The BJJ Blue Belt Test

BJJ Blue Belt Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt CurriculumThe 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 Jiu jitsu is so dynamic that, in most cases, once a curriculum is finalized it’s already out of date.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:

  1. Have a holistic understanding of the art
  2. Have a broad (but not necessarily deep) range of techniques that cover the major positions
  3. Make an attempt to improve his/her general athleticism
  4. Have a good knowledge of essential concepts,
  5. Be very proficient in defense and escapes
  6. 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 this is merely a hypothetical test. 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.

The Blue Belt Test:

PART 1 – HISTORY / KNOWLEDGE OF THE ART

Answer the following questions:

  • Where did jiu jitsu originate?
  • What does the phrase ‘jiu-jitsu’ mean?
  • What is the primary philosophy of the art?
  • How did jiu jitsu arrive in Brazil?
  • Explain the difference between Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

PART 2 – ATTRIBUTES & PHYSICAL ABILITIES

Perform within 10 minutes:

  • 30 x Push-Ups
  • 50 x Bodyweight Squats
  • 30 x V-Ups
  • 100 Kettlebell Swings
  • 10 Pull Ups

PART 3 – BASIC MOVEMENTS

Demonstrate:

  • Forward Shrimp
  • Backward Shrimp
  • Sprawl
  • Technical Stand-Up
  • Forwards Break-Fall
  • Backwards Break-Fall
  • Side Break-Fall
  • Sit-Out / Hip-Heist
  • Forwards roll
  • Backwards Roll

PART 4 – GENERAL CONCEPTS

Explain:

  • Breath control within a jiu jitsu context
  • Positional Hierarchy
  • ‘Leverage’ within a jiu jitsu context
  • The difference between a chokes and strangles
  • The concept of ‘Base’
  • ‘Posture’ within a jiu jitsu context
  • 1 x Concept relating to joint submissions
  • 1 x Concept relating to attacks on the neck
  • 1 x Concept relating to body movement within a jiu jitsu context
  • The basics of jiu jitsu self-defense theory
  • Kinesthetic Awareness and why it’s important in jiu jitsu

PART 5 – TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE

Self-Defense

Perform:

  • Defense against Double Lapel-Grab
  • Defense against Standing Head-lock (2 Variations)
  • Defense against a Haymaker
  • Defense against the Choke from Behind

Throws and Takedowns

Explain:

  • 2 x Takedown concepts

Demonstrate:

  • Guard-Pull
  • Double-Leg Takedown
  • Hip-Toss
  • Foot-Sweep
  • Osoto-Gari
  • Seo-Nagi
  • Any 2 takedowns from the kneeling-start (‘Combat-Base’) position

Side-Mount

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts relating to control from Side-Mount

Demonstrate:

  • 2 x Transitions to Mount
  • 1 x Transition to the Back
  • 1 x Neck Attack
  • 2 x Joint Attacks

Mount

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts relating to control from Mount

Demonstrate:

  • 3 x Mount variations
  • 1 x Transition to the back
  • 2 x Neck attacks
  • 1 x Joint attack

Back Mount

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts relating to control from Back-Mount

Demonstrate:

  • 2 x Back-Mount variations
  • 3 x Neck attacks

North South

Demonstrate:

  • 1 x Neck attack
  • 1 x Joint attack

Closed Guard

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts relating to control from Closed-Guard

Demonstrate:

  • 2 x Sweeps
  • 1 x Back take
  • 2 x Joint attacks
  • 2 x Neck attacks

Half-Guard

Explain:

  • 1 x Concept relating to control from Half-Guard

Demonstrate

  • 2 x Sweeps
  • 1 x Submission
  • 1 x Back take

Open-Guard

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts relating to guard retention

Demonstrate:

  • 3 x Sweeps

Guard Passing

Explain:

  • 2 x Guard-Passing concepts

Demonstrate:

  • 1 x Method for opening a closed-guard by standing
  • 1 x Method for opening a closed-guard from the knees
  • 2 x Standing passes
  • 2 x Kneeling passes
  • 1 x Straight Foot-Lock entry

Escapes & Defenses

  • 2 x Reversals from Side-Mount
  • 2 x Re-guards from Side-Mount
  • 1 x Escape to Turtle from Side-Mount escape
  • 2 x Escapes from Back Mount
  • 1 x Reversal from Mount
  • 2 x Re-guards from Mount
  • 1 x Straight Foot-Lock defense
  • 2 x Triangle-Choke escapes
  • 2 x Straight Arm-Lock defenses
  • 1 x Guillotine defense

Scrambling

Explain:

  • 2 x Concepts related to scrambling

PART 6 – SPARRING

Perform:

  • 1 x 5 Minute ‘flow roll’
  • 3 x 5 Minute rounds with white belts of similar size, weight and age. He should be able to tap all of these white belts at least once during each round. He should not tap to these white belts.
  • 3 x 5 Minute rounds with blue belts of similar size, weight and age. He should not be tapped more than once per round.