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What is a BJJ black belt capable of?

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

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become ever more popular in recent years ever since the Gracie family popularized it in the UFC/MMA community.

Today, it is one of the most common martial arts being taught in America—in Las Vegas alone, there are more than 30 gyms specializing in various forms of BJJ training. Whether you are interested in competition, fitness, self-defense, or utilizing the principles of BJJ to improve your other martial arts training, BJJ can be beneficial for everyone.

Truth is, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is better experienced and better trained. This enables them to “roll” far more effectively. In addition to physical training, reflexes, and muscle memory of specific techniques, a black belt is also far better at the mental aspect of competition with another human being. 

BJJ Belts

Let’s start with the physical

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, like many other martial arts systems, uses a belt system to track progress. Unlike some martial arts, however, the length of time it takes to get a black belt (the second highest belt in BJJ, after red) generally takes more than ten years of consistent training.

This means that a purple belt in BJJ, for example, has generally been training for 4-6 years. Those who attain a red belt are considered grand masters, true professionals in their field who have studied the art for the majority of their lives (likely upwards of 50 years).This extraordinarily lengthy training means that BJJ practitioners at almost any belt level have an impressive level of experience to draw upon. 

As anyone who has ever wrestled or practiced Jiu-Jitsu with friends knows, grappling is hard! A black belt in Jiu-Jitsu is very well-accustomed to this activity, and will likely outlast anyone who does not have the same level of experience.

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, 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, they 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