So you’ve just started BJJ and heard about the notoriously long time most people spend at each belt.
On average, BJJ practitioners will get their blue belt within 1-2 years. You can reduce your time at white belt by spending more time training on the mats, studying Jiu-Jitsu while off the mats, and competing regularly. If you commit yourself to improving, you’ll progress through your white belt a lot faster.
I managed to get my blue belt within 1 year by training at least 3-4 days a week, competing, and most importantly recording my training.
A few factors that can reduce your time at White Belt that worked for me, and we’re going to look at those in this article.
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BJJ - The Gentle Art
BJJ - The Gentle Art
How Long Does It Take To Get A Stripe In BJJ?
Stripes are the strips of tape around the black bar on your belt indicating your level of progression for that belt.
From white belt to brown belt, you’ll receive 4 stripes before receiving the next color belt.
At black belt, you’ll receive 6 stripes (6th Degree) before being promoted to coral belt (7th Degree or Master Level).
On average you’d expect to receive a stripe on your white belt every 4-6 months, depending on how quickly you’ve advanced. It usually takes longer to receive a stripe at blue belt than it does at white because you can progress quite rapidly through white belt.
Time Spent On Average At Each Belt
|Belt Color||Number of Stripes||Time Per Stripe||Time at Belt|
|White Belt||4 Stripes||4 – 6 Months||1 – 2 Years|
|Blue Belt||4 Stripes||6 – 9 Months||2 – 3 Years|
|Purple Belt||4 Stripes||6 – 9 Months||2 – 3 Years|
|Brown Belt||4 Stripes||6 – 9 Months||2 – 3 Years|
|Black Belt||6 Stripes||3 – 5 Years||21+ Years|
By training 3-4 times a week and competing I was able to achieve a stripe on average every 3 months of training.
It’s possible to advance a lot quicker if you put the time into your training, both on and off the mat.
What Is A Blue Belt In Jiu-Jitsu?
A blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu is someone that’s achieved an above-average level of submission grappling skills. The difference between a white belt and a blue belt is the ability to recognize and understand positions in BJJ. Blue belts can also effectively regulate their level of effort and aggression in a fight.
Blue belts have a much deeper understanding of themselves because they’ve experienced a wider range of situations, both good and very bad.
Jiu-Jitsu is far more than a physical challenge, it’s mental and emotional too.
Fighting for your life and training to take lives is different from anything else you’ll ever do.
How Do You Become A Blue Belt In Jiu-Jitsu?
You must be at least 16 years or older to get a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
Skilled young fighters will reach their limit at green belt, and most likely jump from green belt to blue belt (skipping white belt) when they’re 16.
Becoming a blue belt depends on how your gym handles promotions, there are 4 factors to consider:
- How long you’ve been training
- How often you compete and your tournament results
- How many techniques you know from each position
- How you’re measuring up to other white belts at your gym
Your coach might consider some or all of these factors when promoting you to blue belt.
Some gyms only promote based on your skill level regardless of the time you’ve spent training.
Others only promote based on your time spent training and don’t consider anything else.
Try finding a gym that considers at least a few of these factors, rather than one or the other.
That way you’ll know for sure that you deserve your blue belt it’s not simply a token of your long-term membership.
BJJ Blue Belt Requirements
To summarise what is widely considered the minimum requirements for a blue belt:
- You should be able to train an entire session without gassing out. Meaning you should be able to control your breathing and your output of energy effectively.
- You must be able to confidently execute at least 2 submissions from all dominant positions and be able to transition between submissions if required.
- You should have at least 2 escapes that you’re comfortable executing from difficult positions like side-control, knee-on-belly, and mount.
- You should understand all basic positions, transitions, and techniques well enough to be able to explain them to a new white belt. If you can teach it, you know it.
Developing as a grappler is a fun process.
If you’re not training on the mats, you’ll be thinking about it.
While working my way through my own white belt I discovered a few techniques that have served me really well for getting out of difficult situations:
Escapes From Mount To Master
Escaping the mount position will always be challenging because your opponent has literally trained to keep you there.
What you want to focus on is never letting your opponent settle into a good mount position.
Always be wriggling around, making your opponent focus on maintaining balance. If your mounted attacker can’t balance, they can’t submit you. These moments of imbalance are the opportunities you need to perform your highest percentage escape.
There are a few great mount escapes that work for different situations.
At white belt, you want to focus on what works for most of them.
Here are two high-percentage mount escapes that I’ve come to depend on:
#1 The Trap and Roll Escape
This one you’ll almost certainly learn on your first day of BJJ.
It’s a technique that works at every level because you can apply it really quickly.
Using the simple principle of removing an opponent’s base to off-balance and reverse a position.
You perform the trap and roll escape by trapping the arm and leg on the same side of your opponent’s body and then bridging over the same side shoulder to roll your training partner onto their back. By trapping the arm and leg your opponent has no way of defending the roll.
#2 The Elbow Escape
Few escape techniques are as versatile or as effective as the simple elbow escape.
The idea with the elbow escape is to move around below your opponent, repositioning your legs in such a way that you move to half or full guard.
To perform the elbow escape, frame with your arms against one of your training partner’s legs and slide your knee underneath. Slide your leg out and shift your hips to move into half-guard. Repeat the elbow escape on your trapped leg to recover full guard.
