BJJ tips: How Is A Blue Belt Different From A White Belt?

As I was watching two BJJ white belts roll yesterday* I caught myself silent-coaching (it's like coaching from the side of the mat, but silently). As Damien postured up in Mike's closed guard, I saw Mike work to establish the collar and sleeve grip and my internal commentator went: "Wonderful. Now open your guard and go for the sweep. Now. Sweeep himmm now! Now. Ok. Now. Oh oh maybe Now? Now?"

The closed guard demonstrated by Dunk-man and Jordan

Long story short, Damien managed to maintain posture and opened Mike's guard. Yes Mike did actually sweep him after that (proving that he knew the technique) but much energy was expended and Damien was in a better spot to recover from the sweep with a quick guard recovery (in competition, I think this would have resulted in an advantage being awarded, rather than 2points for the sweep + 4 for the mount!). I mentioned my thoughts later to them and also said: "the biggest difference between a white and a blue belt in BJJ is knowing when to let go (in this case, of the closed guard) and move on to the next technique (the sweep)".

Mike later posted a question on the Part Time Grappler:

What else do you think a blue belt should be able to do that a white belt can't?

I hate it when people listen to the rubbish I talk and then quote me :)

The way I see it, the main difference between a white and blue belt is knowing when to let go (and transition to the next move, manoeuvre, technique, position...etc.) Of course I'm referring here to an experienced white belt who practically “knows” the same moves and fundamentals as the blue belt.

Mike's question, however, is different! He asks “What (else) do you think a blue belt should be able to do that a white belt can't?” The answer to that is very, very simple.

A **insert colour here** is someone who can perform and bring game to peers of that belt colour of similar weight, height and other attributes. It’s not about beating them or not getting tapped. It’s about matching them on a consistent basis without an over-reliance on athletic attributes.

That’s it. No more. No less.

This particularly means the journey between White and Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is broken into 3 rough parallel highways: 
  1. Learning fundamental BJJ techniques and working them against progressive resistance
  2. Learning to spar against peers, using technique instead of speed and strength
More on that in later posts. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this fantastic dicussion by Conan about belts in BJJ and this beautiful video about Jiu Jitsu.


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Megan said...

With a blue belt on my horizon, I've been thinking a lot about this lately and really like that definition. It seems so difficult to really cleanly define what each belt is, especially since skill level flows more in gradients than concrete shades.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thanks Meg. The biggest problem is the ego, but not in the usual way :)

We forget that BJJ is a sport too and we keep thinking of it as a martial art. What I mean is that technique will indeed win over size (in the long run) but that refers to unskilled opponents. With enough technique, you should be able to survive against a much bigger and more athletic opponent.

However, when looking at the belt progression, you should look at your skill level in comparison with girls your own size and build.

I really like the gradient vs shades analogy. To me, it's always about levels of awareness...and fun!