My White Belt Is Turning Colors!

So you’ve been training for awhile now, you begin to understand the concept of what Jiu Jitsu is, your coach reminds everyone that belt promotions are coming up , you feel somewhat excited because you have been putting in work , the nights you get home and feel roughed up, your muscles hurt and that leg just doesn’t feel right this time, you feel this sense of relief that your hard work is now about to pay off ( or so you hope ). Things rush past your mind, a feeling of slight anxiety but excitement fill your thoughts. You continue to train hard and don’t think about being promoted, yet it hangs in the back of your mind.

Your coach , not wanting to freak anyone out doesn’t say when belt promotions will take place, doesn’t say who will be promoted or who will not, just that in the very near future it will be. So many things go through your head, ” did i train long enough? ” ” did i train hard enough? ” , but you remain calm.
You show up to class ready to go, you made sure you ate something early enough so as not to feel weighed down, you’re ready to go. As the rest of the students walk in one by one you look around the room , at the mats , at the others who are here for the same thing. You become more anxious, more excited as the minutes go by, your breathing becomes more steady as you try and remain calm, going through your stretch routine getting loose.

You see your coach walk in , everyone gets up and lines up, you at the back with your gi freshly washed and hung dry you feel as though your body armor will not let you down. You bow in and your coach goes on with a motivational speech. He’s proud of everyones efforts and hard work, he says all things are possible with hard work and sacrifice, he says to maintain being a decent human being and use your Jiu Jitsu skills for good and only at the academy whenever possible. He goes on to say that what you do in your everyday life affects your Jiu Jitsu training. He says that anything in life that has any value is not easy. Your road to black belt starts here.

He calls to the academy manager/training assistant, and he walks in with different colored belts in hand. You immediately get clammy hands, not knowing if one of those belts is intended for you. One by one he calls up the purple belts and takes it off and ties the brown around their waist. Then the blue belts get their purple belts, finally he starts to call up the white belts, you’re anxious now so many things go running through your head, you think it won’t happen, you won’t get a blue belt.

Until finally, you get called up. Your first thought is ” Wow”  the feeling is overwhelming, you feel as though maybe you don’t deserve it, but your coach knows otherwise, he has been in your position, he has had the same feeling as you have now. You have this feeling of satisfaction that your hard work has  paid off finally.

But you remember that this is only the begining.

The road to black belt in Jiu Jitsu is a long , and tedious one. It takes a doctor or a lawyer less time to become a professional than it does for a Jiu Jitsu player to become a black belt. There are no shortcuts , no easy ways to black belt. One might think that once you become a black belt that your road to grappling great is done. But it is not.


At the white belt level there should be no emphasis on submissions, not even on position, your white belt represents your ability to learn and learn alone. Other higher belts have been where you are now, all of the grappling greats have been a white belt at one point. This is the starting point of the road, the start of a different mindset. Every black belt has been a white belt, PERIOD!

At blue belt , you should have learned and mastered the art of escape and being able to apply the techniques to live grappling. You have been in positions that have made you apply escapes, your sweeps are good , but you only have a few core moves that you work. You still use strength, speed and explosiveness to compensate for the lack of timing and lack of experience. Nothing can substitute experience.

At purple belt all of the things you have learned and applied should feel more natural. You should be using less energy to apply a position and your moves should become more fluid. Things should be more familiar in transitions. Less emphasis should be on speed and explosiveness and more should be on technique and ability.

At brown belt you should be mastering all of the moves you have learned in previous years. Focus should also be on mastering specific moves at specific intervals. Mastering every escape from every positon should be focused on as one does not know when one will be in a certain position. You can never tell when you will be in someones strong side control that all escapes should be mastered to either anticipate or to escape the control. At the brown belt level the Jiu Jitsu player should have mastered position and control as these are the most important aspects of the Jiu Jitsu game. What good is a submission if you can’t apply it with out control?

At black belt level is where a person should focus his training on counters and placing his own signature style on his game. At black belt level the training starts over once again. At black belt level a persons expertise in the game is high, his ability to perform all of his skills won’t be as good as one might think.
The black belt has favorite moves he applies with ease against lower belts , but the level of black belt has different variables, where one black belt might have been training for years on end, a new black belt might not have these same abilities or experience.

The process of becoming skilled in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and advancing your belt level is frusterating, it’s humbling and it’s a never ending process. One can say they train but one can never say they are done training as it is a life long journey. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a lifestyle, a way of thought, an idea that continues to live through those who live it. It becomes evolving and never stops. A black belt deserves the utmost respect as they have walked the walk and talked the talk , they have endured all submissions and have applied those same submissions. A black belt has just begun to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

-Excerpts taken from Roy Harris’ Progression in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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