• Blue to Purple

    The following extract is taken from Matt Thorton’s Aliveness Blog in an entry he wrote back in February 2007 entitled Exploring the Map. I wanted to post this as an another possible answer to Niall’s question last nite in terms of what to focus on now after achieving blue belt. This section is relevant to blues but its worth going to the link and reading the entire article to see the big picture again. Here is the blue to purple part….

    ” The journey of blue to purple is one of detail.

    If an individual has no previous background in wrestling, then a lot of BJJ can seem like magic when you first learn it. There is a stage as a beginner where knowledge of a new technique can become that crucial edge that allows you to survive or even beat, a large, strong peer who may have previously smashed you on the mat. So it’s normal that as one comes out of that white belt stage and begins to play the game as an early blue belt, the idea that accumulation of technique equals learning becomes a natural assumption. This is why the blue belt stage is where you gather your instructional DVD collection. It’s also one of the traps of the blue belt. We will talk more about this further down.

    Using the map analogy, it’s where you really start to explore the different neighborhoods. You are past the stage of learning to identify north, south, east, west, and the major neighborhoods/ positions, and you’re fully engaged in exploring these areas. No matter what position a Coach calls out, a solid blue belt should have no problem identifying it, and having a good basic idea of what they should be doing from there. Becoming ‘good’ at playing in those different positions is what the stage of blue belt is all about…

    What to work on:

    As a teacher your major focus is best spent on drilling positions. Submission should be kept to the minimum solid core moves, but the emphasis should always be kept on holding, controlling and escaping from positions. This is of course the case for all levels of athlete. But I think this rule becomes particularly important at the blue belt phase, because the Coach needs to bring the student out of the technique based mode, into a broader positional perspective.

    I also believe that blue belt is the where the open guard should really start to be fleshed out. Open guard is the heart and soul of BJJ, and by starting people with the open guard, as opposed to the closed guard, you encourage the development of excellent hip movement. And no-thing in BJJ is more important then that.

    As a student work your open guard! Learn to play an active and aggressive guard game. Treat it as an offensive position, with the mindset that regardless of who they are. . .they will not pass your guard. Work your escapes from bottom game. Your emphasis on open guard will help here, as you will be developing solid hip movement. And as always, stick to developing your positional skills and thinking in broader concepts.

    Why does BJJ work the way it does?

    What are the top three things you are trying to accomplish in any given position?

    What is the best priority for those things?

    Find the answers for yourself to questions like this. Now that you can play the game it’s time to begin that lifelong process of simplifying the principles and concepts that the game is composed of.

    Things to avoid:

    As a Coach the biggest thing to remember when coaching blue belts is patience. Patience is always important no matter who you are coaching, but it can be particularly trying with blue belts because as mentioned previously, they may still be caught in that accumulation phase. The belief that getting better must mean learning a new submission, or a new move, is a phase that many blue belts go through. And as a good coach you need to be patient with them and create an environment where they are guided towards a bigger picture perspective.

    As always, sticking with core fundamentals in every class helps facilitate this process.

    As an athlete the thing to watch for as a blue belt is the tendency to be distracted from the fundamentals by some flash, or an overly complicated game plan. Learning to differentiate between movements which really are core fundamentals and those that are not, is a skill which may not be fully developed yet. Just because you see a very good competitor or black belt execute that movement or game doesn’t mean it’s something you need to be working on right now.

    How is your elbow escape?
    Head and arm escapes?
    Cross sides escapes?
    Base & posture in the closed guard?

    By sticking to core fundamentals you will grow much faster.”