Saturday, December 5th I was promoted to brown belt.
It’s taken quite a while for me to sit down and finish this post for many reasons, but, on the bright side, I think it’s helped provide me more time to reflect on the emotions surrounding this achievement at the heraldry of our academy’s winter promotions.
It was a borderline bizarre experience for me to ascend to the rank of brown belt. One belt away from the end, which is, ironically, consistently referred to as the beginning.
What the fuck.
I took a keen interest in the martial arts since I was but a wee bit lad.
It’s pretty common for most boys to develop an affinity for martial arts movies and the like. Something about innate male behavior or some such, perhaps. Even still, growing up through childhood, pre-adolescence, and through adolescence, I didn’t actually think I would ever become a martial artist.
If I’m being honest, I feel weird describing myself as a martial artist. Although to be fair, I feel weird describing myself in any manner at all, except handsome AF.
I kid, I kid.
Yet, here I am today. A martial artist. One rank away from becoming a black belt. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. A very long, tumultuous, painful tunnel filled with highs and lows and what not, I tell you.
What a ride it’s been.
My goodness, how things have changed on and off the mats from the beginning. It’s pretty fascinating to ponder the periods in your life and how they coincide with each belt rank. For me, it is, anyway.
A lot has changed from when I was promoted to purple belt.
And, that’s just one rank to the next. C’est la vie, I suppose.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Does it Mean to be a BJJ Brown Belt?
A BJJ brown belt is the penultimate rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and last of the colored belts. It is fair to say that a brown belt in BJJ is commonly perceived as an advanced Jiu-Jitsuoka (or Jiu Jiteiro).
At this level of rank, one should be able to express technique with an unconscious competence.
That is, your body can react without you thinking. To the layman, or person who doesn’t train in the martial arts, that may sound cooky to you. But, if I had to try to illustrate it for you, I would say, you know those “scare punch” videos you see on YouTube?
Well, that’s an immediate yet unconscious reaction.
Similarly, a brown belt in BJJ should have a number of techniques that have been etched into his brain through a combination of in-numerous repetitions and live sparring, and some of these techniques have become so deeply integrated into this person’s brain that he can access them without actively thinking about it.
Would a BJJ brown belt win any and all street fights he entered? I would hesitate to say yes with absolute certainty, but people would be surprised what is possible. Like Ryan Hall eloquently said, “In Jiu-Jitsu, people don’t think it be what it be. But, it do.”
Against an untrained individual, a brown belt could end a confrontation swiftly and without damage (if they wanted to) even if the person was bigger and stronger. More importantly, though, by the time someone reaches brown belt, they should no longer be attached to any superficial need to prove their might and should avoid a physical confrontation as much as possible.'In Jiu-Jitsu people don't think it be what it be. But, it do.' - Ryan HallClick To Tweet
How Long Does it Take to Get a Brown Belt in BJJ?
The amount of training time required to reach the rank of brown belt typically dwarfs that of other traditional martial arts in pursuit of their respective similar rank. In BJJ there is no black belt for kids like other programs out there. The ranks are clear, few, and difficult to attain.
From what I’ve gleaned, it appears that each promotion is about two to two and a half years for the average person that trains consistently. It is said, on average, it takes ten years to reach the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Your mileage may vary.
For me, actual training time on the mats, it has been about six years more or less.
If we’re talking about calendar time elapsed from my first day of training until now, it would be eight years.
Yeah, I took a couple of long breaks. I know.
How Long Does it Take to go From Purple Belt to Brown Belt?
At the point receiving my purple belt, I had 128 check-ins to my academy on Foursquare. I’ve been pretty consistent checking in; although, I might have missed some here and there sporadically and I didn’t check in twice when I would train more than once a day. Lastly, this won’t show how many times I’ve visited other academies. I’m too lazy to look that up. But, the day of my brown belt promotion, I had 441 check-ins at my academy.
That’s a difference of 313.
So, looking at it exclusively from a quantifiable standpoint, I had at least 313 training sessions in my transition from purple belt to brown belt.
Conservatively speaking, I put in over 600 hours of mat time to promote to brown belt from purple belt.
However, for a small period of time, I was training all day. In fact, for a period of time, I was doing the morning class, teaching the kids class, doing the pm class, and staying for comp team training thereafter. And a random Judo class, here and there, I would do in between teaching the kids class and doing the adult training class during that period.
Is that a lot? I don’t know. Given that there are 365 days in a year, 313 doesn’t seem like a lot.
- June 2013 Promoted to Purple Belt
- December 2013 – Competed in the first tournament as a purple belt (Bronze Medal)
- Early January 2014 – Separated Shoulder (off the mats for weeks)
- March 2014 – Back to Light Training
- Early April 2014 – Back to Normal Training
- Late April 2014 – ACL/MCL Injury (completely off the mats for months)
- October 2014 – Back to Very Light Training
- December 2014 – Back to Normal Training (modifications made)
- January 2015 – San Francisco IBJJF Open (Division Gold, Absolute Silver)
- December 2015 – Promoted to Brown Belt
For those of you purple belts that want to explore the transition to brown belt, Roy Harris has some great thoughts on the transition from purple belt to brown belt. I think it’s a good read. However, that’s his perspective. And, I’ve come to learn, there’s more than one way to skin the cat. You or your instructor may not necessarily agree with him.
What Was Your Jiu-Jitsu Brown Belt Test or Exam?
