The BJJ Blue Belt: A Belt of Frustration and Opportunity
When I first started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I remember looking around the room and seeing people with different color belts tied around their waist. A BJJ belt can symbolize many things, such as time spent on the mats, skill, and competition experience - everything a new student lacks.
Everyone starts with a white belt. But comes next is the arguably one of the most important belts - the blue belt. A blue belt is more than a different color belt around your waist. It is a symbol that you have a basic understanding of BJJ positions and can demonstrate them. It also means you are no longer a beginner. You no longer have to line up at the end of the class. You are now the one other white belts turn to.
Time spent as a blue belt can be both frustrating. The ability to overcome that frustration and seize on the opportunities is what will make or break you. Here are some things you should consider to make your time at blue belt a productive and positive experience.
The Meaning of a Blue Belt
As a blue belt, you have a lot of responsibilities and opportunities. Blue belts are often the ones new students look up to when they first start training. It’s not that the instructor or other brown and black belts cannot be inspirational for new students, but the ranks of brown and black can seem far away, while a blue belt is the next step in a new student’s journey. When we earn that blue belt around our waist, we become leaders to many white belts.
"A BJJ belt can symbolize many things, such as time spent on the mats, skill, and competition experience - everything a new student lacks."
A blue belt, by definition, has a certain amount of technical knowledge in every position. White belts will often ask blue belts for help and it is the responsibility of the blue belt to provide that help. But that doesn’t mean that you as a blue belt have to necessarily have all the answers. When I was a blue, peopled asked me questions I was not comfortable answering. I would show them what I do, but then also offer them other options.
I cannot explain why this happens, but when I rolled for the first time as a blue belt, it seemed everyone rolled a little harder than usual. Did my blue belt cause me to become a target? I don’t think that’s the reason, despite it feeling that way.
What I think happens is that people expect you to know more than before. Therefore, they roll a little harder. White belts want to test their skills and see what they can do. Upper belts want to keep blue belts humble and show them there is more to learn.
With Challenges Come Opportunity
The biggest opportunity and responsibility as a blue belt is to develop a game and learn how to put that game together. I did not realize this until I was past blue belt.
"Instead of being frustrated with this time, I say enjoy it. Enjoy the time you have as a blue belt to develop your skills. There is no rush."
At white belt, we struggle to put techniques together. For example, a white belt may try to do a triangle from guard. When their opponent defends the triangle, the white belt struggles with a counter for the defense. A blue belt needs to learn how to string attacks together. That is, how to go from A to B, then maybe C, then back to A if needed. My instructor, Mark Vives, makes it a point to explain this concept to his students. I was given that advice from him when I was a blue belt and it still helps me to this day.
The time spent as a blue belt can be emotionally challenging. A blue belt has enough knowledge and skill to test the upper belts. You might be able to submit some higher-ranking students, but this can lead to a false sense of security.
And on the flipside, when you are submitted by a white belt, you can become frustrated and think you are letting the school, your instructor, and even yourself down. But no matter what belt you are, there is nothing wrong with getting submitted by lower-ranking opponents. Keep this in mind: a blue belt knows enough to submit higher ranks, but is still accepting of getting submitted by lower belts.
An Imporant Stage
The time spent at blue belt is often the longest time a BJJ practitioner will spend at a single belt level. I personally believe the blue belt should be the longest belt leading up to black. I know students get frustrated, especially when they feel they are getting close to the purple belt. Unfortunately for some students, they never reach that purple. The amount of time spent at blue and the amount of work required to develop the skills necessary to become a purple drives them to quit.
Instead of being frustrated with this time, I say enjoy it. Enjoy the time you have as a blue belt to develop your skills. There is no rush. The longer you train, the more you will realize the belt is not the goal - it is about the journey. It is a journey filled with ups and downs, opportunity and frustrations. But it is the struggle to overcome the difficult times that makes someone successful in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Because there is so much left to learn as a blue, you also have the greatest opportunity to build your game and help other students. All the frustrations and challenges are just part of the journey and, in the end, are what will make you successful.
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- On the Other Side of a Belt Promotion
- The Role of Ego in Jiu-Jitsu
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Photos courtesy of Breaking Muscle.