Belt promotion...what should dictate them?

Well, I guess from my last post, I also want to know what you guys think about belt promotions. I've heard 2 schools of thought...

1)Wins alot of tournaments but wins them but not with true technique, more muscle and power.

2)Doesn't compete alot but when rolling, uses technique and leverage to win and overall just is damn tough.

Now I know we all have both of these types of guys at our schools and I just wanted to know the communities thoughts on this. I'm on the fence and can see the argument from either side...just wondering.

i think technique should be 1st and foremost when promoting.. you can be a great grappler and win trnys without being a technical BJJ practitioner.

also i thnk a well rounded game should be a big thing. having options no matter what position you are in.

i dont think competition should be used as a say all be all of promotion, although sometimes it could definitely help. competition experience will make your jiu jitsu better wether you are winning or not doesnt necessarily have to be the issue.

If I owned a school, I would have a bit different criteria for the various belts, I think.

Beginners would be totally focused on the fundamentals of jiujitsu, AND they would have to have the ability to handle a one on one streetfight. Seriously. They would have to be able to take someone down who is trying to hit them (with gloves), and control and submit that person (with strikes allowed).

After blue belt, I consider everything else to be about the sport of BJJ. I would expect the purples to be able to hang with other purples, browns to hang with other browns, and blacks to hang with everyone. That doesnt mean that each belt owner has to be untouchable to every lower belt, but that generally, they fit in, on a technical and competitive level, with everyone else at that belt.

Here are the criteria for Harris International:


White --> Blue is about developing fundamentals

Link to Blue exam

Blue --> Purple is about developing skill on your back

Link to Purple exam

Purple --> Brown is about developing your attacking game

Link to Brown exam

Brown --> Black is about taking your strengths and your ability to teach to a higher level

Link to Black exam


I think there's a really sensible progression to these (which is one reason I'm glad I joined the assocation). 

I think you're pretty spot on with your assessment Andreh, and particular with the white to blues needing that self defence element. Realistically, by blue belt you should be able to handle yourself against an untrained opponent. You should by that point understand the basic philosophy of the BJJ fighting strategy, and have the knowledge and technique to apply that strategy in a real fight. Everything after that then is about developing yourself as a BJJ practitioner.

Hope you're well mate.


Thanks, James. Im doing well! Hope things are well for you, too!

kata is key to best fight in world frens

I basically agree with Andre. And this is exactly what Luis said when I was at Rickson's: "The first 30 or so things you learn (read up to blue belt) are for self-defense/fighting. Everything after that is for rolling with other BJJ guys."

At my school I have 3 sets of standards:

  1. Tournament performance: If you are dominating all blue belts at good tournaments, you are a purple belt. These types usually progress through the belts fast, though there are very few of them, and they often also quit early.

  2. Combination: Good tournament performance (if you compete), good gym performance, good knowledge of techniques and principles, good ability to teach all of the above. These types progress at a medium pace, which, to me, means about 10 years to black. I am about to give my first black belt ever to a guy like this. He has been training for 9 years.

  3. Technical: Doesn't compete. Doesn't do so well against some of the younger, bigger, stronger, more natural guys in the gym, but can still spar well with most people and is an excellent technician and teacher. These people progress more slowly, but I do promote them, assuming there are legitimate factors (age, injuries, size, etc.) that keep them from becoming the Combination type above.


I apologize for the lack of spaces. I tried to edit three times. How do I create spaces between paragraphs?

I have a sort of follow up to this question. I am not able to train with a black belt due to location, but I have been training under a brown belt for about a year. I consider myself a fairly technical guy, I can blow through basically all the new guys that come in to the school. Its kinda strange, but we have to test for our belts. Basically, I want to really deserve my blue belt when I get it, and even though I am certain i can go through the blue belt silibus with no problems, I dont know if I am really ready to be a blue belt. If you dont compete regularly, is there any other way to tell if you should be promoted?

My school gave a few blue belts to guys who won multiple gold medals at white belt/beginner no-gi, but were lacking in blue belt level technique.

One guy in particular is a former wrestler who always gets the takedown in his matches & works top position usually muscling an americana or basic choke. He is undefeated in 3 tourneys at white/beginner. This guy does well in sparring, but uses mainly strength to force his way through guard & maintain top position. He dominates all the whitebelts and gives the lower blues a hard time, but struggles mightily with the technical blues for obvious reasons.

