Is the blue belt is the new white belt?
In my previous article the curse of the blue belt, I discuss the reasons why students leave BJJ after graduating from blue belt. http://www.aucklandbjj.com/2014/07/the-curse-of-blue-belt.html
I also offers some suggestions for retention of such blue belts and try to avoid the inevitable migration of your students.
In this article (or a rant), I am looking at a different phenome of BJJ.
In BJJ, graduation is usually held twice a year: June and December.
Recently, I read of gyms that created a new belt to fit in between the white and the blue belt.
They would create a green belt for adult. It is funny as green belt is the last belt for kids.
The new federation lead by Rickson Gracie as a white/blue belt to fit in the gap as well.
Why do we need such belt?
Is it that hard to retain white belts until they progress to blue belt?
I read of gyms that coincide their promotion with their long term contract.
You sign up for a year and receive your blue belt at the end of your contract.
Then you get talked into signing up for another contract of a 2 years and you will receive your purple belt at the end.
Great for business but is it worth it for the sake of the martial art!
Do we need to live in a society of instant gratification?
So what is it about this blue belt so important?
For me, the blue belt is the hardest to earn in BJJ.
The reason is simple.
You have to learn so much techniques.
The rest of the belts like purple, brown and black are easier compare to the amount of stuff you have expected to grasp to achieve blue belt.
If you train by following IBJJF rules, purple belts competition rules are same as blue belt.
The big difference comes at brown belt level where you can use new submissions such as knee bar, toe hold, bicep slicers, calf slicers.
Therefore, it is really by brown belt that you are expected to learn some new techniques in theory. The purple belt is just the same expectation of a blue belt in terms of techniques.
We are talking about so many positions and actions: mount, back, side control, knee on the belly, north south, guard subs, guard passes, guard sweeps, ½ guard game (top and bottom), turtle, takedown and the list goes on and on.
So why do we expect so much of a blue belt?
Why can’t we just expect that it is an entry level belt and what does it means?
I am guilty of looking at this issue from the point of my experience.
Back in my days as a white belt, blue belt (same as black belt) were scarce.
Blue belts were good and tough. Maybe because I was a white belt and did not know anything, I was dominated by blue belts. Well forget about the black belt!
Can a blue belt turn around and admit that he does not how to do a specific position or action because he just does not know?
The belt system (yellow, orange, green, blue, purple and brown) is not even a traditional system of rank in Japan.
It was created by a Judo instructor while he taught and lived in France.
Once thing for sure is that I consider belt promotion as a tool to learn.
If I feel a student will benefit of getting promoted, I think it is time.
On the other hand, if I feel that a student would feel the pressure of wearing the new belt. I think I will wait a little longer and reassess on the next 6 months.
You want to be that guy that wear the belt well instead of the belt fitting loose.
Overdue is usually the nicest compliment you can receive when getting promoted.
So why the pressure?
Surely, we do not promote a head hunter at our club. You can get submitted by a lower belt at training, it does not matter. It just happens as it is part of training. I would rather see someone sparring and losing to a lower belt than watching someone refusing to spar because he knows he might lose.
It is about the ego and it is something that everyone needs to learn to deal with.
Belt promotion is about heart and not just techniques.
And this is the first belt your heart will be tested on a daily basis.
“Now I don’t care if I tap you. I get tapped too. Everyone loses. But I do care about your tenacity as you roll. I want a Jiu Jitsu practitioner to fight until the end, to lose but not be defeated. If you captain your own ship then I want to know that if it sank it is because of the ocean and not your heart”.