You start BJJ and the moment you line up for your first class all you want is to be on the other end of the line. Once you manage to become a purple/brown belt and get to the top of the line, your desires change. Now you want to stand opposite, where the instructors are and you want a black belt. Once you’re there, though, you’ll understand that a BJJ belt doesn’t really matter much. Even more so, you’ll want to be at the beginning of the line once again.
Of course, all of us want to get that coveted black belt. The beginners are often much more grounded and are going to be satisfied with a blue belt. or any colored BJJ belt for that matter. The trouble with BJJ belts, though, is that they fade. The stitching gets loose, the color fades and all you’re left with is a white belt once again. On the other hand, your knowledge and experience take a completely different direction. This is the stuff that’s not going to fade. Yes, you’ll lose the edge if you stop training, but you won’t lose your knowledge and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu. You also won’t lose the family you met while you were hunting all those different colored BJJ belts.
What is the reason you started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the first place? Perhaps it was self-defense advice you were searching for. Or maybe you just wanted to stay in shape in a different way. There’s always the option that a friend got you interested and you had to try this cool new thing out. In truth, all these are legitimate reasons. Regardless of the reasons, your goals during your BJJ journey are going to change at least a few times. From going through the BJJ belts all the way to discovering the things that really matter.
Basically, you won’t get much for free in today’s world just because you’re a multi-Dan black belt. Of course, your accomplishment is worthy of praise, but if you’ve gotten that far just because of that you’ve completely missed the point of Jiu-Jitsu. The BJJ belt system is there to guide you towards your real goals, not to be a goal in itself.
BJJ Belts System
BJJ makes use of the basic belt system that most martial artists use today. This system was formed around 1885 making it about 130 years old. This makes it a part of modern martial arts, seeing as some of the arts date back more than 2.000 years. The BJJ belt system is even a smaller drop in the ocean of fighting styles.
Originally, the belt system used today was invented by Dr. Jigoro Kano, who also founded Judo. He needed a system of grading that was apparently so that he could mark the level of his students. It didn’t take long for other martial arts to adopt this system and it soon became the norm. Prior to this belt system though, people either wore a white or a black belt. Their rank within art was marked with a scroll. The original role of belts was to keep the kimono in place. In loose terms, the belt has no other role than holding the pants up. Nonetheless, the belt system is part of the mainstream of martial art today. The BJJ belt system, although slightly different than other arts is also based on this ancient ranking system.
So, what was the point of practicing martial arts before belts came into the forefront? Mostly it was fro the same reasons people walk into a BJJ academy nowadays. Self-defense, building the warrior spirit, even preserving cultural heritage. Some did it as an extension of family duty, not much different to what the Gracies did years later.
Focus On What Truly Matters
Thinking only about the next promotion is very normal during the first few years of BJJ. Especially until you get out of the white belt zone. Ideally, you shouldn’t worry at all about BJJ belts. However, in practice, it is acceptable to have the blue and even purple belt as the sole goal of your BJJ journey. Chasing BJJ belts after that though is a sign that you’re probably in the wrong martial art.
The promotion itself in BJJ is unlike any other martial art. The knowledge you gain about your body, the confidence you gain from the art, the friend you make. Those are some of the goals that you should aspire to achieve as a grappler. Furthermore, there’s teaching. You should always give back to the art, meaning that becoming a better teacher should be a massive goal for anyone above the purple belt. For some, there’s also the competitive aspect of the sport where it doesn’t really matter which belt you are. There are teenagers out there with blue and purple belts that have beaten top-level black belts of many years. Your knowledge and abilities are not ingrained in your BJJ belt.
It is perfectly fine to work hard for achieving your black belt. Just remember that there are other BJJ belts even past the black and you’ll be in it for a lifetime. Even then, you won’t be able to discover it ends. Learn the art. Become a better human being. Become a teacher. Compete and travel the world. Grow together along with your Jiu-Jitsu family and learn to have a correct attitude both on and off the mats.