It was probably the worst weather conditions so far of the year. A whiteout in Syracuse and the surrounding areas. All classes ran as normal at Tai-Kai. I wasn’t sure if a lot of students would show up,but 30 warriors showed up tonight to train. There were Black Belts, Brown Belts, Purple Belts, Blue Belts, and White Belts there to train. It was a great night of training and it brought students even closer to train on a night such as this. I am proud of Tai Kai and the students for having such a great showing on a night such as this. Everyone deserves a BIG Pat on the back.
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.
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.