The blue belt is a major milestone on the jiu jitsu path and represents a solid understanding of the art. When you wear the blue belt you are no longer, in the words of Kurt Osiander, ‘a retard’.
I’m not one of those sadistic instructors who thinks that you need to have trained for 14 years, licked the dojo mats after each session and won 26 MMA matches before you’re ready to receive your blue belt. On the other hand, I believe you need to do more than just ‘show up’.
Some of the big name academies use an automated grading system. All a student needs to do is attend a specific number of classes per week on average, for a specific period of time (for blue belt it’s usually 12 months), and they are automatically queued to receive their belt at the next grading.
I’m not a huge fan of this approach as it seems a little clinical. Still, it has the benefit of providing a clearly defined timeline for progression which can be very motivating for beginners.
Based on my own experiences and interactions with fellow instructors, it seems that defined guidelines of any sort are both sought out and appreciated by students. As a result I am often asked about tests and curriculums for each grade, especially the blue belt.
I don’t give belt tests. I believe that if you’re doing your job as an instructor properly you’ll know the level of your students. This will be a result of both rolling with them and observing them. I’m also not big on the idea of curriculums. Jiu jitsu is so dynamic that, in most cases, once a curriculum is finalized it’s already out of date.
But for the blue belt I’ve made an exception, because to go from white to blue, I believe that the student should have a good grasp of the fundamentals. And the fundamentals never go out of style.
To me, a blue belt should:
- Have a holistic understanding of the art
- Have a broad (but not necessarily deep) range of techniques that cover the major positions
- Make an attempt to improve his/her general athleticism
- Have a good knowledge of essential concepts,
- Be very proficient in defense and escapes
- Be very proficient with the Side-Mount position (both offensively and defensively)
Taking these into consideration, I created a hypothetical test that can be
(loosely) used as a curriculum for beginner students.
Keep in mind that the test outlined below is merely hypothetical. I do not expect every white belt who is preparing for his promotion to blue to know and be able and execute everything in it. It is merely a guideline and should be taken as such.