On Being A Purple Belt

On Being a Purple Belt
By: Daniel Frank

     I was awarded my purple belt before a tournament in Japan. I was prepared to compete in another blue belt tournament when my instructor surprised me, and a group of teammates, with our purple belts. The usual nervousness and anxiety that I felt before every tournament spiked because I knew that the purple belts were a breed apart from the blue belts and if I didn’t step up my game I’d be left far behind.

     Being a blue belt involved amassing a large collection of techniques, but not necessarily making any of those techniques my own. Purple belts work on shaping the techniques that they know and making a solid game that they can use in the academy and in competition. It is too difficult to try to learn every technique. Being a purple belt is akin to being a sculptor. With all of the jiu jitsu techniques that you have been shown, studied, and have learned for so long you have, in essence, been given a giant block of clay. It is now your job to shape that clay. You can pare down the sides, remove pieces, or even reshape it and start again until you finally sculpt a statue that resembles a competent grappler.

Kids’ Classes
     Being a purple belt also involves searching out and accepting responsibilities. What better way to be responsible than to share some of your knowledge? Purple belt is a great time to begin assisting in kids’ programs at your academy. You will get a more in depth look at the process of teaching jiu jitsu as you help the lead instructors handle kids’ classes. In assisting, you will also get a chance to teach mini-lessons yourself as you help groups of, or individual, students on their jiu jitsu journey. As has been said before, and cannot be said enough, “it takes a village”.

     Purple belts should work extensively on the timing of their techniques. This is a process that should be continued into their brown belt years, and beyond. As a white and a blue belt timing was not always necessary. Even with imprecise timing a technique might work because the practitioner forced the move to work. With enough force, sometimes, you can shove the square peg through the circular hole. At purple belt you should be striving for more. The moves that you employ should work, not because of the strength and power that you put behind them, but rather through the exact timing and execution of those moves. A purple belt should have their eyes open enough so that they can survey the wider field, see the openings, and execute the techniques that they might not have seen before.

Look Deeper Into the Bag
     By looking deeper into the bag I mean that purple belts need to readdress techniques that they may have discarded previously. In the process of learning techniques, during the time spent at white belt and at blue belt, the practitioner will come across easy and difficult techniques. They may be easy or difficult in the sense that they require many movements, that the execution is hard or easy, or that the practitioner’s physique may hinder certain movements. At purple belt the practitioner may want to go back to those techniques that they have previously cast aside. They may have been difficult before, but now could be the perfect time to relearn those techniques. They may even become the foundation to your new, and improved, game.

Be a Leader
     It may sound like a broken record, but being a leader is important at all belts. Being a leader entails many things. You can be a vocal and charismatic leader that is regularly seen and heard at your academy and throughout the jiu jitsu world. Make sure that when you are seen and heard that you act appropriately. You are an ambassador of your academy and a representative of your instructor. You can also be a silent leader that leads by example. Hard work and dedication are noticed by everyone at your academy and can be contagious to others.

    Attaining your purple belt in jiu jitsu is a difficult task. You have already travelled farther than many who have donned the gi. It is important to keep one eye on your training and be sure to improve and enjoy being a purple belt. It is just as important to keep that other eye on the future as the brown and black belts are not that far away.

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