It’s a goal that millions of people have once they start to train BJJ.
Once the initial “I don’t know what I’m doing” feeling starts to disappear, you start to think about the next step. How you can throw away that plain old white belt and level up to a big, bad blue belt.
Any experienced practitioner will find white belts coming up and asking how they can earn their blue belt. Asking for any tips or tricks on how to get there a little bit quicker.
The first thing to understand is that there are no tips or tricks to this. A belt can be extremely meaningful, but it’s only meaningful of the journey you took to get there. Anyone can go out and buy a blue belt (or a black belt for that matter), but this kind of belt means nothing. And most people would agree it would make you look like an ass.
You don’t want to look for shortcuts. But there are certainly things you can take on board, to approach your training in a way that you’ll progress and learn quicker. Do this, and you’ll get to a blue belt level quicker than diving in and flopping around without a clue.
Requirements for a BJJ Blue Belt
First of all, what does it mean to be a blue belt?
Do you need to know [x] number of submissions? Do you need to be able to wristlock coach while looking him or her in the eyes?
Well, sorry to say there’s no set requirements for earning your blue belt. It comes down to your instructor’s opinion. If they think you’re ready, you’re ready. If they want to give a blue belt to everyone who pays the gym’s yearly fee… that’s their call too.
A lot of people think significant milestones, such as a competition win or tapping out a higher belt while rolling, mean you are worthy of a belt promotion. This can be the case (more so for the competition one, less for tapping someone in training). But again, it comes down to your instructor’s discretion.
Every coach is different. Some will award a blue belt to students who have been regularly attending class for a certain period of time (usually 12-24 months). Other coaches might put more importance on showing off what you’ve learned, in live rolling or competition scenarios. As a result some students might get their blue belt in a much shorter or longer time than others.
How to Earn Your Blue Belt (the right way)
Everyone wants to get better, and that means progressing from white belt through to blue belt.
Here are 5 tips to help you progress faster and make it to blue belt level faster.
1. Leave ego at the door
You’ll learn much more if you accept that you have a lot to learn. The best way to stall and stay at the same level is thinking you know it all already, or comparing yourself against others.
You need to understand that you have a lot to learn, and that there are other people out there who know more than you. Accept that, and you’ll be able to learn from them. Let negative emotions like ego in, and it will put up a barrier between you and everyone else and slow your progress.
2. Focus on the basics
Heel hooks, berimbolos and scissor takedowns are exciting. But blue belts are the students who have learned and mastered the basics.
If you focus on the foundation of your game, and doing all the simple things perfectly, you’re going to progress a lot quicker than trying to pull off the fancy new move you saw on YouTube last night.
It ties in with the point about ego, in that you are never too big to work on the basics. Show up to the beginner classes and work on the fundamentals. You’ll thank yourself in a few years.
3. Drill, drill, drill
Drillers are killers. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.
Rolling is fun, and it’s certainly important to get live rounds in. But too many people only want to roll, not drill, and wonder why they aren’t getting any better.
It might not be super exciting, but repetition is the best way to master a skill. Practice your armbar over, and over, and over, until it’s ingrained in your muscle memory. That way, when it comes up in rolling, you’ll be able to pull it off without even thinking.
4. Learn from your beatings
It feels great to dominate everyone at the open mat, but you almost always learn more from the times you get smashed.
Don’t get discouraged when this happens. Instead, try and take something away from it. These training sessions are the ones where you have the most to learn from, so take advantage. And don’t shy away from rolling with bigger or higher level guys. These are the rolls that make you into a killer.
5. Keep showing up
It’s always the best tip for anyone learning jiu jitsu. Just show up.
Your progress will be average at best if you keep stopping and starting. You’ll consistently lose momentum, and it will feel like every time you take a step forward, you take two steps back.
You’ll have peaks and valleys, times where you feel like everything’s coming together and times when you feel like you don’t know anything. This is normal. Keep showing up through the hard times, and you’ll notice the difference in the end.
Bonus step – learn to love your white belt
I said 5 steps, so this one’s a bonus.
Learn to enjoy yourself and love the time you spend as a white belt. Constantly wishing you were a higher rank is a quick way to lose focus on learning and growing. That’s how you start to plateau, which ends up making you even more frustrated.
The time you spend as a white belt is wonderful, you should never lose sight of this. It’s the time when you’ll learn the most, and the time you’ll look back on and be amazed at how much you’ve progressed. Don’t spend this time looking down on yourself for “only” being a white belt. Appreciate the steps you’re taking to challenge yourself and embark on such a great journey.