Submission Progression at Each Belt Level
In a previous blog, we discussed the natural progressions at each belt level. While we spent a lot of time talking about guard development and passing, we failed to address the submission skill progression by belt level which is also relevant.
Black belt Alec Baulding sums it pretty well in a recent Instagram post:
Usually at white and blue belt, you’re getting your butt kicked. At purple belt things start to click a little [better] but you’re not really submitting people that often too often. It’s not really until maybe brown belt or really black belt that your submission game really comes together. Because at that point you should have enough data, enough information from rolling and positional sparring that you know all the options from your positions. If you have a really good guard you know all the options that the guy on top has. If you’re really good on the side or knee on belly, you know all the options you have. You’re gonna have so much built up over the years that you’re gonna be able to react and it’s gonna seem like you can read the future. Even though it’s just trial and error. You’ve been put in those positions so many times you can kind of predict what the other person might do. You never know 100%, but you kind of have a good idea.
So let’s break it down even further…
At white and blue belt, you are literally just learning and trying to survive. While submissions are taught at these belt levels, it may not make sense in how to get into the position before you can work the submission. We often hear the phrase: “Position before submission.” White and blue belts should pay attention to this, as the focus at these belts isn’t about submissions, since you’re just learning the positions and transitions. If they are getting submissions, there is an 80% likelihood that it was not based on technical skill; but rather strength, spazziness, and possibly a little bit of luck.
At purple belt, the focus is the guard. There’s something about this belt that guard is more intriguing than submissions (i.e. berimbolo, lapel guard, etc.). While submissions present themselves during a roll, they are not easy to obtain – especially on spazzy white and blue belts or technically savvy brown and black belts. Purple belts know enough based on routine sparring and drilling to understand when submissions become available or how they can become available. More importantly, their defenses to submissions are even better because of getting caught in submissions repeatedly by higher belts. This is where repetition is starting to pay off, as it is coupled with cognition and the understanding of more than just the fundamental basics.
At brown belt, everything makes better sense. Brown belts are comfortable in every situation because after years and years of drilling and sparring, they know what to expect from almost every position. They are also not afraid to experiment with different positions, transitions, and submissions during a live roll, as they know that “trial and error” is the best way to learn, adapt, and grow. With that being said, submissions and submission attempts will become more prevalent at this belt, as their confidence with their game and institutional knowledge base increases.
They say at black belt is when you start over and become a beginner again. I never really understood this until just recently as I was thinking back to when I was a purple belt and had learned some things at a seminar which didn’t make sense back then, but makes total sense to me now. At black belt, it’s like learning all over again – but the only difference is that you have so much experience and institutional knowledge that you are now learning at a much higher level. With submissions, they become a lot smoother off of transitions… and a lot faster. Black belts are precise and roll with intention rather than being reactive like majority of the belts. There should be nothing sloppy about a black belts’ submissions. At black belt, their game is not only well-rounded, but they also have a huge submission base under their belt as well.
For some, submission is the mission. Just make sure you have the technical skills to help get you to the position before the submission…