Developing Your Game… as a Blue Belt

by Joe Mullings

Well, you made it through the White Belt rank……whew!  You put your time in and took your beatings from the overcompensating Blue Belts. You don’t “lock up” mentally as much anymore not knowing what to do or where to go from your basic positions of guard, side control, and taking the back. Most of the upper belts have forgotten more than you even know at this point, you still have lots to do, but you are no longer a White Belt.

Pick Your Base Camp

Over the years I have been really fortunate to have my BJJ instructors be Ricardo Teixeira, Hermes Franca, Kurt Pellegrino, Raphael Chaves, and Eduardo Guedes. All of them are unbelievable Black Belts and they all have “different” games from each other.

“Kurt Pellegrino took me aside and insisted that I do nothing but “half guard” for 90 days. Nothing else!”

So I have had the chance to cherry pick the aspects of their game that felt right for me. Feeling “right for me” means the way my brain works, body type, physical attributes, flexibility, etc. One of the best things that ever happened for my game was the day Kurt Pellegrino took my aside and insisted that I do nothing but “half guard” for 90 days. Nothing else! Kurt saw that at least on a basic level, that I seemed to enjoy half guard and have some instinct towards the position. It was there that I picked my base camp.

Establishing my base camp would allow me to become a deep expert in my “major,” just like college. You have to pass all of your basic curriculum and courses, but eventually you have to select and focus on a major. This “major” allows you to look at a specific position and develop the subtleties of that position and, eventually, as you graduate to even a higher level belt, use the same methodologies to develop other “base camps”. You are learning how to learn BJJ. Base Camp is your lab.

Don’t Teach…Seriously, Just Don’t

When you get to a Blue Belt, there are some out there that for some reason that think they are now prepared to teach the White Belts. Stop… just stop. Leave the teaching to the teachers and just focus on your game. If a White Belt asks you a question, direct him or her to the instructor. Just say “Hey, that’s a great question, lets ask the Black Belt”.

Spend your time on firming up your basics and owning the details of the positions you had to test for in order to earn your Blue Belt. Too many newly minted Blue Belts rush to look at the Purple Belt curriculum and want to work on that curriculum already, while they likely barely squeaked through their Blue Belt test.

Basics my brothers, basics.

How to Train

I mentioned in the White Belt piece that you should have specific goals and positions in mind when you walk on the mat ready to train. Don’t just wing it. Small goals and the pursuit of those small goals lead to big payoffs.

Here is a good piece of advice for Blue Belts or any belt for that matter. During training, don’t worry about winning or losing. Train to develop your game. If you are worrying about winning or losing, you will just do the things you are good at and never open your game up which in turn will allow you to grow. If you are training with someone better than you, stick to your bread and butter game, and work on refining your basic attacks, sweeps, and defenses. This will harden up the holes in your game and give you a chance to test your competency of passing the guard, not having your guard passed, submission attempts, and so on. If you want to work on a new position, do it with a white belt as you will likely get away with a lot more and it will give you the space and time to work on the positions without getting smashed by an upper belt and end up just quitting on the position.

“During training, don’t worry about winning or losing. Train to develop your game.”

Blue Belt is a great rank. It is where you will likely establish who you are on the mat. It’s a rank that I watch guys either struggle with or embrace and have fun with. Those who struggle seem to worry about winning and losing. They spend too much time beating up white belts and then “need a rest” when its time to go with the solid Purples and Browns. The guys who have fun with it are the ones that play like puppies. They free roll and let it flow with the upper belts and not just “lock down” and hold on to just say “Ha, he didn’t submit me”. They are super cool with the White Belts and let the White Belts alternate with their attacks as the Blue Belt works on getting out of tight areas.

Blue Belt is one of those ranks where you are stuck in the middle. You are not quite a beginner, but you are also far away from the good solid Purple Belt. So just enjoy it, the mat never worries about “who you are”….only you do.

Next Up….Purple Belt, Seems to Be Every Black Belts Favorite Rank

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