Belt System and Rank

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ranking system has 5 belts, white, blue, purple, brown, then black.  That is the order in which the will be achieved and each one represents another step towards your Jiu Jitsu goal.

 

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White Belt

All About the basics.  Here your time will be spent learning the movement and positions of Jiu Jitsu.  These are fundamental to controlling an opponent to the point of submission.  You will be taught and encouraged to use submissions often and early, but will grow to understand the importance of technique over force.  Some days you will feel great highs while training and other days you will start to understand to true depth of Jiu Jitsu.  The ago old saying that ‘A black belt is just a white belt who never quit.’ holds a lot of value and should be reinforced during the early going.  There won’t be anyone one who expects you to be perfect, only to have an open mind and a excitement to train!

What it meant to me:

Some people can be intimidated by the moves and strange movements at first, but I was fascinated.  It was like discovering an entire world of foreign and unique understandings and philosophies, and there was seemingly no end to it.  It was sometimes frustrating when my body wouldn’t move the way I would want it to, or if I seen a mistake to late and lost a position.  At times though, it would all align together and I would start pulling off escapes and getting closer to submissions.  I had no pressure to perform from teammates and my coach (though I would often put it on myself), only to learn and enjoy.  I would be frustrated trying a move and my coach would say, Relax, if you’re not having fun, then it’s work.  Just enjoy time spent on the mat and the technique will find you.

Blue Belt:

No longer the nail.  The stripes have been great, but this has been your first goal since the beginning, and achieving it can be met only with a humbleness of how far you have to go.  At this point you should have a solid understanding on the movements and positions of Jiu Jitsu, and now should be exploring new or advanced techniques while honing your basics.  At time you will feel like you are improving by leaps and bounds, while other times you will feel like a white belt again, but this is expected.  By the end of your time at blue belt, you should have an idea of what type of ‘game’ you would like to play and have a few ‘bread and butter’ moves that people are starting to be aware of.

What it meant to me:

I had no idea I was getting promoted, I remember for years thinking about it, but I was my instructors first blue belt and I he gave me his very own belt from his days at blue belt.  I will admit to protecting it a bit,  but sooner or later I went back to learning.  My basics were good, I was hitting a lot of triangle chokes but had no real top game so to speak.  I spent most of my time competing and developing a open guard system based off the Robson Moura moves we were learning at the time.  This is where I really started to take it more seriously and my coach noticed it.  By the time I was at purple belt’s doorstep, I had been training for four and a half years and started studying the curriculum for my pending test with Robson himself.

Purple Belt:

Growing roots.  The transition to purple belt is possibly the longest in Jiu Jitsu.  while generally achieved in two to three years, it can take longer depending on the student.  I have heard purple belt be referred by many black belts as of the ‘most fun’ belts in their Jiu Jitsu career.  You’re armed with a lot of knowledge at this point, though its not all perfect, you’re a ‘jack of all trades’.   A set arsenal of attacks and defenses are recalled instantly without thought, but your mind will want to explore the other games out there.  Your time at blue belt drilling the basics every day give you the confidence to try new techniques and the time spent with the movements allow you to understand moves much more quickly.  At the end of purple belt, you should have at least one technique mastered, one that you are “known for” in the gym, but are almost fluent in all the positions in Jiu Jitsu.

What it meant to me:

Purple belt was my favorite time on the mats, this was also when I moved to San Diego and joined the team of Atos.  It was another world.  I had been a big fish in a little pond for so long, when I made it to the west coast, I was eaten alive.  Blue belts were like purples, purples like browns and so on.  After a week of 2-a-days, I told my fiancé I might of made a mistake, but her and the team wouldn’t allow me feel this way for long.  I was exposed to such a vast array of techniques from Andre Galvao and my teammates, that after a year of virtual catching up, I adopted my frame to use them.  I felt like a teenager, playing Jiu Jitsu, hanging out with my team and while putting in tons of hours drilling, learning and sparring, I felt more confident than ever.  My game exploded in every direction with an outpour of confidence, this was truly one of the best times in my life.

Brown Belt:

The gatekeeper.  This has been referred to as the belt for closing up holes.  After one and a half to three years at purple belt, you should have very little holes in your ‘game’, and this time is spent filling them in.  At this point you are fluent in all things Jiu Jitsu, your learning curve has reached its apex.  Some will feel like an expert or black belt, others miles away, but the student will need time to mature and grow into the roll of ‘gate keeper’.  The end of the first journey is in sight, and reflecting on how far you’ve come is only matched by the realization of how far you have to go.

What it meant to me:

Professor Andre Galvao awarded me my Brown Belt in 2012.  For the first time in my training of Jiu Jitsu, I realized I was going to be a black belt.  It wasn’t going to be tomorrow or even a year from then, but now it wasn’t some far away prize that felt so distant it was only a after thought, it was in fact, the next step.  The fact that I was preparing for the world as a black belt was an amazing thought, even though I cautiously looked forward.  This was also the time I went through the process of opening a gym.  I had to learn to navigate the world of business owning from the beginning, as most of my adult life was spent on the mats.  I ran into some hiccups  along the way, but but April of 2014, I had opened the doors.

 

Black Belt:

This is the beginning.  The start of your complete understanding of Jiu Jitsu.  Think of a guitar player, practicing for years, playing in their basement with friend learning other peoples music, but now, after all that time learning and play, its time to write YOU OWN music.  A black belt realizes that even though they are an expert, there will always be other styles you can learn from.  While forging your own moves and style you seamlessly flow while you roll, mindless and fluid.  There are 6 degrees of black belt that take 31 years to achieve.

What it means to me:

The day Professor Andre Galvao awarded me the rank of Black Belt was probably the most exposed I have been in a long time.  13 years of work and I had finally made it to the  one goal I sought most.  Couple that with being awarded black belt from Professor Galvao and you would of seen someone who could barely give a speech.    It is a profound feeling that is equal parts humbling.  There are black belts who have trained for 1 year, 10 years, and others for 60 years, and all in between. It’s as arbitrary as it is important, a rite of passage that everyone who keep Jiu Jitsu close to them will earn.  I  now train with confidence and know this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life.  It’s no longer a journey with an end, it’s just a journey to exist.

Coral, White and Red, and Red Belts:

These belts come after time served at black belt, and are more so a ‘degree’ than an other belt, but the achievement of any signifies a life time served as a Jiu jitsu practitioner.  The coral belt (red and black) is the first, and is awarded as your 7th degree of and 31 years served at black belt. 7 years after that, you are awarded the White and Red belt and your 8th degree.  Red Belt is considered Grand Master and is earned 10 more years after the white and red belt.  This is the highest degree or belt you can earn in Jiu Jitsu as the tenth degree reserved for the Five Founders of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.