The Correct Blue Belt Mindset in Jiu-Jitsu
by Ryan Young, Professor, Kama Jiu-Jitsu
So, you’ve been training jiu-jitsu for a while now, and are at the blue belt level?
If you earned the blue belt, that’s quite an achievement!
As we’ve stated once or twice before, a typical jiu-jitsu school will only produce one blue belt for every 30 people who try jiu-jitsu out (thankfully, Kama Jiu-Jitsu does a little better than that). So, if you’ve stuck with jiu-jitsu long enough to be awarded a blue belt, you’re a truly rare sight to see!
But before you get cocky, keep in mind, that the blue belt is but the first real rank one can earn in jiu-jitsu. You still have 4 stripes on the blue belt, purple belt (plus 4 stripes), and brown belt (plus 4 stripes) before you get to the jiu-jitsu black belt.
Stripes on white belts don’t count (we don’t even award stripes on white belts here at Kama Jiu-Jitsu).
Last month, we did a post for those beginning jiu-jitsu students who are white belts with what are the successful mindset characteristics you need to get you to blue belt. If you haven’t read the post, you can read it here http://kamajiujitsu.com/2016/09/the-correct-white-belt-mindset-in-jiu-jitsu/.
Jiu-Jitsu Is A Journey
Earning a blue belt in jiu-jitsu is the most physically and mentally challenging thing most people have ever accomplished.
While many will say that something else would be more of a challenge (i.e. graduating college, achievement in another sport, obtaining an occupational license), and while that may be true, there aren’t many things in life that require a participant to work so mentally hard, work so physically hard, and change so many things about themselves than making the changes needed to earn a blue belt.
Alright, I will concede that earning a spot on any of our military branches’ special forces units (i.e. Rangers, PJs, Green Berets, SEALs, Delta) is likely much more challenging. Heck, maybe even basic training in any of the military branches is more challenging.
And definitely, being a soldier in an active war…
Ok, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, right?
At any rate, whatever your situation, everyone has the opportunity to get in a position to earn a blue belt in jiu-jitsu.
And you’ve done it.
Disclaimer time – We can only comment on what we require here at Kama Jiu-Jitsu. Every instructor has their own criteria, curriculum, and requirements.
1. Realize, the “beginner stuff” you learned during white belt is not simply the stuff you learn to get you to being able to learn the “advanced” stuff. What you learn and drill repeatedly during white belt is the most important part of jiu-jitsu (assuming you learned Gracie Self-Defense and the basic ground curriculum while a white belt)! The jiu-jitsu “basics” is the core and the foundation of jiu-jitsu. If you ignore this fact, you may progress into the higher belts based on your knowledge of the “advanced” concepts, but your game will be “swiss cheese” and you will have difficulty achieving positions of dominance. Without being able to consistently get yourself on a path to achieving positions of dominance, your abilities will be limited.
2. Speaking of foundation, you must try your hardest to not try to move past your jiu-jitsu basics. Instead, you need to constantly work to improve your jiu-jitsu basics. Jiu-Jitsu is not something that you can get a full command of after learning it the first time. You must practice anything you learn hundreds, if not thousands of times, to get it completely right. Even black belts learn new tweaks to techniques they learned as white belts that make things that much better.
Ever wonder how someone like Prof Dave Kama (and Master Rickson Gracie before him) can “play” with another black belt, making him feel like saying, “I’ve been training for 15 years, yet after training with him today, I feel like giving my black belt back.”?
Believe me that is how I feel so many times training with Prof Dave. I think I’ll have a top-notch understanding of a particular concept (and I typically do), yet he simply shuts me down with seemingly little effort on his part (I know Prof Dave has expressed similar sentiments after he’s done training with Master Rickson).
Jiu-Jitsu vs. The English Language
Remember this (if you remember nothing else)… There are so many different techniques in Jiu-Jitsu; new techniques are being created every day. You can never keep up with every new technique being developed.
The English Language contains over 1,025,000 words.
How many words does the average adult know?
Yet, we all can communicate, even with a limited vocabulary, some better than other, no doubt. The key is not that our vocabulary is limited, but what particular words we use most often in our effort to communicate.
So in Jiu-Jitsu terms, the most important thing is that you know those techniques, concepts, and philosophies that are the most relevant to your journey. We can show you the most esoteric “PhD-level” techniques day in and day out, but if you train and get schooled by someone who smashes you with a simple #1 Guard Pass (aka the “old school” Helio pass), what does that say?
It says that although there are (let’s say) 2000 techniques in jiu-jitsu, if you know the 200 most important, foundational techniques “inside and out,” might that be better?
We contend yes.
The problem these days in the jiu-jitsu community (vs when we began our journeys over 20 years ago), is everyone wants to learn the fancy “new school” techniques before they get a command of the old school “rice and beans” concepts and techniques under their control.
Your Assignment As A Blue Belt
1. Add new techniques to your repertoire slowly and carefully. Limit yourself to (maybe) one or two new techniques per month (yes, per month). That might seem amazingly slow, but if you think about how long the average student wears a blue belt (24-48 months), imagine having that many more techniques under your belt you can do flawlessly.
2. Keep working on the basics and strive to execute them not as a white belt or a blue belt, but as a black belt. Just because you’ve learned the basics as a white belt doesn’t mean you’re proficient at those very techniques. Even our black belts revisit basic self-defense techniques regularly. Believe it or not, even black belts learn new adjustments to techniques we’ve learned for years that help us get progressively better.
3. Don’t have the mindset of hoping to get to the purple belt “as quickly as I can.” Imagine the kid who graduates high school that can’t read. Going through the ranks too quickly creates that same situation in jiu-jitsu. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who wear purple belts (or whatever color belt) and have no idea how to do something simple like a proper escape from a Cross Side #1 position, or why the Cross Side #3 position is largely ineffective against someone who has a basic understanding of escaping from the Cross Side position.
4. Since you have only a small number of techniques under your belt, work to be able to execute those techniques better than everyone. As long as you have a “go to” technique for every position, you have something to work on. Someone asked BJJ veteran Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, “You’re known as an excellent guard passer. How many different guard passes do you typically use?”
His answer… “Just one. But, I know every possible thing my opponent can do against my one guard pass, and I know how to get past every one of his counters.”
Kama Jiu-Jitsu is the school founded by Rickson Gracie black belt (and Dirty Dozen member) Professor David Kama. He was one of the original “Gracie Garage” members out of Torrance, CA when he began in the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in 1986. Dave is one of only a handful of Americans to receive every promotion directly from Master Rickson. He ran Rickson Gracie Laguna Niguel from 1993 to 2012, when he renamed the school to Kama Jiu-Jitsu, Part of the Rickson Gracie Team.
Kama Jiu-Jitsu and its black belts (Prof Dave, Prof Fernando, Prof Jack, Prof Ryan) teach Kama Jiu-Jitsu to its members out of its four Kama Jiu-Jitsu campuses in SoCal (Irvine and Laguna Niguel) and Dallas/Fort Worth (Flower Mound and Trophy Club). KJJ runs classes for Adults, Women, Children, and Juniors in both “Fundamental” and “Advanced” level classes.
Contact us for our current membership specials at [email protected], or 682-233-0721.