Gradings, Belts and BJJ: CFS Biannual Grading 25th November 2012
Grading in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is quite a big deal for many reasons:
1. There are very few belts*: You automatically start BJJ with white and between that and black belt you only have blue, purple and brown so in total most of us will have a grand sum of 4 major gradings**
2. Gradings in BJJ are performance based (in most places). If you are technically*** at the level equivalent to a blue belt, purple belt, brown belt or black belt then you will most likely get it really soon****
3. There are very few solitary activities in BJJ / grappling. Even most of the warm-up drills requires a partner. There are no kata as such so, while you have to do the work yourself, you are always part of a group. You can not become good at BJJ / Grappling without good training partners to work with you. Steel sharpens steel and all that and therefore, when it's time for you to achieve a grade, it's time for your team mates to cheer and clap for you, shake your hand and / or give you a manly hug and, if your team does this kind of thing, whack you really hard with their BJJ belt!
4. The belts are not uniform in their progression. What I mean by this is that if White belt represents 0% skill and black belt is 100% skill***** then this doesn't mean that blue is 25%, purple 50% and brown 75% skill so, in a way, each belt has a deep meaning of its own and should indeed be celebrated.
With that being said, this weekend saw the CFS Biannual Grading at Mill Hill Jiu Jitsu Club. The grading was preceded by a training seminar conducted by two black belts. Mr Andy Nugent taught a great seminar on entries and finished of the straight knee bar. Leg locks are dangerous which is why many academies never focus on them but if you are to follow Andy's fantastic advice and drills anyone can approach this topic and study it very well.
This was followed by head instructor Mr David Onuma's Game Changer Seminar. I call it this because rather than focusing on just one topic, Professor David shared entries and adjustments that helped completely change the way we approach i, the mount position and ii, passing the De La Riva guard.
My training partners for the day were Miad Najafi who heads up the Brighton branch (Elements Martial Arts) and Simon Chan (a brown belt in BJJ under Master Ricardo De La Riva who teaches BJJ in south London) and it was an honour and a pleasure to share the mat with them. It was the first time for me to meet them but hopefully far from being the last.
The seminar concluded with sparring for those who wanted to stay but not before David lined everyone up then, along with his branch instructors, conducted the belt and stripe grading and David handed out Student of the Year Awards to those who have been nominated by the branch instructors for working extra hard throughout 2012 to improve their jiu jitsu (happy to share that our gym had not one but two names: Mr Don Barr and Mr Graeme Kidd). The following names (in the order they feature in the picture) were called and received (to many surprised faces) their new belts from the boss:
Shareef Esoof - Blue
Tim Bowden - Blue
Damien Roberts - Blue
Yousuf Nabi - Brown
Gary Baker - Purple
Matt Macguire - Purple
Steve Payne - Purple
Tom Gent - Blue
Lewis Renney - Blue
Andrew Bell - Purple
Oh yeah. We were asked. We voted. There was a belt whipping!
That concluded what was for me a long weekend of training. I arrived in London on the Saturday already to train with my instructor for three hours (mount top and bottom seminar) and then we rolled for an hour in his private dojo where I learned a ton. So approximately 7hrs of jiu jitsu training in two days. Not bad for a Part Time Grappler :)
Until the next time
*for adults, that's mostly it. Some schools employ the green belt as an intermediary between the white and blue belt. Kids have a much bigger range of belts.
**obviously stripes, if your BJJ academy uses them, on the colour belts are a big deal too and if you stick with BJJ for the long run there is the red and black and the solid red belt to look forward to but we're talking after being a black belt for 31 years you can apply for your red and black (also known as coral) belt from the IBJJF.
***patching holes in your technique with athleticism and attributes will not get you the belt and trust me, good instructors can always tell!
****most instructors take pride in grading someone to any belt level so they often take a number of factors into consideration such as maturity, experience, consistency of training, competition participation and / or results, teaching experience...etc.
*****every black belt I've spoken to told me black belt is the start of the true jiu jitsu journey so this is just a hypothetical statement
ZHOO ZHITSU IS FOR EVERYONE!
Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi
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