The Jiu Jitsu belt system is one of the few martial arts ranking systems left that (for the most part) awards rank based on merit rather than simply just time enrolled at the school regardless of time spent on the mat. There are no easy belts in Jiu Jitsu. Even the white belt is earned despite the fact that it is given to you when you get your first gi you can take pride in knowing that most people don’t even have the courage to step foot in the gym and commit to training. The path from white belt to black belt varies in length, but it is never a straight line. It is a journey of peaks and valleys, detours, obstacles, and occasionally getting lost. Since we will be doing promotions in the next few days and there will be several promotions in rank I wanted to clarify what each belt represents and the criteria that I use to judge when someone is ready to move up. It is important to remember that my goal and the goal of any good coach is not to make clones of himself or anyone else, but to help the student develop themselves as an individual.
The White Belt is the easiest belt to earn. All it takes is the courage to step on the mat and learn. As simple as that may sound, it is very rare that a person that will ever take that step, so be proud of your white belt and the stripes you earn along the way.
The Blue is also a fairly easy belt to earn. Easy because you are starting from Zero. You come in knowing nothing about Jiu Jitsu so the room to learn and improve is vast. Unfortunately for many white belts, they look at the blue belt like it is a destination rather than a brief stop along the way. It can take anywhere from a few months(usually with prior grappling experience) to a few years (usually due to extended breaks in training). I look at the blue belt as a push. You should have a solid understanding of the basics of jiu jitsu positions, submissions, and defense, but I often see students who are right on the edge of the white/blue border and use the blue belt as a vote of confidence in the student. My goal is not to make a student into the worlds best blue belt. The goal is black belt, and the blue is a push over the edge of white belt when I see the potential and consistency of effort that will make someone a black belt some day.
The Purple is my favorite of all the belts. When you get a purple belt it shows not only that you have the courage to start, but you also have the discipline and tenacity to stick with it. As a purple belt you will begin to develop your own style of jiu jitsu. You will develop a better understanding of your body and what techniques and positions are best suited to your particular abilities. To get from blue to purple is significantly more difficult than white to blue. It takes more work, more training, more study of the art to earn the purple and it can take 2 years or more to level up. Take that time to really develop your skills and personal style because as you get tougher so will the training because you will raise the level of everyone you train with on a regular basis.
The Brown is a big milestone. It shows that you have a firm understanding of the basics, you have begun to develop a personal style that suits you, and you have been training consistently for several years. It should also give you the confidence in knowing that if you have made it this far you can make it to Black Belt. At brown belt you should be focused on refining the style you have begun to develop at purple belt. You should really dial in on your favorite submissions, sweeps, guard passes, and transitions to a point that they become instinctual. It can take 2 or more years to move from brown to black. Enjoy those years because it never gets easier from here.
The Black is not the finish line. You will never stop learning if you never stop trying. I feel that I have made more profound improvements and developed a deeper understanding of jiu jitsu after receiving my black belt than I did all the previous belts along the way. The only thing that makes a black belt better than all the other belts is time and consistency on the mat. Anyone can get there. Even you.
I am often asked by students what they are doing wrong or how they can get better. I like that question. Its easy to answer. The answer is never in me. The answer is always to be found on the mat.
I do not base promotions on comparisons between two people or between one person and the rest of the class. I base promotions around the individual. Who they were and who they are in the process of becoming. Not how good they are compared to me, but who they are compared to the person they were when they stepped on the mat.