What is a blue belt? To a new white belt, a blue is obviously someone that has more skill, someone that can usually tap them. But what precisely is that skill? Is it quantifiable? And is there a clear pathway from white to blue?
Earning the blue belt is the first major milestone in BJJ after white. And make no mistake, it’s a big accomplishment. Compared to the average Joe on the street, a blue belt is a skilled martial artist. In fact, a blue belt should be able to defend themselves fairly convincingly against an untrained opponent, assuming there isn’t a wild disparity of physical attributes.
In our curriculum, a blue belt must have two things: 1. Effectiveness against resisting opponents of a certain skill level, and 2. The ability to demonstrate 50 techniques with reasonably good mechanics.
Effectiveness means that a blue belt should have a basic game in place. They should know the overall road map—what to do both defensively and offensively from the most common positions: Guard, mount, side control, back, knee on belly, and Kesa. One of my favorite analogies is that of a city map. A blue belt isn’t expected to know all the neighborhoods yet, but they should know the freeway system and be able to generally navigate the city.
A blue belt should look like they can play the game, and do so with a basic level of competency and fluidity, and their transitions should be smooth. A blue belt’s positional control on offense and escape sequences on defense should be reasonably good—not against or compared to a higher belt, but definitely against white belts.
As far as techniques, here’s a list of what must be demonstrated:
4 mount escapes
4 side mount escapes
4 head lock escapes
1 wrestler’s cradle escape
4 closed guard passes
4 closed guard sweeps
2 open guard sweeps
2 standing throws
3 standing take-downs
4 chokes from guard
4 chokes from mount
4 arm locks from guard
2 arm locks from mount
2 chokes from back
2 back escapes
4 leg locks
Most students that train consistently for one to two years should be able to run through that list without too much trouble, and they should be able to demonstrate the minimum effectiveness necessary.
Earning the blue belt is achievable by just about anyone who is willing to put in the time. Of all the belts, the blue is the most straightforward in terms of requirements. You aren’t expected yet to link techniques into combinations, or use your legs particularly well, or understand how to apply consistent pressure, nor are you expected to be versed in the many minor positions in BJJ. Those things come later.