The first adult promotion in BJJ.
All promotions take a long time, and understanding the requirements can be confusing. People often question if I have a curriculum to follow, or what to do next. While nobody encourages belt chasing, having a clear direction makes the journey more enjoyable. Every black belt promotes a little bit differently, and each student represents a different expression of those standards. Although a blue belt is only the first step, it holds significant meaning. If you meet someone who I promoted to blue belt, they have exceeded all of these standards.
They’re not lost in any position.
Bjj is unique because we navigate a complete set of positions. A blue belt knows where to go, and makes steps towards getting there. That’s not to say they know everything, but they’re at least looking in the correct direction.
An identity has been established.
Everyone has a slightly different game. Some people like chokes, others arm bars from various places. Blue belts have spent some time trying different things, and have decided favorites. So, everyone knows what they do, and they do it anyway.
Games can be executed against fully resisting opponents.
Competition is not necessary, but it sure does help! The gym brings plenty of full resistance training. But the added pressure of competition makes the lessons, thus the improvement, stick better.
Handle people (win) without hurting them.
Every movement doesn’t have to feel like being wrapped in bubble paper. However, it is the responsibility of the better player to know what they’re doing to people. I remember the first time passing the guard of a tough opponent, he told me it hurt. He obviously was not going to continue training with me if I caused an injury with every win. Discussing this is especially important for natural talents. Winning is good, but how you win shows development and sustainability.
Demonstrate skill at learning.
A good blue belt has put in enough thought to communicate about what we do. The warm ups are second nature, and they can follow the lesson. This is a great person to show a new student the ropes. As they get closer to purple belt, they can make a great mentor.
Have spent time training.
This is different for everyone. Blue belt should usually mean multiple years of study. If they missed some time for any reason, would they feel comfortable coming back as a blue belt? Some people take longer even if they’re already very good. This is a compliment. I believe there is one more small thing that needs to be discovered for themselves. Not because they’re being overlooked, but that specific individual progress is being noted.
Understand the significance.
When I began training in Kansas City, it took a couple years to find a legitimate school. The blue belts were standouts, and our two brown belt instructors seemed to have sacred knowledge. Promotions were rare, and we had plenty of time to think about the challenges of each level. Talking with outsiders was awkward, because everyone knew a child karate black belt. Convincing an unbeliever meant luring them into the gym, and insisting they go with a blue belt. Now, Kansas City is blessed with several good instructors. Blue belt is increasingly common, so there’s less pressure on them than before. We should remember that blue belt still reflects high standards that most don’t reach. High standards are what makes each level respectable, including white belt.