5 Goals to Focus on as a BJJ Blue Belt

May 6, 2024
Being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt isn't easy – why do you think so many blue belts stop training after they get promoted from white belt?! Check out this BJJ blue belt guide for 5 goals to focus on as you continue to journey through the belt ranks!
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So, you just got your Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt. Now what?!

Don't worry! This BJJ blue belt guide provides you with 5 main goals to focus on as a new blue belt. The guide also discusses the requirements for being promoted from white to blue belt.

Plus, there are 10 tips on how to become better than other blue belts!

But first things first, let's go over the basics in case there are any eager white belts reading!

Getting promoted from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belt to blue belt

The blue belt is said to be one of the most important belts in the entire Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt system. Fun fact, did you know that the Gracie family originally only used white and blue belts to distinguish students from professors?

Fun facts aside, here are some important questions that white belts tend to have about being promoted to blue belt.

How long does it take to make the jump from white to blue belt?

There is no fixed amount of time that a white belt student must train for before being promoted to blue belt. If a white belt comes to jiu-jitsu with previous grappling experience (i.e., wrestling, judo, sambo), there's a good chance they'll be promoted quicker than the other white belts, who, for the most part, are complete beginners to the art of jiu-jitsu.

All in all, there are no fixed BJJ blue belt requirements. In this way, BJJ differs from other martial arts, which tend to have more rigid guidelines for promoting students through the ranks.

What's required to be promoted to blue belt?

Having a blue belt requires the practitioner to understand all the major positions on both top (i.e., guard passing) and bottom (i.e., guard playing), as well as some basic knowledge of takedowns and throws.

More specifically, to be considered at the blue belt level, a student must be able to defend themselves against most attacks, escape from most bad positions (e.g., bottom side control). Likewise, a blue belt student must be able to string together basic attacks from positions such as closed guard, half guard, and side control, as well as front mount and back mount. Also, a blue belt must know a few techniques for getting the fight to the ground, such as a double leg or single leg takedown.

BJJ blue belt requirements are not universal, and some professors may have more specific expectations for their students. Some professors favour technical knowledge over execution, while others favour time spent training over ability/performance.

How do you know when you're ready to be promoted to blue belt?

The short answer is: you don't know when you're ready to be promoted to the next belt – your professor/instructor does.

If you're training under the guidance of a black belt, it's important to realize how long they've been training, and how many different BJJ practitioners they've shared the mats with over the years. They know what it takes to be graduated from a white to blue belt, so they'll know when you're ready for a promotion.

5 Goals to focus on as a BJJ Blue Belt

Here are 5 general goals to focus on as a BJJ blue belt, which are sure to separate you from the rest of your fellow blue belt training partners. You can focus on these goals through blue belt, but also through the rest of the coloured belts as you journey towards black belt!

1. A Learning/Growth Mindset

So, you're finally a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt. Congratulations! What comes next?

Many blue belts feel as though they've conquered an enormously intimidating mountain by being promoted from white belt – and it's true, they have! Blue belts have no doubt experienced the many benefits of jiu-jitsu, and are liklier living healthier lives because of their training. But now is not the time to sit back and bask in the glory of your new belt!

White belts have no option but to be humble, to learn, and to be consistent in their training if they're going to eventually be promoted to blue belt.

In order to be a successful jiu-jitsu blue belt, you need to continue to have a learning/growth mindset. This is not only necessary for your survival at blue belt, but it's also crucial if you're going to continue to be promoted through the ranks to black belt.

As opposed to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset occurs when a student believes they can continue to improve, and so they put in the work required to get better at their sport, activity, or career/area of study. Maintain the growth mindset that got you from white belt to blue belt and see how it allows you to continue evolving on and off the mats.

2. Defensive Resilience

A huge part of learning jiu-jitsu is learning how to defend yourself against opponents at full intensity. This full intensity sparring is one of the reasons why jiu-jitsu is such an effective martial art.

In order to be a successful blue belt, you must be comfortable defending and escaping from all major positions. This doesn't mean you successfully defend or escape submissions from higher belts all the time, but it means that you aren't completely lost when it comes to getting out from under mount, or wiggling your way out of a tight armbar.

As white belt, you likely spent a lot of time in bottom side control. As a blue belt, you should have several techniques at your disposal that can help you reverse bad positions, in turn putting you back on the attack.

A major difference between white and blue belt, then, is the ability to both remain safe and escape from bad positions, including submissions.

3. Technical Proficiency

Being a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt isn't only about defence - it's about developing a well-rounded ground game.

You don't need to be a master of any position or submission at blue belt, but you should be technically proficient within most of the major positions. You should also understand how to perform most major submissions, including (but not limited to):

  • Rear naked choke
  • Triangle choke
  • Arm bar (from guard, from mount)
  • Kimura
  • Americana
  • Omoplata
  • Cross collar choke
  • Various lapel chokes
  • Head an arm choke/Arm-triangle choke
  • Straight ankle lock

Likewise, you don't need to be at the level of D1 wrestler, but you should be able to perform a single leg takedown and a double leg takedown, among other basic takedowns/throws/trips, to get the fight to the ground.

You should also have decent knowledge of how to pass a guard, and you should be able to execute a handful of guard passes in training without too much trouble.

4. Understanding of Concepts and Techniques

When you first start learning jiu-jitsu, there is an emphasis on learning many techniques, which the student attempts to string together into logical sequences during sparring.

Blue belt is when students should begin to learn more about the underlying concepts that make these techniques effective. This shift in focus moves the learner into a new space, where they can connect techniques and positions more easily.

