As the manager of a mixed martial arts and BJJ gym I see a lot of new students come through the door. Some have trained a little before, some are completely new to the game. One thing most of them usually ask is “how long will it take me to get to blue belt, purple belt, brown belt, black belt?” and my answer is always the same, “it will take as long as it takes and there is absolutely no rush.” The sooner you get to the next belt level the longer you will have a target on your back from the lower ranked players looking to prove themselves, not only that but you are also going to get smashed much more by the higher belt levels.
Did you ever hear anybody brag about tapping a white belt? of course not, well not unless its a lightweight tapping a super heavy weight. But if two evenly matched white belts roll and one taps the other, where’s the challenge in that? if a blue belt or higher rank taps a white belt well, there is even less of a challenge, in theory. A white belt tapping a blue belt on the other hand, well that’s a big deal as far as the white belt is concerned, tap a purple belt and man you may as well have just won the Mundials, that’s serious bragging rights right there. The likelihood of a white belt tapping a brown or black belt are incredibly slim I would think, but if they do then perhaps the brown belt or black belt should be called into question. There are exceptions of course; there is always a possibility that a seasoned white belt could tap a brown or black belt if there was a significant size, weight or age difference.
When you get promoted to the next rank, you become the hunted; a newly promoted blue belt will be prey for the white belts looking to prove themselves. Similarly, a newly promoted purple belt will be prey to blue belts and the white belts. Moving to that next level is an awesome feeling and theoretically, the more experience you have and the higher rank you are, the easier time you will have with the less experienced players. You should also find yourself doing much better with the more experienced players; but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way, especially when you are advancing in years.
Rolls will get much more physically demanding as your rank increases, if you thought younger white belts wanted to kill you when you yourself were a white belt, wait until you are a blue or purple belt, the intensity goes through the roof. Of course when we are a higher rank we do have the advantage of understanding the game much more and can oftentimes dictate the pace, we also have better defensive skills and know how to relax and survive much more than we did as white belts. But even so, a five minute round can still be living hell when we are trying to survive the onslaught of an eager white belt, especially a younger, bigger white belt.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a tough sport whatever level you are at, as a white belt you will get smashed persistently and consistently; as you get better and your rank increases, you will continue to get smashed, don’t think for one second that you won’t, you will just get smashed by different people than you used to, some of whom have a lesser rank than you. Rank is great for measuring your own progress but you cannot use it as a yardstick as to how well you will do against somebody else, it just doesn’t work that way.
There is no logic in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Now I am not for one second saying we shouldn’t want to improve our rank and progress, there is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to earn the next rank but just know that there are no set guidelines for when it will happen. Your coach will promote you when he thinks that you are good and ready and not before. We are all different and progress at different rates, there is absolutely no rush, BJJ is a marathon not a sprint. Take your time and enjoy the ride. Things will get much worse before they get better.
Seeking out new challenges as we get better is something we should all look to do and that often means rolling with people who are much better than ourselves, but as older athletes we need to be smart about it and understand that rank doesn’t automatically mean things will be any easier.
When will I get Promoted in BJJ?
It took me 3 years to go from white to blue belt and another two and half years to get my purple belt. I recall a new guy just starting at the gym just as I received my blue belt, that same guy received his purple belt at the same time as I did. People progress at different rates for many reasons, they may be more athletic, they may have more free time to train, they may have a higher work ethic, they may be younger and less prone to injury, they may have a higher learning capacity.
Whatever the reason, we are all different and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. As long as we are better than we were yesterday, last week, last month, last year, who cares how long it takes to move to the next rank?