Every promotion in Bjj represents a change in the way we solve problems. Blue belt is the first adult promotion, so it’s an important step. We are all different, so a blue belt will look different for everyone. These are markers along the way that I like to look for.
- You have established your identity at the gym. Your first and most important job is to last. Bjj takes time to learn, and you will want to find a pace that works for you. Training once a week is a good way to maintain your existing skills, but it will take a little more to make serious progress. Consistency is key. I like to wait at least two years before considering someone for blue belt, and there’s no shame in taking much longer. Instead of time, focus on objectives. You found a preferred way to play and pass guard, and you’ve tried a few options before settling into a favorite. People will ask me (and other upper belts) how to stop what you’re doing, and I will happily tell them.
- You know where you are, and which way to go. I like to map out 23 positions, aside from takedown and guard pull options. Don’t freak out and try to learn too much at once. We just need a simple plan that you feel confident in trying. For example, someone stands up in your open guard. I don’t care if you know all the latest k guard, worm guard, or other fancy variations. Just have something you like to go to. If you’re interested in the cool stuff, I will encourage you to develop your game. Just don’t bypass the basics in your enthusiasm. These are the positions I like to explain the game with: Closed Guard, Passing Closed Guard, Open Guard, Passing Open Guard (low), Open Guard vs. Standing, Standing to Pass Open Guard, Half Guard, Passing Half Guard, Turtle, Attacking Turtle, Side Control Defense, Attacking Side Control, North South Defense, Attacking North South, Knee on Belly Defense, Attacking Knee on Belly, Back Control, Back Defense, Attacking Mount, Mount Defense. Leg Entanglements: 50/50, Ashi Garami, Saddle (advanced only). Did you notice how vague the descriptions are? You should feel free to take time and develop your own unique game. Go to seminars, get private lessons, check out your favorite player’s instructional. I’m not here to impose a concrete version of Bjj, I’m here to help you manage the wealth of information.
3. You understand and demonstrate sustainable training. When you meet a new guy who is going a little too hard, you can keep yourself safe and not hurt him. I’m not concerned about seeing you win every roll, but you should be able to stay safe using good technique. That said, pick your rolls carefully.
4. A good blue belt knows how to learn. At blue belt, you might still have days where you drive up to the gym feeling like you forgot everything. The warmups will be second nature, and you will be fine by the time we start drilling. By this time, you are used to seeing things you’ve never seen before. Certain lessons will be repeated a lot, and you will find new details that were missed in previous classes.
5. I may ask you to compete. We will go in depth about competition in another post. You will learn how to prioritize what you’re working on, manage an adrenaline dump, and experience an even matchup. Everyone doesn’t have to compete, but certain people will need it.
You don’t have to read much on this subject to know that you never ask for a promotion. At this gym, I want you to feel comfortable asking about where you are and what to work on. I hope this helps to clarify this part of your journey. See you on the mats!