I was having lunch with my instructor after watching some 7 odd hours of Mundials action when the subject of promotions came up. You see, at our academy, we hold promotions twice a year. We hold one following the worlds and then another in December. We started talking about who was going to be promoted and the like when he implied that I was going to get promoted to a BJJ purple belt as well.
Befuddled, I anxiously asked, “Wait, you mean I am getting promoted too?” He matter of factly said, “Yes.” As if it was a forgone conclusion.
My mind raced, and every roll I had ever partaken in flashed before my eyes (I’m kidding); I began to tune out of the conversation. I came back. “Do I have to be promoted?” I asked, still befuddled but now much more anxious than anything else. “It’s time. You’ve put in a lot of work. You’re ready. I can’t hold you back.” Each of those statements said in a cold fuck-your-couch calculating manner. (I could have picked a timelier phrase there and, perhaps, saved you all that confusion. But … no. I miss Dave Chapelle.)
I know of a lot of people who train with the goal in mind of acquiring belt ranks.
I know these people in person; I also read about them online very often. I can no longer relate with that sentiment (not that there is anything wrong with that necessarily). I was comfortable wearing a blue belt. After coming back from a 4 year break and feeling like I should have been demoted back to white belt, I finally felt like I grew back into my blue belt. I knew that I could go anywhere in the world and hang with the blues without embarrassing myself and my skill-set. I liked that feeling. It was… comfortable.
I knew I was on the cusp of winning a lot of gold medals and only needed some minor fine tunings before I was going to do some serious damage in the competition scene.
I liked that because it gave me comfort.
In addition, I just don’t care about belts anymore nearly as much as I did when I was a white belt. When I was a white belt, I couldn’t wait to get my blue belt because, at the time, to me it seemed that I would be finally worth a damn once I got my blue belt.
It was an ephemeral ideal.
Well, I finally got my blue belt after a year or so, and I still wasn’t worth a damn. When I came back to jits, I was older and had experienced more of life’s challenges. Those experiences changed me. So, for whatever reason, I lost the attachment to the need for extraneous validation. I just didn’t care what my belt was or if I would ever receive the next belt ranking.
Instead, my focus was something else. The object of my focus was something less superficial, less attainable, and less tangible. I was focused on conceptualizing, constructing, and implementing perfect expression of technique. I was focused on using the absolute least amount of energy as possible. I was focused on using the absolute least amount of strength as possible. I was focused on purity. Whatever that means. There is a quote from Royce Gracie that accurately sums up the overarching theme of my focus:
A belt only covers two inches of your ass. You need to cover the rest. – Royce Gracie
I like that mentality because it implies deviating from the superficial chasing of belts, having accountability for your skill-set, and just enough baddassery to appeal to the caveman in me. When I found out that my time at blue was up, I felt a huge wave of nostalgia wash over me. I was a bit sad and having not met my own personal goals in competition, I had the biggest urge to just blurt, “LET ME BANG BRO!”
I resisted the urge and conceded.
My instructor is, after all, a very well accomplished jiu-jitsu competitor himself as well as a very accomplished jiu-jitsu instructor. I reckoned, perhaps, he knew what he was talking about. Maybe. But, keeping it real, I wanted to Brendan Schaub the purple belt a little while longer (couldn’t help myself lol).
On Saturday June 8th, 2013 I tied my blue belt for the last time. Let’s all have a moment of silence, shall we? I encourage any of you reading this to pour out a little liquor, too.
How long did it take me to get my jiu-jitsu purple belt?
Now, for a little time line. I started training in 2007. I trained twice a week, as that was as much teaching that there was at the martial arts school at the time, for a year or so. I received my blue belt in about a year’s time. Shortly thereafter, I was forced to make the decision to stop training due to a full time job, going to school full time, and an hour commute in between those two. I decided, that I may want to get better grades in case I want to pursue a master’s degree one day.
