Whether you’re on the cusp of getting promoted or have just received a shiny new blue belt, you might be wondering: what does it all mean!? How will you know that you’re ready for the promotion? Even more importantly, what should your goals be once you’ve reached the first colored belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? There is no single answer to these questions, but some things are universal when it comes to what many regard as the most challenging belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: the blue belt.
What Challenges Blue Belt BJJ Practitioners Face
Reaching the rank of a blue belt in Jiu Jitsu is not easy. The road to the first colored belt in the sport is hard and filled with challenges. The good news is that promotions last forever and that you will never have to face such obstacles ever again!
Even better, you’ll emerge from your Jiu Jitsu blue belt period ready for just about anything BJJ and life have to throw at you.
One of the key difficulties of blue belts is that they are everyone’s target. Once you’ve been promoted, don’t expect your new blue belt peers to go easy on you. Also, if you have any expectations of being granted superpowers by this new belt, you’ll quickly realize that is a mere fantasy!
Perhaps even more dramatic is the change when rolling with purple, brown, and black belts. Where they may have been rolling more casually with a white belt, expect them to now take the kid gloves off and begin rolling with a bit more intensity! This “intensity” often takes the form of more pressure and sometimes-painful submissions like wrist locks! You’ve been warned.
You may be thinking that at least you’re safe from the white belts, but this is also far from the truth. Your former belt-mates will now see any victory they achieve against you as evidence that they are ready for their own promotion. This means you should expect any of your fellow white belts that you were previously winning against only by a small margin to become even more difficult battles! And again, remember that the belt does not grant superpowers! Anyone who could pass your guard before your promotion can still pass your guard! Except now, that pass may also deliver a blow to your ego!
A belt only covers 2 inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest.
This brings us to the most important lesson of blue belt: you must master your ego. You’ll tap to everyone, including white belts, and you won’t be able to tap every white and blue belt you meet. Learn to accept this reality, avoid injuries, and keep training!
Gracie Blue Belt BJJ Requirements
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a diverse sport with a wide array of philosophies. Some schools focus on winning in BJJ competitions, others on MMA, and some, like Rener and Ryron’s Gracie Academy, place an emphasis on self-defense.
Accordingly, Rener and Ryron believe that eligibility for a blue belt requires an extensive understanding of the self-defense principles of BJJ. For them, someone must prove that they are capable of defending themselves against a larger, untrained, attacker in a real confrontation.
This is a very different set of criterion from many other BJJ schools of thought. Crucially, it puts a far greater importance on standing self-defense and less on what can be thought of as meta Jiu Jitsu (Jiu Jitsu that is designed to work against trained opponents in the context of a Jiu Jitsu competition).
Other Blue Belt Requirements
What about outside of the self-defense world? What does a blue belt look like for those who are training BJJ for the recreational and competitive side of the sport?
Let’s start by saying what a blue belt isn’t:
A blue belt is not a time period. Nearly all instructors agree that there is no single amount of time or number of classes required to get a blue belt. Some instructors may have minimum time or class requirements, but ultimately each person will progress at their own rate.
The IBJJF does not define a minimum time limit for blue belt. This means that an instructor could promote a student straight to blue belt on their first day if they chose to.
At first blush this might seem unfair, but consider that someone training 5x a week, studying film hours a day, and competing monthly, will make faster progress than someone who only is able to train 2x a week.
Similarly, not all training hours are created equal. If you come into class with clear objectives and focus you are more likely to get more out of class than if you treat class like an opportunity to chat with your buddies and get a little workout in.
Ok, so what is a blue belt?
Most coaches agree that a blue belt has a wide, albeit shallow, understanding of basic Jiu Jitsu concepts. This means that a blue belt will have knowledge of all attacking and defending positions:
- Side control
In addition to a conceptual understanding, a blue belt should have a few techniques to employ from each position. They may not be able to successfully implement them, but from any given position they should have an idea of how to proceed.
Depending on your school, the guards you learn will vary. Some schools focus on closed guard from beginners, while others may teach De La Riva from day 1. It is impossible to say which guards a blue belt will have a basic understanding of – but almost all coaches will expect their blue belts to have at least a pair of guards at their disposal.
Some coaches, like Priit Mihkelson, believe that the turtle position and its variants are a fundamental position of BJJ. Others seem to think that turtle is simply a transition or, less charitably, is an invitation for your opponent to take your back.
The evidence seems to point towards Priit’s perspective. After all, no one wants to be on the bottom of the mount, but we still train defending how to defend from the bottom of the mount! This author believes that all blue belts should be aware of basic turtle principles and concepts.
Blue Belt Goals
One of the hardest, and most important goals of blue belt is simply not to quit. It is a sad reality that many people make it to blue belt and then find themselves discouraged by the fact that BJJ doesn’t magically become easier just because you’ve got a new belt.
Combine this with the difficulties of plateaus and injuries, and you’ve got a recipe for quitting. It is important to remember that the journey to black belt is a long one, more akin to a marathon than a sprint.
Beyond this, you should continue expanding your world of Jiu Jitsu. Too often people think they know exactly what their game is by the time they’ve reached blue belt, a thought process that actually limits their ability to grow as athletes.
Sure, if you want to be the best blue belt competitor you probably want to have a narrowly defined strategy that you are excellent at, but remember to develop a broad range of techniques. You never know when you’ll discover a new guard, guard pass, or position that resonates with you!
Speaking of competition, blue belt is a great time to try out competing! At white belt competition is often dominated by the more athletic competitor, or whomever has a previous wrestling background. However, by blue belt, skill begins to be put on display. Even if you don’t see yourself as a competitor, there is a lot of value in competing at least once!
So, in summary, your goals as a blue belt are:
- Don’t quit!
- Don’t get injured!
- Don’t get discouraged by plateaus!
- Keep an open mind, and continue learning
- Compete at least once
Beyond that, some coaches think that blue belt is for refining your defense, while others think it is more for learning to pass the guard. Both perspectives have merits and you should discuss with your coach which strategy they think is best. Ultimately, they are your greatest resource and will be the person deciding when you’re ready to progress to purple belt!