About two months ago, after nearly three years of training, I received an email from my BJJ academy notifying me that I’d been selected to test for blue belt. I had felt myself evolving as a BJJ practitioner, but the news still came as a complete surprise. It was difficult to get my confidence up to really feel as though I even deserved the privilege of advancement.
Making the transition
Now that I’ve gone through the process, I believe I have a better understanding of my relationship to the advancement. As a white belt, it was difficult to think of the difference between white and blue belt as anything other than sparring ability, and one’s ability to tap their opponents. I’ve since discovered that this only begins to scratch the surface.I was told by one of our school’s brown belts that part of the criteria for who tests is whether one “moves like a blue belt”. From this perspective, I feel confident. I have several options from each position, and feel comfortable with the concepts and when to use them. I understand when to hip escape, when to bridge, how and when to frame, etc. I may not tap out my opponents all the time, but I understand the language enough to have a conversation. The movements that once felt very foreign and strange to me now feel familiar.
Preparation for the Blue Belt test
I studied for my test as I would have studied for any test in university. I reviewed the material over and over again, practiced the various moves during live rolls, slowly while drilling with trusted training partners, and by reading instructions I had written on flash cards. I also worked on getting as much mat time as possible, getting quality sleep, and proper nutrition.
Benefits of the preparation
This approach ultimately paid off. Nothing could have fully prepared me for the calisthenics and the cardio component of the test, but I was able to make it through it. In fact, it was incredibly uplifting to go through the process with my teammates, and for us all to support each other and cheer each other on.Just the act of preparing for the test helped me to grow into being a blue belt. I found myself assisting newer teammates more, and working even more collaboratively with those I would test with. We had the opportunity to study the various movements in depth, try variations, ask questions, and luxuriate in the small details. The process also forced me to focus on my “game” much more than I ever had in the past, and I found myself performing better during live rolls.
Though I found myself rolling less aggressively and less competitively, I developed a much more thoughtful and evolved game than what I had been using previously. By the evening of the test, I felt ready.
Thoughts on the experience
After the experience, I found that I cherished everything about the right of passage and the opportunity to experience it with my teammates. The camaraderie with my fellow testers and those who showed up to support us was indescribable, and only fueled my passion for the art.
I also discovered that I really enjoy coaching. More often than I expected, I found myself giving pointers to beginning students and exchanging newly found information with my peers. I hope that I can begin to play a more prominent role at my academy, whether it involves lending a hand to newer students or even teaching at some point in the future. I’m looking forward to the next stage of my BJJ development and hope that this art will continue to play an even more prominent role in my life.