Isaac B. was promoted to Blue Belt last night! Congratulations Isaac!
This article was originally posted on 03.06.2009. I cleaned up the grammar a little and removed the dead links. With the new promotion it seemed appropriate to re-post once again. Note that this was written more than two years ago… Tom was new to One World; Kyle, Fookie, Mikee, Jimmy, and Huge were blue belts; their skills and styles have greatly evolved and improved since then; D-bo must have just received his blue belt; and it was still cool to eat at Mr. Kebabs. Ahhh the memories…
This is my take on what it takes to get from a white belt to a blue belt. Keep in mind that this is based purely on my perspective and experience and it is NOT a recommendation or rule. I could totally be full of it. I’m just writing this for those who have asked: “How do I get a blue belt?” and have just gotten the reply: “Don’t worry about it, just train.” I think it is the proper response; I’m just expanding on what that means to me.
Each individual’s path to blue is different; especially here at our academy because we don’t necessarily “test” to get to the next level. You don’t have to win 10 tournaments in a row or be able to submit every guy in class. There is no set time frame or set amount of knowledge that a person has to have to get promoted. You are “tested” every day you come to class. It’s not just about what you know. It’s about how well you use that knowledge. It’s not just about showing up to class. It’s about what you do when you get there. It’s not just about how many times you drill a technique. It’s about the proper way to perform and use that technique. It’s about how you interact with your teammates and instructors on and off the mat. Every moment is a test and you should treat it as such.
There is no set number of movements or forms in Jiu-Jitsu. It is fluid, dynamic, always evolving, and each individual’s skill level depends on his or her own knowledge, technique, strength, size, flexibility, stamina, and will. We all have to adapt to what our bodies will “let” us do and we train so we can do more. Some movements work better than others, and some are just impossible depending on your opponent. For example, you’ll learn quickly that pulling guard when you can’t lock your ankles on an opponent 3 times your size is a bad strategy. There are many variables in the course of a match that you will have to learn to adapt to in order to survive and/or submit.
If you look at all the blue belts that we have in class right now, you’ll see that each of us has a different “style”. We come from different backgrounds and all have different amounts of strength, flexibility, size, experience, and we all use what we have differently. Techniques that work well for Fookie doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll work well for me or you… etc.
PJ uses his B-Boy skills to dance around his opponents. Mikee uses his legs like vice grips to control and crush his opponents like a boa constrictor. Dan is quite stealthy in his ability to sneak in that submission when you least expect it. Fookie will dazzle you with his acrobatic skills then get you in an omoplata or guillotine. Zvi has the top game of a seasoned wrestler and crushes his opponents if they stay down on their backs.
Tom is new to the crew and I think that whenever you come from another school sporting a higher belt it pretty much acts as a bull’s-eye and most guys will work a little harder against you. He took and gave some punishment but more importantly he kept coming back for more and I respect that more than belt color. There’s also Rick, who doesn’t let a little grey hair and father time get in the way of training. There’s a lesson to be learned there.
Jimmy uses his speed, tenacity, and constant movement to catch you the moment you make the smallest mistake. Huge demonstrates the meaning of the word adaptation by utilizing an excellent x-guard game that he has developed primarily in response to his recovery from knee surgery. I don’t even know where to start with Kyle; I just try to watch out when he’s coming my way.
D-Bo has the size and strength of a big man but hardly uses that fact to muscle or smash his opponents. His is a technician, and when you watch him roll or roll with him, you can see and feel that his every movement has a purpose. He is one of the most humble of guys on and off the mat. He is there consistently, he listens and learns intently, and I have never heard him ask how or when he would get his blue belt. Anyone who has known him knows that he’s got heart. I think D-Bo epitomizes what Dave lists in his Criteria for Promotion (link no longer available).
It took me about 2 years to get from white to blue. Others in our class have done it in much less time and others even more. If time is your criteria, then know that it’s not about how much time passes, but how much time you put into the mat. Notice that I didn’t say “spend time on the mat”; I can sit on the mat for hours and not learn a thing. You have to “put time into the mat”, listen, learn, roll, drill, train, and sweat. Mike can’t gauge your progress if you’re not there.
There are no “secret” techniques among us here. If there is anything you want to know more about, just ask. You will learn that flying arm-bars and fancy techniques will seldom get you the submission. Looking back… as a white belt I should have asked more questions about gaining position and getting escapes. Submissions come easier if you have control of your opponent.
I liked being a white belt because I felt I had more freedom to explore techniques and because I cared less about being submitted. I also felt that you had the element of surprise because most of the time your skill is being underestimated. I don’t do that here at One World, when I roll with our white belts I have the mindset of believing that each and every one them has the ability to tap me out. It only takes one mistake and thinking that our white belts are pushovers is one BIG mistake. I know what they’ve been taught and I know what that they are all capable of.
I think a big part of training that often gets forgotten about is the mental part of the game. If you are in a match regardless of differences in belt color and are thinking to yourself “this guy is better than me”, then you’ve already lost. You have to go into any match thinking “I can do this, I can get this guy”. There is nothing like a tournament to test you. I have lost matches I should not have because my mind was weak. It’s disappointing, but it’s also a wakeup call. I’ve noticed that I perform better right after tournaments, because that hunger to do better, to make up for my mistakes, lingers and drives me to eliminate the weaknesses in my game.
Ideally one should approach techniques as a white belt, with as open a mind as possible. I think sometimes the belt gets in the way of training. White belts will use you as a gauge of their progress and sometimes forget about technique when going for a submission or hurt themselves trying to escape using improper technique. Sometimes blue belts will try too hard to fight a submission from a white belt and end up either hurting themselves or the other guy. Personally, unless it’s a tournament, if my opponent has a superior position and an imminent submission, regardless of belt color, I will tap out long before there is a potential of being injured. It’s not worth it. Tap, reset, and go again.
I’m afraid I may have just gone off on different tangents. So what does it take to get to blue?
Don’t worry about it. Just train.
See you on the mat.