If someone had to walk up to you and try to take your belt, could you stop them?
A lot of debate surrounds the skill level required at each belt level in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but at the heart of the issue lies an important conversation about our ability to exemplify the color of the belt we wear.
As you progress through the BJJ ranks, those below your level look up to you as an example of what a practitioner at your belt color should be like. Do you exemplify your belt color by showing good technique, positional knowledge and attention to detail? A beginner or journeyman in the art will look to his seniors as the example of what a good practitioner is capable of doing.
Never be in a position where you feel doubt about your level of skill in comparison to the color of your belt. Focusing only on the color of your belt and not the level of skill you have is a dangerous mindset to be in; not only do you not represent yourself well, but also those who have entrusted to you your rank.
I learnt an important lesson in my first visit to a national level competition. I was still a White Belt and I sat watching the Blue belts compete; naively envious that I had not reached that status yet. A recent opponent of mine stepped onto the mats, whom had recently been promoted to Blue… I remember thinking to myself “What the hell?! I beat this guy a month ago, and now he’s a Blue belt?” Unfortunately he found himself being submitted quickly in his first match. I felt no better having watched him lose, I didn’t harbor any ill feelings towards him as a person, but I still couldn’t reconcile this in my mind. Speaking to my coach about it later, he said “I’ll never give someone a belt color they can’t defend. When you wear any color belt, there should be no question that you are at that level.” I came to realize later what my coach meant: it’s not about the color or status that your belt signifies, but the skill level that you are able to display.
As a White Belt, my biggest fear was that I wasn’t making progress. I got caught up in the idea that having a nice, shiny new colored belt around my waist would mean that I had made progress; I had convinced myself that I needed some tangible or visible display that acknowledged my skills and what I had learned. I’ve since come to understand that the color of your belt does not matter in a conversation about skill, what you are able to do is the only thing that matters when it comes to skill.
Thanks for reading,