Natural Progressions by Belt - alldaybjj

Natural Progressions by Belt

When I used to teach, a lot of my white belt students (and also some higher belts) would ask, “where they should be at” or things that they should know by belt. Looking back at my white to brown journey, I see a lot of similarities in the way that my students were progressing with my own at each belt. Not just their recognition of positions, submissions, and techniques, but also the way and what they are naturally progressing into.

So let’s start with the white belt. The white belt is a clean slate, much like a sponge ready to absorb everything and anything. The majority of time spent at this belt is all about writing on that clean slate by way of foundational BJJ – the basics, if you will. Then comes surviving – surviving sparring sessions with everyone. This includes surviving your building cardio and muscles you never thought you’ve used before. Along with survival comes the building of your resilience as a white belt to KEEP GOING. Just because you got tapped doesn’t mean that you need to quit because you suck. It’s about learning from your mistakes and starting to RECOGNIZE positions, submissions, and techniques during your drilling and live training. Once you start to recognize familiar situations, you learn to better defend and even counter the movement. This is a good sign that you are progressing to the blue belt. Drilling becomes more intentional (or at least more fluid because you have a good idea of the basics) and sparring becomes less spazzy.

At blue belt many still start off spazzy. It’s almost as if you get your blue belt and you feel like you have something to prove now so you go a little harder, yet don’t have full control over the movements and techniques yet. In some respect, some take steps back because they are in their own ego about changing belts. At this point, most colored belts are on hand and excited to start humbling these new blue belts. Once this part settles, blue belts will start experimenting with their preferred guard of choice. Depending on the guard of choice of your instructor, we sometimes lean towards that based on the techniques being taught. Or, many will recognize that they are getting into familiar positions all the time (i.e. de la riva, spider, half, closed, etc.) and they start to experiment with different transitions from there. Essentially, the blue belt is still very much about surviving and defending, but it is also the belt of developing your guard and starting to become more proactive with it when training.

At purple belt many will spend a lot of time on guard development rather than passing. You become obsessed with trying to do everything from and with your guard of choice. This is also probably where you actually can learn and comprehend from technique videos posted on social media and start using that to evolve your game. At purple, you are at the in between belt of white to black. At this point, there are two types of purple belts: the ego driven purple belt who thinks they are a badass cause they aren’t blue (or white) belts anymore. These are the purple belts who view their belt as 1 more belt from the black belt rather than approaching it from the standpoint of this is the belt of filling in the gaps of all the things that you still need to learn. Purple belts who are ready to progress to the brown belt have reached this point. They have separated from their ego much more than ever before and are focused on learning and improving rather than what the next belt is.

Now here I am at brown belt. In my experience (and I’ve seen many go through the same), is truly the belt of evolution. I say this because at this point, you have a guard of choice, but you begin experimenting or going back to previous games (or guards) you used to like at the lower belts. At this point, your passing is good, much because of the guard work you’ve done at blue and purple. However, at brown belt, it is really about developing your passing game rather than basing it off of a guard (if that makes sense). Currently, I find myself struggling with focusing on my passing rather than relying on my guard that I have built over the last 8 years. Eventually when my passing can fully round out my game, this could be the point when the black belt will become a reality.

Like many say, getting your black belt is like starting from the beginning again. You never stop learning. Your game evolves and changes and improves. It’s a continuous cycle for those who never stop training, which it the beauty of Jiu-Jitsu as a whole. Nothing ever really stays the same and we always need to be adapting and evolving for us to stay relevant. You should never feel like you’ve learned everything that you need to know in Jiu-Jitsu because that is simply not true… and if you are thinking that way, there’s a chance that you’ll be one of the many that quit or take much longer to improve.

Lea Young

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