So, you made it past the no-expectations spazzy white belt phase, now there’s a blue belt around your waist, and it seems like everyone wants to rip your head off even more than ever before. If you didn’t go missing like the majority of new blues, chances are now training is somewhat tougher and you can’t get away with as many things as you used to.
But is blue belt really that much different? Granted it is still a great accomplishment that you should relish in, and not everyone who starts jiu-jitsu makes it there. But what exactly changes from one stage to the next? what differentiates a blue-belt from a white-belt? Is it more knowledge of techniques and/or experience? Or does a new color come with super dope jiu-jitsu powers?
In reality, a blue belt is just a white belt who learned to shrimp a little better, doesn’t faceplant for armbars, and whose positioning isn’t totally off. White belts now look to you for advice, not because brown and black belts aren’t approachable, (at least they shouldn’t be) but because their level of skill still seems too unattainable to newcomers. The competition spectrum has definitely broadened, you can either get a fresh blue belt or a recently graduated juvenile phenom who’s been training for a decade. Subsequently, this stage might be the most frustrating yet rewarding stage of your entire trajectory to black belt.
Does the target on your back get bigger? Most definitely. White belts want to test their skills and prove that they can hang with you, and upper belts want to keep you humble and show you that there is more to learn. You’re stuck between wanting to know all the fancy advanced techniques, and cleaning up the leftover white belt tendencies. This is the time when you will be preoccupied with finding your game, while making sure your fundamentals stay sharp (or at least you should be).
The time spent at blue belt is often the longest, and for good reason. The knowledge gap between white and blue for the most part is not the greatest, but the gap between a typical blue and a solid purple is pretty extensive. For this reason, practitioners at this stage will be emotionally and mentally challenged especially towards the end of their blue belt when it seems to never end, and unfortunately for some, this means succumbing to the pressure and never reaching that next chapter.
Word to the wise, instead of dreading the years of struggle that are to come, my advice is to take advantage of it. The longer the time, the less of a rush and the more opportunity to explore, polish, refine and experiment. Do all the crazy big tournaments or do none at all. Learn if you prefer top game, bottom game, or if you want to dabble and get the best of both worlds. Whatever you prefer, this is the best time you will have to find and strengthen the type of jiu-jitsu practitioner you want to be, use it wisely.