplishment it is to graduate with a higher-colored belt. There is only one way to get a new belt and is through consistent, hard work and improvement. Enjoy the achievement.
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It’s surprisingly common for students who graduated to a higher belt to have a sense of doubt about their new rank. Many times I’ve had a new blue, purple, or brown belt say privately to me that they didn’t feel that they really deserved the new rank. They felt an increased amount of pressure to perform at a higher level. It seems that many jiu-jitsu students can be their own worst critics. But it simply isn’t true.
Your professor has years of experience watching students roll and develop. They know what they are looking at. It’s very rare that a student receives a rank that they do not have the skills to back up. If your professor thinks that you have improved enough to wear a higher rank have faith in their evaluation of your skills.
Before long you will mentally adjust to the new belt, the perceived pressure will quickly fade away and you will go back to concentrating on having fun and working on your jiu-jitsu.
This leads us to your question about “what should I work on?” as a new blue belt. As you probably know, there is no official list of “blue belt techniques”. During the GB Fundamentals curriculum, you have seen the majority of the key techniques which will form the foundation of your jiu-jitsu. When you start training in the GB2 you will be exposed to more sport jiu-jitsu specific techniques and more advanced variations of the fundamentals. More advanced doesn’t necessarily mean better. More advanced means that a technique is a more specialized technique for a specific positional situation.
As a new blue belt, you should be thinking about experimenting with new positions. Graduating to blue belt means that you have established a foundation of the basic techniques. You have also developed some of the fundamental movement patterns of ground fighting. For example, you have developed some base when in the top position. You are able to move your hips on the bottom. You understand what to do when you arrive at any of the major ground positions. You have enough background to make learning some of the more advanced, sports bjj techniques productive.
This is the fun part of jiu-jitsu… opening up your game, and your mind to more possibilities. You should try some of the new positions that you have observed the purple, brown, and black belts playing in their rolling. For example, there are a lot of different types of guard: butterfly guard, outside hook guard, lapel guard, deep half guard, and so on.
Are any of these a good fit for your game? Suited to your body type, physical attributes, and mental temperament? There is only one way to find out – experiment with these positions and see what works for you and what doesn’t feel natural. Some positions will be exactly what you need to compliment your game while other positions may be useful to know but don’t feel like they are going to fit into your overall game. That’s fine. You are just experimenting.
This is an exciting time for you as a new blue belt. Open yourself up to all of the variations of Jiu-Jitsu.
A quick tip: find a training partner who wants to drill with you. Whenever you have some free time on the mat pair up and perform repetitions of the moves that you are trying to get better at. Break down the techniques with your partner’s feedback – “Does my grip feel stronger in this position or this other position?” type of thing. This is how you will really learn the technique.
Most of all… have fun!
See also on GB Blog: GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt