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BJJ Black Belt Roy Harris thoughts on Purple and Brown Belt Progression

Purple Belt

This is the belt of momentum and combinations. This is the belt level where the amount of energy you expend to accomplish a specific task should be considerably lower than it was when you were a white belt. Your game should have a certain amount of grace and finesse to it. Your game should not have rely on speed, power and explosiveness to get you into positions or out of positions. Your repertoire of techniques should be very high. However, you should begin to focus your training on your depth of knowledge. The white and blue belts are the belts where you accumulate techniques. The purple belt is the first belt where you must begin to refine your techniques. It is also the belt where you learn to put the basic techniques together into various two technique and three technique combinations, with the use of momentum.

Because you become more reliant upon combinations and momentum, the amount of speed and power required to effect your technique decreases. This is not something a white or blue belt can do just yet because of their limited amount of knowledge and experience.

As a purple belt, you must begin to focus your training on the use momentum. You must train your entire body to FEEL momentum. Up until this point in time, most everything was visual. You must develop a high level of sensitivity so that you can flow with your opponent instead of forcing techniques with speed and power, especially when you grappled people who are much bigger and stronger than you are. Pushing an opponent’s dead weight around is exhausting if you do not have a firm foundation in escapes and positioning. You will need to learn to use the momentum that your opponent gives to you, as well as create momentum when his body is not in motion. Momentum will help you to lower the amount of strength you use to perform your techniques.

Your training should also begin to use the basic techniques together into two, three and sometimes five technique combinations. Notice I said “basic” techniques. The purple belt mentality is very different from the white and blue belt mentality. White and blue belts think the answer to their problems is learning more techniques. The purple belt thinks to himself: “I need to refine the techniques I already know and then learn how to reflexively put the appropriate techniques together into flowing combinations.” For example, when I first learned the triangle, I thought it was just a matter of throwing my legs over their head and shoulder and squeezing my legs together. Then as I matured in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I noticed that there were a specific set of components that made up the technique (20 to be exact!). Then, I noticed that these components could be broken down even further into sub-categories. Now (as a black belt), the triangle is no longer a simple technique with three or four movements. It is now a myriad of over twenty (20) different (and subtle) moving parts that must be put together in a specific order so they can all work together towards one common goal: apply pressure to the neck. Once I had mastered the triangle, I needed to put it together with other basic techniques like the arm lock, the hip bump, the sweep, the kimura, a knee lock, etc. Knowing how to combine the triangle with other basic techniques was very important to my development in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Once I could combine techniques together and use them in conjunction with momentum, I now felt ready to take on the world. I’ve noticed the same in many students, both in seminars, at my school and other schools.

The purple belt’s mind set should be on the refinement of his current knowledge and the use of momentum and combinations. The purple belt is able to do this because he already has a wide base of knowledge in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know that white and blue belts want to learn how to do this, but they simply aren’t ready for it just yet.

This mindset, along with some rapidly developing skills by the purple belts usually sets the stage for some highly charged matches, especially amongst new purple belts. Why? Because the some of the “veteran” blue belts want to make a purple belt tap. Plus, a number of students who get their purple belts go through a period which I call “testing their wares.” They want to see just how they compare to the older, more experienced purple belts, especially those who are about to be promoted to brown belt.

Brown Belt

This is the belt of mastery of ALL the basics and something I call “at-will grappling.” This is also the belt where submissions play a big part in the training. When I decide that someone is about ready for their brown belt, I tell them in advance that they are about 9 months to a year away from their brown belt. I give them a schedule of tasks that I want them to work on.

First, they must master each and every escape. I want them to be able to escape every position with the use of their hands AND without the use of their hands (they must know how to push and pull, lift and lower with every portion of their anatomy.). I want them to be able to hold other students down with their hands and without their hands. I want to see them use all of the basic techniques in three and five technique combinations. I also want them to begin to refine their submissions. This is where I begin to use the “at-will grappling” training method. I will tell the student, “for the next thirty days, all I want you to do is apply straight arm locks when you grapple with the other students. No chokes or leg locks. Just arm locks.” Then, a month later, I will tell them, “for the next month, all I want you to do are leg locks. Then a month later, I will tell them to choke the other students. So, for each month, they have been given a specific task to master. Because they tell the other students, “All I am going to do is arm lock you today,” the student knows what the purple belt is going for. This forces the student to be creative in setting up the arm lock because his opponent knows that he will not try a different submission. Setting up an opponent is a difficult task, however, it is one that needs to be learned at this belt level. (I know the lower belt levels want to learn this stuff, but again, they are simply not ready for it.)

Once the student has gotten pretty good at arm locks, leg locks or choke, I will have him narrow the scope of his training. Now, he must focus on one specific limb. I will tell him, “for the next month, all I want you to do is arm lock your opponent’s left arm.” This really forces the student to develop a multiplicity of ways to enter into the straight arm lock on his opponent’s left arm. The student has the confidence to go for all of these submissions because he has a foundation in positional escapes and positional dominance. If he did not have this foundation, he would be timid to go for the submission because he would not want to end up on the bottom again. However, because he can easily escape from any position, and because he can readily hold down and control his opponent, he can repeatedly try for these submissions time and time again! This is why I do not place a lot of emphasis on submissions until the purple or brown belt levels. Position and control are the most important tools to develop at first.

Once a student has a firm grip on the mastery of his basics, I will promote him to brown belt. Once he has been promoted to brown belt, he must continue to refine his game. He must seek out his weak areas and focus on them. He must also find his strengths and focus on them for an extended period of time because these will define his character as a black belt. Most black belts have a specialty. Some are good at throws. Others are good at collar chokes. I happen to be good at leg locks. I want my brown belts to find their sweet spot and train it like crazy!

Old School PICS- Tai Kai -The original BJJ/MMA school in the Syracuse Area

Here are some old school pics. I have more to come even older. These pics were all taken between 8 and 12 years ago. Tai Kai was doing MMA and BJJ while most local schools were still doing traditional martial arts. All local schools have jumped on the Bandwagon. Now everyone does BJJ and MMA. Tai Kai has a strong history and was the original BJJ/MMA school in Central New York.

Tai Kai’a Andy Curringa in his first MMA fight against Joe Lauzon back in 2001. No he did not win by choke but won a decision

1996 Ken Kronenberg training with Oleg Taktarov

2000 Ken Kronenberg beating Brazilian Top Team’s Fabione Capone

2000 Matt Z winning his division

Ken Kronenberg 2003 in Brazil Competing in ADCC pictures with Helio Gracie

1998 at UFC with Carlson Gracie. There to support our teacher Allen Goes

2001 Grapplers Quest. Ken Kronenberg vs Jeremy Horn. No I did not get the choke. Horn won a decision

1998 NAGA SUPERFIFGHT Ken Kronenberg vs. Ricardo Almedia Pictured with Renzo Gracie

BJJ Black Belt Roy Harris thoughts on White and Blue Belt progression

White Belt

This is the belt of paying your dues. This is the belt where you will spend most of your time on his back. You usually end up doing most of the tapping as well.

Your ability to grapple successfully will depend largely on three things:

1. your previous martial arts experience, (a grappling background helps a lot)
2. your current fitness level, (a higher level of fitness help tremendously)
3. your ability to learn visually (visual learners adapt and absorb information more quickly)

Students who come from a wrestling background seem to adapt very well to the slight change in grappling methods. Students who come from an athletic background also seem to adapt quite well.

Those who come from a striking background sometimes have a difficult time adapting. Many have become so accustomed to visually grabbing onto the vertical and horizontal lines of the walls, doorways and ropes to stabilize their equilibrium that they feel very uncomfortable with the diagonal world of grappling. They quickly learn that the ground has not been their friend, and, that they must take some time to acquaint themselves with this new perspective.

The most frustrating part about being a white belt (especially if you have no experience on the ground) is the fact that most of the advanced students will make you tap, or at least positionally dominate you. (I remember feeling frustrated as a white belt.) This frustration usually leads to white belts asking questions like, “How do I get on top of these guys? How do I escape the side or full mount? How do I tap out the blue and purple belts?” Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do right now to immediately change the tables in your favor. Get used to the blue and purple belts tapping you out. Get used to having them positionally dominating you. Consider tapping as a “form of learning”, a way of “paying your dues.” I remember when I was a white belt. I remember feeling like a rag doll in the hands of the blue and purple belts. I wish there would have been something I could have done to prevent from feeling like that, but there wasn’t. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just one of those “time in service” things. You simply have to put your time in. There are no short cuts!

The only encouragement that I can give to you is this, “Keep training! Your day is coming. The day will come when you will no longer be a white belt. The day is coming when you will be able to escape from any position with finesse and ease. Then, it will be your turn to watch the frustration of the new white belts that enter your school. Then, it will be your turn to encourage them as I have encouraged you!”

White belts are expected to rely on speed, power, strength and explosiveness. For that is all they know. However, once a person dons the “blue belt”, the world of Jiu Jitsu suddenly changes.

Blue Belt

This is the belt of survival. It is the belt where the focus of your training must be on escaping from most of the inferior positions (the mount, the guard, the side mount, the wrestler’s cradle and headlocks). Having the ability to escape from most inferior positions is paramount to having the ability to get on top of a person, positionally dominate them and making them tap. I know that there are a number of submissions from inferior positions (not necessarily the guard), but these submissions require a high level of speed, power and explosiveness. The reason why these submissions require speed, power and explosiveness is because your body, when placed in an inferior position, can not effectively apply leverage. To compensate for the inability to apply leverage, you substitute it with speed, power and explosiveness to effect the lock. (Anyone who tells you any different is either purposely misleading you or very unknowledgeable with grappling! I know that some may argue this point, but I stand by this point.) Not only do you have an inability to apply leverage from an inferior position, you also do not have control of your opponent’s body! So now do you see why escapes are so important to building a firm foundation in grappling?

When you can easily escape the tightest pin (from just about anyone), you will find yourself on top more often. When you find yourself on top, you have more chances for submission. However, you should not jump right into submission just yet because you have not developed the skill to hold someone down with finesses and ease. I have seen too many blue belts begin their journey into submission too soon and often become frustrated because they just can’t finish their opponent. They get so close, but they often fail at finishing their opponent. This usually leads the blue belt to seeking out more and more submission techniques. He thinks that the “new” and “sneaky” techniques will make him more skilled at submissions. However, what he doesn’t realize is that his inability to finish his opponent is directly related to his inability to positionally dominate him. The blue belt feels good when he has escaped a hold down and has landed on top. However, he also feels like he has ONE SHOT at sinking in the submission. He knows if he fails, he will end up on his back and have to fight for the top position again. So, he usually stalls, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake so he can hopefully capitalize on it.

Once the blue belt has a firm grip on positional escapes, he should then move on to positional dominance: which is “the ability to control an opponent.” When the blue belt can readily escape from most of the bottom positions, he should focus his training on learning how to control his opponent with greater ease and finesse. Although anyone can control their opponent if they can use all of their strength for short periods of time. It will take some time before a person can effortlessly hold down their opponent.

Once the blue belt has a good grip on these two aspects, he should then begin to develop a few good submissions. Still, he should not be consumed with them because there are still a few more areas to train before a lengthy period of time should be spent on submissions. (Yes, yes, yes, I know that submissions are the more enjoyable part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am not saying that you should not train them at all. However, all I am saying is this, “Don’t focus on them quite yet. Wait until you are a high purple belt!”)

The blue belt should have a large repertoire of positional and submission techniques. However, his depth of knowledge of these techniques is very limited because of his experience level. And because of his limited experience, he will still require a good amount of speed, power and explosiveness to effect most of his techniques. This is to be expected.

Another interesting thing happens at the blue belt level: the bar of performance raises itself to highly competitive levels. I remember when I was a white belt, it felt OK to tap to everyone because hey, I was a white belt. However, once I was promoted to blue belt, many of the bigger, stronger and more talented white belts began to set their cross-hair on me. What once was a shared journey of joy and frustration suddenly became field of itchy trigger fingered snipers. Many of the white belts who were once fellow sojourners now wanted the privilege of being able to say, “I made a blue belt tap!” It seemed like overnight the game of Jiu Jitsu suddenly became very competitive.

Rillion Gracie’s Angle on the Guard-From Gracie Magazine

The guard is the salvation of the weak,” said Rilion Gracie in a GRACIEMAG interview in February 2009. Well today, after wins from stars Fabricio Werdum (in Strikeforce) and Anderson Silva (in the UFC), everyone seems to understand a little better just how important Jiu-Jitsu’s leg game is in a fight situations.

Whether you are an MMA fighter looking to avoid getting put through a family-sized wringer, a Jiu-Jitsu competitor or impassioned practitioner, you need to delve deeper into the concept of the guard to evolve in training.

Rickson Gracie always said you have the best guard of the family. What makes a guard good?

The guard has always been a way of evening the playing field in a fight between two people, bringing the fight to the ground, where a 60kg guy balances out the strength difference and even goes on to have better chances of surprising the 120kg guy.

When I got my black belt, 25 years ago, I weighed 59kgs. And I always had the winning spirit, understood my family’s Jiu-Jitsu to be an art of self-defense, but one with the objective of submitting the adversary. The same way these days we see hundreds of scrawny guys, with good guards for lack of other options, the same went for me. The guard is the salvation of the weak.

How did you go about developing your game?

Guided by Rolls, Carlinhos, Rickson, Crolin, professors who I mirrored, I realized I had to have a really good guard to face anyone, but a complete guard – I wasn’t interested in just holding out against opponents, defending myself without managing to do anything in the fight. But the first idea that clicked for me, at blue belt, was: if I can’t manage to neutralize the guy with the guard, with which I have millions of options of barriers, my legs and hands and all, if he passes I’m dead – I have to exert triple the force, and on top of that with the guy’s weight on my chest, squashing my neck, ears. So my first concern is not to lose.

And what would be the second stage?

At purple belt I was already real flexible, and with a guard famed for being unpassable, at the little championships. But it happens that I’d win because the guy on top would wear out, and ended up leaving openings for the triangle, or I’d end up on his back and such. So, I went on to the next stage, developed at brown: to reconcile defensive with attacking guard, incorporating a varied game of submissions from the guard, sweeps and taking the back. That’s when my Jiu-Jitsu started improving on all fronts, because I started landing on top of my adversary, and I had to make the most of the favorable situation. These days, I think I’m better on top than on the bottom. I prefer playing on top – my objective is to jump the fence and attack my adversary.

I specialized in leaving an opening for the guy to pass, as that is the moment he exerts force – and so he wears out and falls in a trap” Rilion

What other tricks do you have for making adversaries fall into traps in the guard?

One kind of guard is that where you grab onto the sleeves, tie up the guy’s arms, but you can’t do anything either, and it becomes an ugly fight. Another is the guard where you give the guy a little taste. He sees his chance to pass, exerts force but doesn’t pass. I specialized in that, in leaving openings for the guy to pass – and there he either exerts force and tires, or falls into some trap.

Because I don’t believe there are humans who don’t tire. The best prepared guy in the world, confronted with the right technique, executed to perfection, he will be forced to apply force, and at some point will wear out. Everyone has their limit, it’s up to you to find the method and path to pushing your adversary to it.

Which is your favorite guard?

Jiu-Jitsu to me is easy and effective. It’s that which you can teach any student who walks into your gym, otherwise they’ll pick up their things and never come back.

I look to play guard right at the guy, at least in my way of fighting. I try to keep the guy worried about getting submitted the whole time, fearing getting tapped out. Even if the guy knows how to defend, the worry will fatigue him, exhaust him. And when he makes a mistake, he gets caught. The better your adversary’s technique, the more you need to worry him.

So of course, I’ll even play half-guard, sometimes. But, if the adversary is really good, after I sweep him he will still put up a fight from the bottom. So then one gets a sweep here, the other gets one there, and then it becomes that fight we’re seeing in competition these days. Of course, you need to know your objective when playing guard. If it’s to sweep for points, perfect. But I don’t want my opponent only to be concerned with not getting swept. He has to feel threatened the whole time.

Is there any bad type of guard?

I respect all positions. If I teach a technique to ten different people, I know that, as much as I’d like it to be otherwise, each student will be more suited to one aspect and not the other. Jiu-Jitsu is an infinite art; a shorty won’t have the same game as someone with long legs. That’s why a master can’t go blindly labeling one guard bad and the other good. The secret is to make out the weaknesses and virtues of the position, never condemn, arrogantly. Now, the guy who wants to be a reference in the guard cannot just know one guard. He has to know other paths, for the day he encounters a rock in his way.

Jiu-Jitsu is sensibility” Rilion

Will Marc Stevens be the Number one pick on TUF 12

Will Marc Stevens be the Number one pick on TUF 12. Watch this video teaser. Tune in tomorrow night on spike at 10 PM

Tai Kai Belt Test/Ceremony Saturday, October 23,2010 11:30 AM

The Belt Ceremony has been scheduled for Saturday, October 23 at 11:30 AM. Adult classes are cancelled for that day. The ceremony will start at 11:30 AM and everyone that attends must be in their GI. The candidate list will be posted by the end of the week. The class is open to anyone from white belt to black belt. We want as many bodies in there as possible so these guys that are going through the ceremony have as many sparring partners as possible. If you are a Blue Belt or above you should 100 % be there to show support. So lets have as many people there as possible.