I came back to jiu-jitsu January, 2012. I sucked bad, and everyone whooped me. That is not hyperbole. EVERYONE (including white belts) whooped me quite proper. However, this time I dedicated myself to training a minimum of 5 times a week. I was even able to do 3 training sessions a day during periods leading up to a tournament at times. I never took one round off (we ONLY roll 10 minute rounds). I was diligent in rehabilitating injuries that I suffered. I allowed my instructor to craft my game with his insight. Ultimately, this lead to me closing the skill disparity gap between me and my teammates considerably, and was able to be competitive during our training sessions.
So, when does a blue belt become a purple belt?
I competed, and won matches. I competed and lost matches. I learned a lot about myself, but more importantly I created myself.
I have 128 check ins at the academy since I started checking in on foursquare. But, I don’t know how long it was before I started using foursquare. I am definitely going to make it a goal to keep checking in so that I can see exactly how many times it took for the next belt level progression. I’m curious like that.
Don’t worry yourself about the how long the average training time to become purple belt is. We are all different.
What was your purple belt test or exam?
Our academy doesn’t do testing in the traditional sense the way other martial arts do, or the way some jiu-jitsu academies choose to do. My instructor believes the following:
I know. I see all the work one puts in and the technical development. I know when the individual is ready for the next challenge and the next level. It’s important to constantly challenge oneself. It’s important to provide new benchmarks and not getting comfortable with current thresholds. The belt is just a recognition of what has already been put in. A test almost undermines that growth. A test is not necessarily a good measure of retention.
– Marcos “Yemaso” Torregrosa
I understand his message. And, I’d like to add that in a way the test or exam is one in the same with the journey. The test is being consistent. The test is learning new techniques, drilling them, expressing them, and having them become an extension of your being. The test is the injuries. The test is suffering a severe ankle sprain two weeks out of a tournament and competing with the expectation to win anyway. The test is not being lazy about staying on your toes to have good base and mobility despite the turf toe that radiates pain through your foot.
And nearly torn hamstrings. And sore elbows. And winning. And losing. And coming back from injuries.
That’s the test.
Although we have no formalized testing, a teammate and I put together a quick demonstration of bjj techniques for the people in attendance. Check it out if you are so inclined.
What are the IBJJF requirements to promote to purple belt?
The IBJJF does not require a certain amount of time spent at white belt, but it does require a minimum of 2 years spent at blue belt. Therefore, according to the IBJJF, a bjj athlete must have at least two years of jiu-jitsu training to become a purple belt.
What is a bjj purple belt?
A somewhat resilient human being…
Is a jiu-jitsu purple belt good?
Definitely, yes, when compared to an untrained person. Absolutely not, when compared to a world class black belt. So, I’m going to say… maybe? I guess it largely depends on your perspective. Consider this though, the amount of effort and skill required to reach the purple belt level in Jiu-Jitsu is more than enough to reach the black belt level at number of other martial arts. But, still not quite as much effort to reach the brown belt.
What does it mean to be a purple belt? (Moving forward)
This is a tough concept to ponder, for me at least. As a purple belt, I am going to be having people ask me questions and depend on me to have the right answer. How frightening. There is going to be a huge proverbial target on my back as all the new blues and seasoned whites will be doing EVERYTHING they can to “tap themselves a purple.” *rolls my eyes*
It is said that reaching the purple belt level is significantly different than other jiu-jitsu milestones because it is a great indicator that bjj has permeated its way into your lifestyle; it separates the people who end up reaching the black belt and those who simply wash out.
I have several goals at purple belt. Here are a few:
- Improve my wrestling (channeling Jordan Borroughs)
- Improve my judo (or lack thereof)
- Improve my economy of movement (less is more)
- Master the purple belt curriculum & syllabus at our academy (a daunting task)
CreateCurate my repertoire in a VERY personalized manner (start to set myself apart from my teammates)
- Discover the nuances of teaching jiu-jitsu to a newbie (which may or may not have something to do with my patience)
My first roll in the purgatory that is purple belt.
I think, ultimately, what being a brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt means to me is perseverance and willingness to face discomfort.
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