Side-control Escape Concepts
Side-control sucks because it’s so difficult to escape.
You’ll actually struggle more to escape side-control than you would with mount.
That’s because when you’re mounted, you’re under your opponent so you can easily manipulate their balance.
With side-control, your training partner is keeping you in place with driving pressure and frames. This allows them to control your movement, largely by applying that pressure with a nasty cross-face. As the saying goes, “The best defense to side-control is to not get stuck in side-control”.
Here are a few concepts I’ve found to help you get out of this very unpleasant position:
#1 Underhook. Underhook. Underhook.
One of the most important concepts in BJJ is the underhook.
Establishing an underhook on an opponent that’s trying to pass your guard will allow you to more easily escape and reverse the position.
The first thing an opponent is looking for when passing your guard is the far-side underhook to pin your shoulders to the ground. Your job is to avoid this and to establish an underhook of your own. If you’re able to get the underhook you’ll be able to pull yourself up and behind your opponent.
Here’s Andre Galvao from Atos showing how it’s done:
#2 Never Allow Cross-face
If there’s something you should be doing to stay out of side-control, it’s avoiding the cross-face. The cross-face gives your training partner complete control of your movement by controlling your head with the pressure from their shoulder. Even if you need to control that same side arm with both of your arms, do it.
Once your opponent controls your head, there’s little to no chance of escape until they change positions.
This is what a cross-face looks like and it feels terrible:
#3 Use Your Shield
Something else you need to learn really quickly when in side-control is to use your arm as a shield.
Avoid hugging your opponent because that helps them settle into a solid side-control.
By framing with your forearm into your opponent’s throat, you’ll be able to easily carry their weight.
Your shield has two functions:
- Keep your training partner’s weight off you to give you space to breathe and move
- Choke your training partner with their own weight when they apply top pressure
#4 Elbow To Knee
One of the strongest positions in BJJ is elbow-to-knee, the crunch position.
If you can keep your knees and elbows together, it’ll be extremely difficult to pass your guard and near impossible to get you into side-control.
If you find yourself in side-control, a great option for recovering guard would be to try and get your knee and elbow together. Creating enough space to get a butterfly hook in and recover guard. Someone who’s known for having an extremely difficult guard to pass is Xande Ribiero.
At the time of writing this article, he’s only had his guard passed twice in competition.
Here’s his Diamond Concept which includes this idea of keeping your knees and elbows together:
#5 Conserve Energy
It’s going to happen.
You’re going to get stuck in side-control, a lot.
The trick is to get comfortable there, by maintaining your frames and keeping calm.
Once you’re in a fully locked side-control, there’s not much you can do but compete for inches of space or wait for your opponent to transition to a different position. Using that opportunity to off-balance your training partner allowing you to escape.
Remember, you cannot control and submit someone at the same time.
There is always that compromise when going for submission in BJJ, so use that moment of weakness for your escape.
Never try to bench press your way out of side-control because you’re only going to exhaust yourself and remove any possible defenses you might’ve had.
This is normally what the attacker is looking to do, weaken you to a point of easy submission.
So stay calm and wait, it’s your opponent’s move to make.
Is It Hard To Get A Blue Belt In BJJ?
It’s best not to think about how difficult it might be to get your next belt, but rather to think of your progression through the belts as phases in your development.
By understanding that you’re probably going to be stuck under someone’s heavy mount or side-control for most of your white belt is going to make life a lot easier.
Reaching your blue belt will require you to learn effective defense. Unfortunately, these positions are not fun to be in and can make the journey from white belt to blue challenging for many. Getting through these hard moments will ensure you have a great base from which to grow a great offense.
The good and bad news is it never gets easier.
Bad news, because training is always going to hurt, it’s always going to test you mentally and emotionally.
Good news, because you’ll never run out of things to learn and experiment with while training.
From white belt to black belt, every practitioner will tell you that they’re always learning something new.
How Tough Is A BJJ Blue Belt?
BJJ blue belts are extremely tough because they will have spent 1-2 years mastering unpleasant defensive positions. The longer you train difficult positions as a white belt, the tougher you’ll be as a blue belt. Being difficult to submit is the best foundation to start building your attacks.
If you’ve had even one training session, you’ll know how tough BJJ can be.
Now imagine doing that 2 – 4 days a week for 1 – 2 years.
This is what differentiates belts in Jiu-Jitsu, time on the mats.
I’ve trained with many blue belts who would normally seem quite timid or reserved, assuming they wouldn’t give me much of a fight.
On more than one occasion though, I’ve been completely dominated by these types of opponents.
So never underestimate a blue belt, they’ve put the time in on the mats and are almost always tougher than they appear.
How Dangerous Is A BJJ Blue Belt?
A BJJ blue belt is a very dangerous opponent. They will have spent hours on the mats learning and perfecting positions and submissions that could potentially maim or kill an attacker. Trying to fight a blue belt requires an in-depth understanding of grappling and fighting on the ground.
New blue belts don’t struggle to beat seasoned strikers, provided they’ve established a good striking defense and takedown game.
Spending the time to get your blue belt is more than simply a way of getting fit and achieving a great milestone.
It’s learning a martial art that was used by the Samurais in Japan as a last resort when they’d lost their weapons.
Learning BJJ is the best thing you could do because it’s a self-defense system that actually works when it matters.