The BJJ Belts


Here is an overview of the differences between the basic ranks in BJJ. It’s only a rough guide – but used in conjunction with a good curriculum and quality training, it may serve to clarify where you are and where you are heading.

White to Blue: This is FOUNDATION building time. This phase is NOT about developing your sparring/grappling game. The focus needs to be much more broad that that. If you go into competitive grappling to early, you tend to develop your strengths and avoid your weaknesses – this is natural. You DO NOT want to do this to early. Now is the time to develop a good ALL-ROUND understanding of how the basics go together. A time to develop a good understanding of all the basic positions, the relationship between these positions and the ways to affect the basic attacks and escapes from these positions. This is the time to develop an OVERALL foundation, upon which we begin to build all we will ever learn about BJJ in the future. This FOUNDATION better be good!

Blue to Purple: In a word, this phase is about COLLECTING. It ‘s about adding significantly to the foundation we have created at Blue Belt level. This is the time to collect our huge swag of techniques that can be applied from as many different positions/situations as is possible. In fact, people cannot help but do this; we naturally seek out new ‘moves’, new ‘attacks’, new ‘defences’. This information age that we live in, makes this an easy task. But I must emphasize, the better foundation we have built at Blue Belt level, the easier this task of collecting, we be. For we will not only be adding to our repetoire of techniques, but we will be significantly increasing our depth of understanding of the principles and mechanics that lay behind those techniques.

Purple to Brown: This phase is about ORGANIZING! By now, you have a lot of knowledge. And that’s just like having a house full of books. If you want to e able to access this information quickly and at will, you need to have those books organized in a structured fashion. Brown belts need to go beyond the understanding of relationships between techniques – they need to build relationships between PLANS. A plan is more than just a random collection of techniques, it is a method by which those techniques are organized into sequences that go somewhere, and produce desired outcomes. This is a very personal phase of our grappling development; it’s kind of selfish because it is really very much about OUR own personal perspective.

Brown to Black: In my opinion, this is all about teaching. The Black Belt is a kind of universal qualification for teaching; yet more often than not, the new Black Belt has had little or no teaching training. As a teacher of martial arts, we need to be able to engage with other people and communicate meaningfully to them about how to best undergo their personal journeys of learning. This means so much more than just being able to demonstrate our personal ability. It means we need to be able to communicate to a student in a way that allows and facilitates their ability to move from their present state to a new and more desirable state. To do this, to enable people, to empower them to teach them understanding of the mechanics and principles that lie behind the techniques – and to do so in a way that is powerful and meaningful to the student – that is at the heart of what TEACHING is all about. Teaching training should have begun at the white belt stage of our training and should have ripened to some sort of maturity by the time we reach the level of Black Belt

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