When asked to demonstate techiniques, he is unable to effectively apply armbar, triangle, or omoplata from guard (at least to a mid-high whitebelt level). His guard game consists of holding tight closed & trying to force a hip bump sweep or guillotine.

It's not my place to judge who deserves belts, but I think these situations are open to discussion. I'm sure you all know a version of this person who uses wrestling & 1-2 topgame submissions to get to blue.

The Noose - Basically, I want to really deserve my blue belt when I get it, and even though I am certain i can go through the blue belt silibus with no problems, I dont know if I am really ready to be a blue belt. If you dont compete regularly, is there any other way to tell if you should be promoted?

I don't think I can get through a blue belt syllabus.. lolA good indication, imo, is if you're able to execute moves against beginner blue belts your size. Sweeping, maintaining side control and finishing. I'm not sure about the testing stuff, never had to do it.

Basically agree with Andre.

Competition can be a good place to display technique however it is not the be all and end all.

Totally agree about Blue belt being about how to beat someoen who is attacking you in an unskilled way. After that it is about how to beat a skilled oponant.

As for the guy who has got his blue by smashing people at tournaments using more strength than technique. Fulfills the criteria of being able to beat an untrained attacker. Will not proceed to Purple until he learns to back off on the strength and use technique. Some of the guys who take longer to get their blue at the same gym will get their purple before him.

Mauricio (Roger's Father) made the point that he would rather teach someone who is weak than someone who is strong. The weak guy will learn the techniques faster.

Waveman exactly, you don't see many after blue. That's the point. Athleticism alone can get you to a point but no further.

The irony of the belt thing is as I have progressed the less I care for them... belts for me are a recognition of technical ability understanding and being able to teach too... the performance thing is important too... but I as a brown belt know black belts I can smash but also know purple belts that give me trouble.... a young fit and athletic compertition ready purple belt may beat a black belt who is slightly out of shape and older with less athletic ability... but I bet the black belt would be able to improve the purples game alot.....

This reasoning is not unique to bjj... I have seen it in muay thai and judo and boxing, it makes sence really.

I think there are many routs to black belt.... but for me the most important is time and commitment..... if the student shows these two attributes and is genuinely trying his best to improve then whoever you are you should be a black belt in 10 years, if you compete and do well you should get there faster.

I remember starting bjj and the big name then was Royce and we all know his saying on belts " a belt only covers two inches of your ass you have to cover the rest" I now undrstand this.... belts are good for recognition but you know they arnt the be all and end all, you can still step out of your dojo and get your ass!

Great post, Truemanc!

It's a grey area. There are some guys who just don't have a well rounded game, so the instructor will hold them back. Playing devil's advocate, if nobody at your belt can stop you from playing YOUR game, then I think you should be moved up to the next belt and see if they can stop it. There was a guy 4 - 5 yrs ago in the Copa Pacifica who tapped out our top blue belt, and the champ had said that was his 15th tourny win at that belt level but his coach said he only had a good triangle so he was gonna stay at blue belt.

I know the importance of technique, but there are just some guys that will maul people after a limited time on that mat because they're just too physical. Sometimes all the knowledge just can't help deal with genetic wonders on the mat.

I've been training for 8 years, and as a guy whose success has depended primarily on conditioning and toughness... once you lose your speed or strength for any reason (like injuries) you'll really have to change your game around if you plan on staying competitive. I can personally not play the same style as I did when I was 25 (I'm 33 now). I think I'm 10x more technical than I used to be.... but I know I wouldn't win any tournaments right now.

 the instructor.


thread over.

 the instructor.


thread over.

I do not understand why for some people being a good teacher is required for reaching black belt level. Many times the best atheletes are horible teachers, e.g. magic johnson. he was a horrible coach.

billcosbiguez - I do not understand why for some people being a good teacher is required for reaching black belt level. Many times the best atheletes are horible teachers, e.g. magic johnson. he was a horrible coach.

i think anyone that gets the bb should be able to teach,not other bb but almost anyone sure magic could teach basketball at the high school level.coaching is something else