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What is the difference between a white belt and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

When it comes to BJJ, the belt system is a way for you to  measure your progress and skill level.

It takes a long, long time, most times over a decade, to move from a white belt all the way up to a black belt. As you move through the different belt levels, you'll learn new techniques, strategies, and ways of thinking that will help you become a better BJJ player. Each new belt level has its own unique goals a you'll  diligently work towards, which is why the journey from white belt to black belt is so exciting!

BJJ Belts

At the white belt level, your focus is on survival. As a white belt, you are new to the art, and your primary goal is to learn the basics of BJJ,. You need positioning, and transitions. You also need to learn how to defend yourself against armlocks, chokes, and other submissions. Your training is mainly going to focus on developing basic techniques and learning how to apply them in a live roll against non compliant partners.

When you get to the blue belt level, your focus now shifts to both defense and escapes. At this belt, you should have a solid understanding of the basics. Yyou can apply them effectively in live rolling. You begin to learn more advanced techniques, such as open guards, back takes and guard passing strategies. You become more difficult to submit and more able to escape from bad situations.

At the purple belt level, your focus is on developing your game from the bottom. You begin to develop a more well rounded game, particularly from the guard position, where you can control your opponent and launch attacks from the bottom. You will also begin to learn more advanced submission techniques and focus on improving your timing, precision, and sensitivity.

Brown Belt. At this level, you have a wider range of techniques at your disposal. You can seamlessly transition between them. Brown belts have a deeper understanding of strategy. You are better able to read your opponent's movements and anticipate their next moves, and can formulate effective game plans accordingly.

Finally, the black belt is the belt of offense. At this stage, you have developed a complete game and can apply a wide range of techniques with precision and timing. Your focus is on being proactive, attacking your opponent, and maintaining control throughout the fight. You will also begin to develop your own unique style and become a master of the art.

However, ALWAYS remember that BJJ is a lifelong journey, and even at the black belt level, there is always room for you to improve and grow.

The Technical

Think about it… a black belt in any martial art will demonstrate much more refined techniques than a beginner, and this includes BJJ.

In a grappling martial art like Jiu-Jitsu, small differences in technique make a great difference. Such experts are great at using advantages in technique to force someone to submit, rather than relying on physical strength alone. 

This means that the strength they do apply—and they usually have plenty of it; see above—is focused on the most vulnerable areas of their opponent’s technique.

This allows BJJ practitioners to preserve their energy and stamina while getting the most “bang for their buck” with the energy they do use. Similar to Filipino Martial Arts, BJJ uses one of the maxims of Sun Tzu: avoid what is strong and concentrate your energy on what is weak.

BJJ Black Belt Test

The Mental

Combat, armed and unarmed, Bjj is a mental game as well as a physical one, and the mental game is one in which BJJ practitioners excel. A black belt in BJJ has likely understood what you will likely do and prepared for it before you are even ready to implement your strategy.

Due to their greater experience and practice Black belts are more flexible, able to adapt and react to your movements quicker than you can react to theirs, and often in ways you didn’t expect. 

In addition, like a skilled chess player or professional tennis player, a BJJ black belt usually has a greater control over the situation than someone with less training.

Should I Work Towards a Black Belt in BJJ?

The main takeaway here is, that if you decide BJJ is for you and would like to train towards your black belt, be aware of the commitment. As noted, getting a black belt in BJJ often takes greater than 10+ years of dedicated training. This is quite the time commitment, and it is wise to be aware of the lengthy process it takes to progress even one belt in the system.

However, this process shouldn’t discourage you: on the contrary, even getting a blue or purple belt in BJJ is an amazing accomplishment! Due to the length of time reaching even one belt takes in BJJ, be proud of your accomplishments and the skill even a practitioner who has been training for only a few months will have gained.

It is important to be humble and recognize that great success like achieving a black belt doesn’t come overnight. Even other martial arts that have less lengthy training curriculums normally require at least several years to attain a black belt, and perhaps decades of training to achieve a really great proficiency. When you first start training, you will feel out of your element, and probably at some point in time you will feel discouraged. Don’t be too hard on yourself and continue to count the small measures of progress you are making each step of the way. If you do decide to make BJJ training a major part of your life, you can count on someday attaining your black belt.

BJJ 4th Degree Black Belt Test