I know this is a tricky subject. I will try to be as brief and as clear as possible.
We practice an Art/Sport where the standards seem to only dependent on practice and lineage.
There are no katas no general guidelines. No one rule or method academies follow regarding teaching and grading.
There are reasons for this. One being Jiu-Jitsu is so rich in the context which makes it impossible to learn and masterfully.
Every academy has a certain style. The basics are acquired during the beginning phase(first 2 years).
When a student is a purple belt he or she is well done with basics. However these basic are like seeds and can develop fully into a new tree. This makes it difficult to have a general standard for all.
Many don’t even know the true belt system. There are unspoken standards for black belts in BJJ.
Some are great instructors, some great fighters.
Standards being shaky. All this considered every master have their own vision of what a black belt is.
Time vs Mat Time
Usually when someone talks about a belt level or progress of another. Or even talk about themselves they talk in terms of years.
I think that this is one of the biggest mistakes.
Time was invented by man and what you do in it defines who you are.
That being said the record for many Olympic sports 30 years ago is a joke today.
When we evolve we don’t only evolve physically we also evolve cognitively.
With all the available tools and technology people learn faster nowadays.
There are some really talented young fighters out there that are disturbing the belt system.
We should only consider mat time as a value to evaluate students progress not how long ago he or she enrolled.
Every team is different
Many times I found myself saying “what kind of purple belt is this” Meaning some feel much higher level.
But who am I to criticize other masters grading values in a positive or negative way.
There are many different academies in the world. Depending on their location and their environment what they expect from their students vary.
An academy in LA where there are many competitions a year may be full of sandbags (some people deliberately pass on promotion to achieve a title) while an academy in a remote location may have different goals and therefore different standards for their belts holders.
What should be considered
Not how many years you’ve been training. But rather how many hours you been on the mat.
A person who trains 3 times a week is not same with someone who trains 2 times a day end of 3 years.
We all represent BJJ and our teams. The character is important. Most who never see their blue belts get stuck there most of the time.
Tech knowledge & Ability
A person should go around the same level with the bottom of the pool of new level.
General knowledge of the art
Someone who spends hours on the mat should know where the art came from who are the pioneers etc
Belts are really graded on the ability to share the art. Jiu-Jitsu teaches people to live not only to fight.
By the way, when I say “teaching” I am not talking about instructors who only teach moves.
Regardless of the facts, there will always be someone who criticizes you. Get over it.
They will say you didn’t deserve it. They will say you deserve it. They will say many things.
They will take one standard very high, which is tapping.
Don’t listen to anyone who “talks”
BJJ takes time and requires your 100%.
You don’t have time for negativity. Life is full of insecure people. Understand their pain and smile gently.
I’ve never seen a master giving negative criticism. Its ok to get advice from people whos been there to help you grow. But you have to know who is the one giving the advice.
In other words, to be able to advise someone on a certain issue you have to have the knowledge and experience. If you are a bodybuilder with no size or an MMA fighter with no fights or a coach with no significant fighter you should give yourself more advice than you give others.
It’s my observation that people who care more about belts are the ones who care about merchandise and “fancy” moves with a low percentage of the application.
We are all naked when it comes down to training Jiu Jitsu.
Your belt means nothing.
Your fancy Gi’s will only make your opponents choke you in style.
Ask yourself why you train and who you want to be in 5 to 10 years.
Don’t let the unnecessary stress of grading get in the way of having fun.
It’s not your job to observe and evaluate other students. You pay us the instructors for that.
I still remember the first armbar I pulled while I was training years ago.
You should enjoy every level because the achievements and the feel will slightly change.
I wish I could have gone back in time and start the game from the beginning. Never be too eager to improve too fast and miss to enjoy the present.
So if you just started BJJ and confused about belts and levels, just forget about it.
Close your eyes and roll.
In Jiu-Jitsu, you truly see who you are rolling with when your eyes are closed.
See you on the mat…