The Purple Belt in Bjj

The rank of purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the mark of a serious student. In last night’s class I taught, there were 3 purple belts, all of whom have been training more than 5 years. That same amount of training time would earn a black belt in many other traditional martial arts.

While each instructor / school may have different standards for awarding belts, I have observed common characteristics of purple belts in many different academies. It has been said that a purple belt knows all of the techniques that a black belt knows, the difference lays in the details and precision of execution of those same techniques.

The purple belt moves more smoothly and efficiently. Sharper than the blue belt with the tightness of techniques and recognizes instantly when a submission is there for the taking. I describe the purple belt as the belt of a student’s personal “A Game” development.


The purple belt knows from experience which positions and specific techniques they favour and develop a game around those favored positions.

For example: By the time I became a purple belt, I knew that I was never going to be a triangle specialist (darn these short legs!) and that I needed to develop a guard game around the omoplata and collar jokes.

They have knowledge of which techniques that do not suit their style and focus on getting razor sharp in their preferred areas.

Your black belt professor can be an enormous help in analyzing the game : strengths, weaknesses and attributes of the purple belt and making recommendations on what to work on.
read also: How Your Black Belt Professor Can Help You Build Your “A Game”

The flip side of developing ones “A Game” is one must also honestly assess any holes in ones jiu-jitsu and devote some time to fill in those weak spots.

Purple belts should be taking on a larger role in self directing their own training.
They will know what they should be working on and do not rely as heavily on the black belt instructor to show them new techniques each class.

A characteristic of the purple belt is the fluidity and chaining together of their movements.
The transitions between a sweep and moving to secure top control is seamless compared to the lower belts.



More than the number of techniques, the purple belt is developing setups and combination attacks in their favorite positions.
They now use more deception in setting up the sweep or submission. They combine the primary attack with a secondary attack if the opponent successfully counters the initial attack.
As opponents become more experienced, straight forward attacks are no longer as successful and one must use combinations – much like a boxer – to setup the knockout punch.

Top and Bottom Game

Some blue belt competitors may develop a strong preference for playing top or immediately jumping to their guard. They may experience great success in competition using the single approach.
But the purple belt must not allow their game to sway too far towards ONLY top or bottom game!
The purple belt must seek a solid balance between strong top game and being comfortable off of their backs.
Can you imagine being a black belt with a blue belt level guard?

To all of the purple belts out there – what are you working on?

read also: Developing Your “A” Game – Tips on Finding Your Strongest Positions

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Bangkok, Thailand
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