Ranks in BJJ: Ideas on What To Focus on at Every Belt

My name is on the promotion list to purple belt this October 20th. Much like the Spartans, in order to receive this honor, I will now be dropped off half-naked in the middle of the woods and told not to return without the fur hide of a grizzly bear. That’s pretty standard purple belt test I believe, so I don’t think it should be too hard. I’m confident in my open guard.

On an unrelated note, how awesome is Jimi Hendrix:

Where the hell is the brain-gnawing musical genius of his ilk these days?

Anyway, back to the jits talk. I’ve read and heard a lot of ideas about what an individual should work on as he/she progresses through the ranks. Conan Schafer wrote a great post on this topic. He also has some great links in his post including this one from Roy Harris. My own gripe with the ideas described in these posts is that they are highly subjective. I believe that a jiu jitsu practitioner progresses through the ranks by overcoming challenges, obstacles, demons, etc. That could range from being overweight, to having a crappy open guard, to being afraid of truly going 100% in competition. Whatever it is, jiu jitsu is about discovering your flaws, and overcoming them.

I have many clearly identified problems at any one time that I acknowledge and work on fixing through drilling and purposeful training. That said, it’s fun to describe the progression through the ranks by mentioning one main focus for each rank. Here are the obstacles I have overcome (to some degree) and seek to overcome as I move to purple, brown, and black (by never quitting). This is a plan for me (from my current shallow perspective) and probably not for others. But you should make a plan like this for yourself and adjust it often as you learn more about yourself and what your coaches and teachers expect from you.

  • White belt: Open guard. I had to start learning to play off my back and not stall.
  • Blue belt: Guard passing. I had to start learning to play on top against good guards and not stall.
  • Purple belt: Competition. This is the rank where I want to “go to war”. I want to break through the fear, the stress, the ego, the excuses of competition. I want to step on the mat and truly have fun.
  • Brown belt: Submissions. Footlocks. Escapes. Sharpen everything.
  • Black belt: Philosophy.

I’m not exactly happy with the above list, but I’ll leave it be. It’s missing a bunch, like the fact that I’ve been working on escapes from day 1, and will be obsessed with guard passing until my joints are strong enough to hold my body up. But these posts are just for fun… so please read it as such.

Thanks to everyone who trains with me, coaches me, and supports me in competition. I try to be a good friend and good training/drilling partner every day.

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