Earning rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is perhaps harder to do than in any other martial art. It’s no secret that jiu jitsu black belts are considered to be among the toughest members of the fighting community, having put in thousands of hours over the years to obtain the rank. What’s not always as clear, however, is what criteria needs to be met to be considered a black belt, or any of the other ranks in jiu jitsu. That’s because there’s no clear cut system of moves defined per belt level like in other martial arts. Jiu jitsu has no katas, and most schools don’t do belt tests, it’s left to the discretion of the instructor.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s belt ranking system used to be differentiated from Judo in that BJJ belts originally consisted of only 3: white, light blue for instructors and dark blue for head instructors. According to Professor Pedro Valente, the belt system of Judo was adopted by Elcio Leal Binda when he created the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation in 1967. What’s unclear to me though is how that evolved into the current jiu jitsu belt system, as the judo belts are different than Brazilian jiu jitsu belts today. It sounds like the idea of different belts differentiating fighting skill may have been adapted from judo, but the actual colors/degrees of the belts were specific to jiu jitsu. If I find out for sure I’ll update this post.
NOTE: The text below was written in a journal I found recently. I’m nearly 4 years into training Jiu Jitsu at this point, but I enjoyed re-reading this journal entry from when I first started. I thought I’d share it in case others might relate to the same experiences that I went through.
I started Jiu Jitsu in May of 2015 at Hurricane Jiu Jitsu in Cleveland. It has been 10 months since I began and I have grown a lot in that time. When I first started I could barely make it through the warm up without being totally out of breath. Running in a circle around the mats, hopping, side-stepping, most of the time I could only think “I’m too old to be doing this”. After the exhausting 10 minutes or so of warm-up the lesson would begin and I would be silently grateful for the chance to rest for a few minutes while the instructor showed the first technique of the class. I remember those early lessons when I would try to grasp what was being taught, while simultaneously trying to grasp for air.
So here’s something you don’t see everyday, rubber guard from side control leading to a submission, for the guy that’s in side control.
We see in this video that Marcelo Garcia gets the sweep, passes quarter guard and starts to settle into side control when the guy in the blue shirt quickly attains rubber guard from bottom side control, and proceeds to sweep and choke with basically an inverted triangle. It looks like you need a certain level of flexibility and comfort with being stacked on the bottom to pull this off. Gonna have to try this in class this week.
Yesterday I had a private lesson with my instructor John Lawrence. This is the 3rd or 4th private I’ve had with various instructors at the school where I train, Hurricane Jiu Jitsu, and each one of these lessons has led to epiphanies regarding my practice. I pretty much get tunnel vision when I’m rolling, so it’s hard for me to see what areas of my game I need to fix. I find it super helpful to have someone else guide me through my plateaus. In past privates I was fixated on developing my guard, both closed and open, so that I could feel more comfortable attempting submissions and knowing that I could recover back into guard from a failed submission attempt. I pretty much went into private lessons with the intention to sharpen my closed guard. This time around we did things a little differently. I still had specific questions about how to increase my attack percentage from closed guard, but my instructor suggested that we roll a bit at the beginning of the lesson so he could analyze how I moved and make suggestions from there.
Yesterday I attended a seminar with Jorge Pereira at GriffonRawl MMA Academy. Jorge Pereira is a coral belt under Rickson Gracie, is the subject of the TV Series “Rio Heroes” and has a long history fighting in Vale Tudo. During the seminar he told stories of how he would fight sometimes three times a day while surfing, and discussed the importance of honor in jiu jitsu. Pereira believes that when training you should find the school/person you want to train under and stick with them, as opposed to the way some fighters (in MMA in particular) move from coach to coach if they think a new coach offers something different than the current one. He also mentioned that he’s bringing back Vale Tudo in a new promotion company with a very limited ruleset so the fights are as realistic as possible. I can’t find any links related to this but I’m going to keep an eye out for it, from what Pereira said the limited ruleset should lead to some exciting fights.