Most BJJ academies do not test, but I am aware that some do. Ultimately, it’s up to the instructor’s discretion to decide whether testing is something he’ll want to do. However, at our academy, we do not do any formal testing. I’ve rolled with my instructor 99.9999999999999% of my training days.
And If I happened to go to training twice a day, guess what shawty, I rolled with my instructor twice.
The universe conspired against me a handful of times where I rolled with him three times in one day. I don’t know about y’all, but we only do ten-minute rounds.
Real hustlaz. All day. Just me. By myself. On the mats. Held down. Belt on my waist. Grimaced face. All day. Not a game. Guard passed. By myself. All of a sudden, woke up. Went back to sleep. Took a nap. You ever go night night!?!?
Sorry, last promotion post, I referenced Chappelle. This time, Hart gets the nod.
Anyway, if I am arriving at any line of reasoning is that my instructor gauges progress by rolling with us directly, watching our rolls with our training partners, and, for those that compete, assessing competition performance.
What are the IBJJF Requirements to Promote to Brown Belt?
Finally, an easy question.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must have spent a year and a half, minimum, at purple belt.
You’re a Brown Belt Now so, What Now?
I have no illusions that I’ll be a world class elite top brown belt. If I am being honest, I don’t have any desire to make the sacrifices it takes to make that happen.
I know what it takes.
I’ve witnessed my instructor put in the work; he is the epitome of diligence towards skill acquisition, refinement, and overall progression.
For a very short period of my relatively short training history, I even lived it. People don’t understand what the elite do to get where they are. Besides the obvious physical demands, there is a lot of monotony in the life of a “full time” bjj athlete. There’s a lot of sacrifice.
So much sacrifice.
It’s not for everybody, but, if you ever have the opportunity to try it for a while, I suggest you give it a go. It’s a wonderful experience to learn about yourself, as well as mold parts of your character that otherwise wouldn’t be challenged. Although short lived, I had a blast living it up truth be told.
I’m in uncharted territory now, as I don’t currently have any goals at brown belt (not long term at least). At blue, I had a lot of goals (maybe too many). At purple, I definitely had goals. Right now, I’m spread too thin between all of my responsibilities. I’ve developed an endearment towards minimalism. As less is more, it may be time to take a step back and reassess everything.
Time to evaluate what matters most and put all my time and effort into that. My health matters a lot to me, exercise is necessary for optimum health, so BJJ fits right into that. 😉
Truthfully, I just want to enjoy this journey for what it is.
I want to be more present in every class, more appreciative of my training partners, more welcoming to new students, more mindful in my analysis of the art, get lost in every round, and, well.. you get the idea.
If there’s anything in my mind right now, that is akin to a goal, I’d like to see how I could join, and, maybe, add a little of my perspective into the global perception of Jiu-Jitsu and the Martial Arts at large.
How I did regarding my Purple Belt goals:
- Improve my wrestling – Check. Still mediocre, but much improved.
- Improve my judo – Fail. Did not attend the classes or put in the work.
- Improve economy of movement – Check. Huge improvements in this.
- Master the purple belt curriculum – Fail. Too much stuff. Not enough work.
- Curate an individual style – Eh. Not sure on this one.
- Learning how to teach bjj – Work in progress.
I’ve also had the long-term goal of winning a gold medal as well as medaling in an absolute division. I was able to knock two birds with one stone coming back from the big knee injury. I was quite proud for a brief moment until I rolled with my teammates the following Monday and had my ass handed to me.
Thanks for keeping me grounded, guys. Haha.
Well, that’s it. I’m quite exhausted from pondering all of this and putting the proverbial pen to the pad. By now, if you’re still reading this, you’re probably sick of me too.
I don’t blame you. But, thanks for reading. Really, I mean it.
The Moment I Promoted to Brown Belt
Other Cool Articles About Getting to the Brown Belt:
On Earning a “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” Brown Belt
Meerkatsu Earns his Brown Belt
congrats mate! Osss!
What a fantastic read. Great to get an insight into your life on the mat. (From Manchester, England)
I really appreciate that you took the time to write me a comment, thank you! Glad it was enjoyable for you. Now I have a friend in Manchester!
Congratulations, Ruben! Exciting times indeed (and I did read your post until the end) 🙂
You, ma’am, deserve a cookie for getting through all of that alive haha. Thanks so much! I take it as a compliment. ?
The Jiujiteiro says
Parabens!!!! OSS!!!!!!!! I love your blog
Thank you for the inspiring entry. At least that’s how I feel. Congratulations!
Wow! Inspired? That’s very flattering. Thank you for reading and your kind words!
Brian C says
Really nice essay. Found this from reddit. Congrats on the promotion! Great story and lots of inspiration.
Thanks Brian, I had no idea it was posted on reddit! Appreciate your comment.
Jiu Jiu says
Congratulations! I’m very curious as to what your non-bjj friends and family think about this. I wonder if they’re thinking “Why doesn’t he have his black belt yet–little Billy got his karate black belt and he’s only 7” or if you’ve educated them to the point where they understand what it means to earn a brown belt in BJJ. 🙂 I look forward to the mind f*ck that is my next promotion – it takes the brain a while to catch up with life.
Thanks, Julia! Glad to hear from you. ? I haven’t had that question yet, but I hope that I somewhat communicated to those points in my purple and brown belt promotion posts. Most of my friends and family that don’t watch a lot of mma probably think that bjj is like karate but with wrestling LOL.
All of my promotions have been utter mind fucks haha. C’est la vie.