For example, rather than just trying to perform various triangle set-ups during sparring based on what you learned in the technique portion of the class, you can begin to see openings for triangles from various positions – even from positions you haven't practiced yet.

Thinking with concepts can open up your learning and allow you to experiment and explore in new directions. This focus on concepts rather than just techniques is a major part of progressing through the coloured belts.

5. Leadership

While a blue belt can be proud that they're no longer a white belt, it's important to realize that they are still essentially beginners in the grand scheme of the BJJ world.

But that doesn't mean that leadership is reserved for purple, brown, and black belts. The essence of martial arts is respect, humility, and teamwork – and that means that, just like black belts, blue belts also have a responsibility to act as role models for newer students.

White belts will look up to you as a blue belt, even if you're only a few months ahead of them in terms of progression. Blue belt is a great opportunity to demonstrate some leadership, help out the newer students, and show that you have the attitude necessary to progress all the way to black belt!

10 Tips for Faster Progress

1. Keep your white belt mentality

A white belt mentality means staying humble, being OK with getting tapped out, and continuing to be open to learning new techniques and concepts. The best black belts continue to have a white belt mentality – and if its good enough for black belts, then its good enough for blue belts too.

2. Don't forget the fundamentals

Some blue belts think that the fundamentals are only for white belts, and that they are now free to explore the world of berimbolos and leg locks. The fundamentals movements (e.g., bridging, hip-escaping, pummeling for underhooks) are the foundation of all the techniques you'll learn. Make sure you continue to spend time on the fundamentals that underly all the major positions.

3. Solo Drills

Even when you're at home without a training partner, you can refine your movement by performing solo drills. These can include bridges, hip-escapes, shoulder rolls, back rolls, and even shadow grappling (i.e., like shadow boxing, except you're performing a series of grappling movements without a partner).

4. Strength & Conditioning

Proper technique comes first and foremost, but strength and conditioning can enhance how you execute those techniques when you're three rounds into training and both you and your training partner is starting to get tired. Also, strength and conditioning play a big part in injury prevention – and you need to stay injury free if you want to be training consistently.

5. Mobility & Flexibility

Most people think about injury prevention when they think about mobility and flexibility work, but this will also have a positive effect on your performance on the mats as well! With enhanced mobility and flexibility, you'll be able to retain your guard more easily. Some bad positions might be easier for you to deal with if your body isn't restricted by limited range of motion.

6. Study BJJ matches

You can spend hours and hours watching the top BJJ athletes compete at all the major competitions – and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. Hop onto YouTube and study your favourite BJJ athletes to see what makes them successful in competition. Then, take what you learned and apply it to your own training.

7. Study instructional

Nowadays, there is so much free (and paid) content online that can help you improve your BJJ game. In fact, there's so much BJJ content online that it can get overwhelming at times. But if you use the online content properly, like studying a BJJ instructional video that pertains to a problem you're having on the mats (e.g., escaping triangle chokes), then online BJJ learning content can be a great way to supplement your training.

8. Keep a BJJ journal

If you learn 3 new techniques every class, and you train 3 times per week, how many techniques will you actually remember and be able to use during your sparring? A BJJ journal is a great way to keep track of what you're learning on a weekly basis. It's also great for reflecting on your training to figure out what's working and what you're having trouble with.

9. Drill and Spar

A lot of BJJ practitioners favour sparring over drilling because, let's be honest, it's oftentimes much more fun than drilling. But drilling is an important part of being successful in BJJ, especially when learning new techniques and new positions. Sparring is certainly necessary if you're going to move through the BJJ ranks, but drilling will allow you to refine and explore techniques in a way that is sure to enhance your progress.

10. Take private lessons

Private lessons can be a great way to level up faster than your training partners. Private lessons are ideal for not only addressing holes in your game, they're also great for exploring new positions and techniques that you might not have the time for in a regular class. Of course, private lessons can be expensive, but they are a great tool to level up when used correctly.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls: The Blue Belt Curse

There's a strange phenomenon in Brazilian jiu-jitsu: the blue belt curse. After being promoted to blue belt, many practitioners disappear from training, never to be seen on the mats ever again. It has been aptly named: The Blue Belt Curse.

One theory has to do with the blue belt acquiring a baseline of knowledge that would (in theory) keep them safe/help them to win fights against the majority of people who don't have any martial arts experience. The idea is that some blue belts feel like they've learned enough already, and that the road to black belt is too long and not worth the struggle.

Knowing this, you can make sure you continue training – keeping a white belt mentality and a growth mindset – so that you don't fall into the clutches of the Blue Belt Curse.

Just keep training consistently and that purple belt might come sooner than you think!

How long does it take to get a BJJ purple belt?

As opposed to other martial arts, the criteria for promoted students in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very vague and inconsistent from one academy to another.

The IBJJF requires students to be at least 16 years old before being promoted to purple belt. Likewise, the IBJJF recommends students spend at least 2 years at blue belt being promoted to purple belt.

Of course, this 2 years is only a suggestion, and there are a host of factors that contribute to the speed of a practitioner's promotions, such as their technical proficiency/conceptual knowledge, attitude/leadership, teaching experience, time spent training, competition experience, and contribution to the art.

In the end, your professor will know when you're ready to move from blue to purple belt, and the same will be true for knowing when you're ready to move from purple to brown belt, brown belt to black belt, etc.

For now, just keep training consistently, be a good student/teammate, and enjoy your time at blue belt!