On Being a Blue Belt
By: Daniel Frank
When I began jiu jitsu, way back in 2003, I donned my new gi, along with a crisp white belt, and strolled onto the mat. In my class, most of the students were beginners. My instructor was still only a purple belt. I noticed a few of the students wore blue belts and I immediately decided that the blue belt contrasted with a sparkling white gi much better than a white belt did. From that day, until the day I achieved my blue belt, I strived to leave the white belt behind.
Be Proud, Be Humble
I earned my blue belt while in the hospital. I broke my foot in a semi-finals match at a local tournament and my instructor awarded me my new belt for my achievement and for the hard work leading up to my promotion. When I was able to get back onto the mats I was a terror. I was so proud of my new belt that I couldn’t wait to display my dominance over all of the other white belts in my academy. I was right in being proud of my accomplishment, but should have been more humble in my status at the academy and my treatment of my teammates. Achieving a blue belt is a great accomplishment, but knowing your place in the greater jiu jitsu hierarchy is just as important.
Learn, Learn, Learn
Blue belt is the belt at which the jiu jitsu practitioner truly is a sponge of knowledge. The time spent at blue belt is the time when a practitioner should read tons of books and try to watch all the videos possible. Learn the names of all the moves and try them on your training partners. Travel to seminars and ask questions when talking to your instructors and teammates. You do not have to master each and every technique at blue belt. You are not expected to do so. However, learning and experimentation are encouraged and the time at blue belt is the ideal time to get it done.
Don’t Be Afraid To Lose
Losing is a part of life. No one goes undefeated. When you are training in the academy, with your teammates, your focus should not be in winning each and every match. No one should go home each night and make a list of every match won that day and each opponent vanquished. Rolling in your academy is a chance for you to figure out what works and what does not. You have the opportunity to figure out which moves will eventually put you on the path to victory. Learn to fail. Learn to fail a lot. Failing will teach you how to succeed and will make you a better jiu jitsu player in the long run.
Competition is not for everyone. Some practitioners can go their entire careers without competing once. Other practitioners step onto the mat to compete every weekend. Competing should not be used as a barometer for achieving the blue belt. However, competition can be a vital tool for blue belts to take all of the skills that they have learned, and have been practicing, and put them to the test against others at the same rank. On top of the benefit that the matches bring to a practitioner in terms of skill, they also provide experience in dealing with the pressures and anxiety of preparing for, and getting onto the mat, to face an opponent.
Be A Leader
The fact that the blue belt is only one rung up the ladder from white belt should not diminish its worth. Though the blue belt is not yet an upper belt they can be leaders in their academies. Blue belts have been through a lot in terms of training, learning, experiencing, and living jiu jitsu. They can be positive examples to everyone in their academy, from the children up to the highest belts.
The blue belt is the sophomore of the jiu jitsu world. They should expect to be at the blue belt level for a very long time. Instead of ruing the length of time spent there, they should cherish that time and take advantage of it. Remember, once you get promoted to purple there is no returning to blue.