White Belt: This is the belt of paying your dues. At white, you should focus on being a good student and training partner, learning the basic positions and broad strokes of Jiu Jitsu, adapting your body to the demands of grappling, and making a conscious effort to relax.
At white you often feel like you’re just surviving because everything is coming at you fast. But if you come to class consistently, very soon you’ll start to develop a basic understanding of the major positions, along with an offensive and defensive game-plan. BJJ starts to become very fun and rewarding at that point because you’re no longer surviving, you’re beginning to develop skill.
Blue Belt: The core impulse at this belt is technique accumulation. You are laying a foundation so you cast your net wide to amass a broad collection of techniques from all the major and most common minor positions. While all techniques are important, the biggest emphasis at blue should be on mastering positional escapes. Your submission success rate is typically low at blue, even though your library of techniques can become impressive.
The blue belt brings a paradox: It’s the easiest belt to achieve, but it can be the most difficult to graduate from. Why? Because to get past blue, you must go beyond the accumulation of techniques to being able to actually utilize them consistently, with fluidity, and in combinations. It takes a lot of dedication to get to that point.
Purple Belt: If blue is the belt of technique accumulation, purple is the belt of technical command. Instead of casting the net wide, you go deep with the techniques that define your game. At purple, positional movement and transitions become much more fluid, efficient, and connected, and positional control gets tighter, leading to a much higher submission rate. At purple you are able to think and move toward goals that are several steps ahead.
Some people call the purple belt “the mini blackbelt”, because it’s the gateway into the advanced game. A purple belt is a legitimate threat to be taken seriously, even by blackbelts. The amount of dedication necessary to achieve that level of skill usually exceeds what it takes to get a blackbelt in other arts.
Brown Belt: This is the belt of technical mastery and pressure. A brown should be a solid player from any position, with a well rounded, well executed game. At brown you should be able to impose your will with a high pressure game, applied from any position, top or bottom. Physical mastery is also important at brown. You understand your game now, so it’s time to shore up weak areas and become deadly at your strengths. A brown belt’s submission success rate should be fairly high. In fact, getting the tap consistently is one of the defining qualities of being a brown.
Black Belt: This is the belt of simplification and efficiency. You seek perfect effectiveness with minimal exertion. You shorten the routes, you round the corners, you tap into perfect leverage, and you develop more efficient ways to consistently set up and finish your opponents. This is also the belt where you begin to put your signature on the art through the expression of your favorite positions and techniques.
Jiu Jitsu is an immensely deep art, so while achieving the Black Belt is a huge accomplishment, it just marks the beginning of a new chapter.