Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's The Difference?

Something I have been wondering about lately is what the difference is between a good white belt and a blue belt. I know that the determination of who is a white belt or a blue belt is completely in the hands of their instructor. But I want to know from you higher belts, what is your understanding of what the difference is between a good white belt and a blue belt.

Just wondering. :)


Rollo said...

I am certainly not a higher belt, I currently am a 4-stripe blue belt, but I can inform you on what the differences were for me.

I started BJJ later in life, and most people in my gym were much younger, stronger, and more athletic. I was getting whooped on a regular basis in my gym, so I had to think of something to help me keep the pace. My instructor told me early on that I should focus on surviving, try to keep people from passing my guard, and stick to the basics.

This is what I did the whole time I was a white belt, until eventually I could bust out simple sweeps (scissor, flower, hip bump), and kept the person in front of my when I was playing guard. I figured if they got to my side they could pass. Then game the defense and escapes. I became so good at them that I became known as the "Minister of Defense".

As time went on I began to use all of these things to my advantage, and I noticed that my rolling changed. I was getting to positions a lot more then normal, and attempting submissions from various different places. I was able to open my mind, and eventually the BJJ just flowed through me instead of me controlling it. Then the details from my instructor started to become very clear, like concept of space, and using tremendous amounts of pressure.

When I watch white belts and blue belts in my gym I notice a couple of things that are different. Blue belts use a lot more pressure, and are very cognizant of controlling their opponents or training partners. White belts still employ a little more space, and their control is not as pressurized. I notice it when I roll with them too. To me that is a big difference.

In summary the main difference is how you approach it. Are you looking to learn as many techniques as you can, or become really good at the ones that work for you? You have to use the techniques that work for your body and what you feel comfortable with and learn them inside and out. Those techniques will spawn into other techniques naturally, and you eventually learn those well also. This is what has happened to me. Also, the ability to not force the BJJ, and let the BJJ force you instead. I hope this makes a lot of sense.

Georgette said...

I don't count as a higher belt. But as a blue, here's what I feel differently between blues and whites.

Whites seem to stay moving more but it's less purposeful movement. They need more time to think between moves, but they don't achieve positions of control to do the thinking in. And the things they go for tend to be kind of linear, as in "I have your arm. I will keep your arm. I will do an armbar, on this arm, this arm alone."

Blues know a little more stuff. They probably can reliably attempt 2-4 moves from every major position (sweeps or subs or escapes) and usually get the timing about right even if the execution is flawed. They seem to think about 1-2 moves ahead and usually have two attacks going on at once (if you defend the sweep I'll catch this sub.) Their gripfighting is blooming into the forefront of their game and they think outside the box more-- instead of linear movement in one direction or plane, they are more likely to rotate around a different axis unexpectedly to change angles.

That's my view from the bluebelt-side of the fence at least :)

Rollo said...

Excellent points Georgette, agreed on all of them.

slideyfoot said...

Hmm. I don't think I count as a higher belt yet (scary thought if I do!), but the main difference I feel between a good white and a blue is the way they spar. A white will still use a lot of strength, panting with effort, and will often strain and struggle for submissions even if they are blatantly not there (I'm looking at you, Mr Noob Neck Crank).

A blue will tend to be more patient, and when they attack it is normally with more purpose, rather than mainly desperate aggression. Of course, there are still blues who will be leaping around all over the place and whites who are calm, but that's the general difference I noticed.

Alternatively, I guess you could read the 500+ entries in my blog and see if you notice a change as I went from white to blue to purple. Part of the reason I started it was so people could do that...but I think anyone who is willing to actually read the whole thing from start to finish would have to be a little nuts. Although it would be kinda awesome too: I'd certainly be impressed. ;p

Anonymous said...

One day.

It's like a birthday. You're only one day older than the previous day, not a year older overnight. The instructor observes the student approach a certain level, and within a certain range of skill, the instructor decides a good time for that person to be awarded a belt based on things like formal belt testing, maturity level, effort, number of blue belts in the storeroom, or whatever motivates his judgement.

slideyfoot said...

Yeah, I quite like that birthday analogy, although I would make one modification. Belt promotion is like having a birthday, but only your instructor actually knows when you were born.

Megan said...

sitting down with popcorn...

Liam H Wandi said...

Nice addition to the birthday analogy Slidey :)

I agree with people here have said. Many wise voices indeed.

As for white and blue, I see it this way: you wear these belts for a period of months if not most likely years. To identify one or two characteristics is difficult at best. Instead, I'll approach it from an emotional point of view.

Everyone who steps on the mat has to wrestle with...wait for it....their ego. Sometimes the ego wins, sometimes you win. Every now and again, you get a glimpse of true bliss: when you realise that there is no spoon. There is no winning nor losing, only experiencing.

When the white belt pulls off a snazzy move against someone of similar size or bigger, she smiles inside. When the blue belt does that, it's usually not the first time.

When the white belt is stuck farting for breath under the side control of someone of similar size or bigger, she cries a little inside. When the blue belt does that, it's usually not the first time.

As the belts get darker, we see the same things over and over and we also start noticing new things.

the difference between a white and a blue is that the latter are slightly less phased by the illusion of success / failure. Just a little less, but less nonethe.....ehm...less

Liam H Wandi said...

Oh and as far higher lower belts, I ranted about that a while ago (but can't remember where :D )

The belts are earlier or later, not higher nor lower. At least that's how I see them.

Rant over

Zen Mojo said...

At some point jiu jitsu stops being something that "happens to you" and you start actively "participating" more in what is going on. (Not a post on belts but on generally progressing:

To me that is the line between white and blue. You are aware of what is going on and can interact with it. The line between blue and purple is when that interaction stops becoming a "fight" and becomes more of an "influence and opportunity" approach.

Georgette said...

Check out John Will's blog, he just posted something interesting on this very subject!