Jiu Jitsu, like other martial arts, has set techniques that are designed with an efficient victory in mind. But more important than the techniques themselves is knowing how to chain these techniques together in a way that fits your own athleticism, body type, and personality.
This customized approach to BJJ is what people mean when they refer to Jiu Jitsu style, and its development most often takes place after you’ve reached purple belt. Being the middle belt, the purple belt symbolizes a stage in your journey that shows you have learned enough to begin properly weaving techniques into a cohesive style.
What Is Your Jiu Jitsu Style Like?
A popular analogy in Jiu Jitsu is to compare it to learning a language. When first learning to speak, much of your focus is on absorbing vocabulary. Likewise, in Jiu Jitsu, at first you’ll be learning different submissions, escapes, positions, and sweeps, that for now, may seem like disconnected points.
Before purple belt, and even in its early stages, you will undoubtedly absorb a vast amount of technical and conceptual information. You will begin to understand that many of these techniques and concepts should fit together, although you may not understand how until later, and that’s ok.
To continue the metaphor, as your knowledge of language grows you will learn grammar and begin to be able to craft sentences and paragraphs. As a purple belt, you have gained an understanding of the wider context of Jiu Jitsu.
Rather than just knowing the same arm bar that every white and blue belt knows, you know why it is particularly effective, or ineffective, in a given circumstance, based on your previous experiences.
But knowledge of technique is only a part of the story. At purple belt you’ve probably developed a game plan that allows you to funnel your opponents towards your strengths. Rather than using whichever arbitrary technique seems appropriate at the time, you’ll find yourself choosing techniques that move the roll towards your preferred position or submission.
How To Open Up Your Game
While a marker of your progress, being promoted to purple belt does not magically bestow you with understanding. There is still work to be done on and off the mat to continue improving at BJJ.
To make progress you’ll want to experiment with new ideas, set aside your fears of losing, and recognize that progress may require change.
The Jiu Jitsu of today is vastly different, and arguably more complex than the Jiu Jitsu of the Gracie era. It’s perhaps a bold claim that new techniques have been invented by more modern practitioners, but with Keenan’s worm guard and Danaher’s comprehensive leg entanglement systems there are clear signs that the sport is still developing.
The point is, there are a lot of techniques out there to learn, and as a purple belt you have the ability to not only learn these techniques, but enhance them in your own way. In order to do that you need to try everything you can. Learn orthodox positions and submissions so that you can learn how to bend their rules and make them uniquely effective
This will be a long process of trial and error, but you can take comfort in knowing that you’ve laid the groundwork during your white and blue belt days. Try the funky techniques that don’t seem like your Jiu Jitsu style. Try techniques that shouldn’t work. Try these techniques on people of different sizes. Try these techniques on people with different styles.
This process won’t immediately result in amazing discoveries, but over time you’ll develop a better understanding of what works for you and your unique Jiu Jitsu style.
Don’t worry about winning
Remember, in your academy, you aren’t rolling for a title or medals. Your experimentation is consequence free. With that said, don’t let the fear of perceived defeat stop you from trying that new technique or transition that just might add to your style. Even at purple belt it’s OK to tap!
Any seemingly complex Jiu Jitsu system was at one point a hard fought process of evolution. Every aspect of a technique, including its counters, transitions, and failsafes, likely only came about after being crushed by a more advanced opponent.
If your technique isn’t working on a consistent basis, it may be a sign that you need to scrap a particular aspect of that system in order to fine-tune your overall Jiu Jitsu style. However, just remember that any time you add a new element to your game you’ll have to accept that it won’t work on everyone from the start!
Things come and go
Everything works in seasons. All things have a beginning, end, and sometimes, a recurrence. This concept isn’t so philosophical in Jiu Jitsu. Simply put, there are techniques that may have been your best that suddenly fall outside of your style. Conversely, something you previously found difficult or useless may become a substantial part of your game.
Be careful not to fight this process. Based on how you choose to train and where your goals are, certain strategies or techniques may become more or less useful to you. If you try to force something that does not fit your Jiu Jitsu style, you may hinder your own progress.
As a purple belt, and throughout your Jiu Jitsu career, you should make it a point to take inventory of your style. Think of what can be seamlessly added, and consider what may no longer fit.
Defining Your Jiu Jitsu Style As A Purple Belt
The word style can seem so ambiguous. What does it even mean? For Jiu Jitsu, style is how you approach the goal of submitting your opponent.
There are several factors that can affect that simple mission statement.
First, you should define your goals in Jiu Jitsu. Why do you train? A dedicated competitor will develop a different Jiu Jitsu style than someone who is training for exercise or self-defense.
From there, you can come up with any number of categories that will create a system of engaging any opponent. Consider the following categories that can help to define your style:
- Is your game slow or fast paced?
- Your size versus your opponent’s size
- Gi versus no gi
- Sport versus self-defense Jiu Jitsu
- Do you rely on a wide array of techniques or focus on systems built around a few
- Is your game built around athleticism or technical prowess
Defining a style for your Jiu Jitsu can be a long process. At times, awareness may seem to dawn on you all at once, while other times you may feel like you’ve reached a plateau. Both will be true at one point or another. However, your eureka moments are the result of the time and effort you’ve already put in.
Oftentimes, your style will take on a life of its own. Although you consciously add and subtract techniques to fit you, your Jiu Jitsu style will present itself most naturally under duress.
In other words, during your hardest rolls at the academy or at a tournament when your only concerns are survival and domination, your mind and body will work together to piece together what you’ve trained most.
Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that allows for a degree of customization and creativity. Once you’ve reached purple belt, it is safe to say you’ve accumulated enough knowledge to construct a style of style that is unique to you
Your purple belt is a formative time in your Jiu Jitsu journey. Be open to change. While the style you create at purple belt may change completely by the time you reach brown and black, actively working to create a Jiu Jitsu style will help you grow in your Jiu Jitsu journey.
Jeremy is brown belt and has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, but he also enjoys creative writing. Originally from Connecticut, where he began his 11 years of Jiu Jitsu training.