After discussing belt tests with Marshal Carper, I felt like writing up what my blue belt requirements would be. These are idealized, since I don’t actually rank anyone or run a school, and I don’t know how practical all the testing would be. I’m sharing them here since the feedback from those who have read them has been positive, and they may help direct those who are having trouble figuring out what to work on.
Some people object to formal belt tests, and I understand their usual criticisms, especially if there’s a price for testing. A good instructor gauges their students’ progress and readiness for promotion through daily training. So this may just be an exercise for me laying down what I’m looking for in a blue belt, even though I may never run these tests. If it ever does become a real standard for my students, then it will remove the guesswork so my students know exactly what to expect.
These requirements may seem exhaustive, and the blue belt test may seem like too many techniques, but I don’t expect anyone to pass these with 100% accuracy. My reason for requiring so many techniques at blue belt is I feel that is the right time to make someone show you they are aware of the breadth of BJJ fundamentals, without worrying too much about how deep their knowledge is or how skilled their performance is. The purple belt and up are not really about what techniques you know (you’re assumed to know all the important ones by then) but other qualities like timing, use of combinations, depth of knowledge, etc.
Path to Blue Belt – Testing Requirements
The goal of these requirements is to clearly explain what is expected of you as you earn stripes on your white belt and eventually test for your blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Other important factors also play a role in your promotion, such as how long you have been training, your attendance record, your behavior in and outside the gym, your performance against resisting opponents, your tournament performance, your physical conditioning, previous martial arts experience, etc. Your instructor is already gauging these daily. The formal tests below give us a chance to ensure you are gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to build a solid foundation in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
The focus of a white belt trying to earn a blue belt should be on learning defenses, escapes, good habits (like defensive postures and good base) and self defense, and those are where the most technical proficiency is expected at testing. A basic knowledge of takedowns, positions, strategy and submissions is also needed, but a deep understanding and flawless execution is not expected or required.
If you need help learning something required for a test, you should ask your instructor or a more experienced student for guidance. Try to find a training partner who wants to put in extra work, ideally another white belt who is also preparing for their next test too.
Remember that your goal should not be to get a piece of colored cotton, but to improve your jiu-jitsu, your mind and your body. The belt represents the recognition of your instructor for your dedication and skill. It’s hard not to be eager to earn your first belt, but if you make your goal to constantly learn and better yourself, the belts will come naturally.
White Belt, 1st Stripe
What is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
- Explain how jiu-jitsu came to Brazil, and how it developed into an unique system.
- Explain what jiu-jitsu translates to and its meaning.
- What makes it different than Japanese jujitsu and judo and other martial arts like karate?
- What is your instructor’s lineage back to the founders of Brazilian jiu-jitsu?
- Forward breakfall
- Sideways breakfall
- Backward breakfall
- Reverse shrimping
- Bridging to all fours
- Technical stand-up
- Box sit-outs
White Belt, 2nd Stripe
Three Ranges of Combat
Explain and demonstrate the three ranges of combat: stand-up, clinch, and ground. What are their advantages and disadvantages and what are your goals in each range? How do these change for a BJJ match, a MMA match and a self defense situation? You are not expected to demonstrate any specific techniques in detail, but need to show a basic understanding of the three ranges.
Show the correct defensive postures and grips from these inferior positions:
- Rear mount
- Side control
- Half guard
You do not yet need to know how to escape these positions, just how to safely protect your arms, neck and face.
White Belt, 3rd Stripe
Explain and demonstrate the hierarchy of these grappling positions: rear mount, mount, knee-on-belly, side control, turtle, half guard, open guard and closed guard. You should be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of each position from both the top and bottom, and what your basic goals are from each. You are not expected to demonstrate any specific techniques in detail, but to have a general understanding of the positions and the proper way to hold them.
As you explain the positional hierarchy, also demonstrate how to properly hold these positions:
- Rear mount (harness or double lapel grip, two hooks, why you don’t cross the feet)
- Mount (collar grip, crossface, hands wide)
- Side control (head-and-arm, 100 kilos, cradle, how you block the guard return)
- Side ride (top of turtle, front, back and side)
- Half guard top (underhook and crossface)
- Posture in closed guard
White Belt, 4th Stripe
Awareness and Self Defense
Explain the role awareness plays in protecting yourself, and how you would responsibly defend yourself and use Brazilian jiu-jitsu outside the school.
- Defending punches and haymakers
- Defending kicks and knees
- Achieving the safe clinch
- Escape from front bear hug over the arms
- Escape from front bear hug under the arms
- Escape from rear bear hug over the arms
- Escape from rear bear hug under the arms
- Escape from standing front headlock/guillotine
- Escape from standing side headlock
- Escape from standing rear headlock/rear choke
- Defending strikes from closed guard
- Standing up from closed guard while defending strikes
- Defending strikes and getting to your feet while downed versus standing attacker
Of everything tested for your blue belt, escapes from inferior positions, especially side control, are the most important. Because being stuck in bad positions is the biggest problem for beginners, you will be expected to have worked hard to overcome this. You can have a rough areas still (especially submissions), but you will not receive a blue belt if your escapes are sloppy or rely too much on strength or flexibility.
Demonstrate and explain the following:
- 2-3 escapes from side control (return to guard and getting to your knees)
- 2-3 escapes from mount (shrimping to guard, bridging escape and reversal)
- 2-3 escapes from rear mount (while face up and belly down)
- 1-2 escape from knee-on-belly
- 1-2 escape from north-south
- 2-3 escapes from turtle (sit-outs, reversals and returning to guard)
- Defending the guillotine from guard (protecting the neck, passing to the correct side)
- Defending the armbar from guard (stacking and freeing the arm)
- Defending the armbar from mount (bridging to knees and stacking)
- Defending the rear naked choke (protecting your neck, trapping their arm)
- Defending the collar choke from guard (protecting the neck and breaking grips)
- Defending the collar choke from mount (protecting the neck and escaping mount)
- Defending the triangle choke (how to avoid it, early escape and late escape)
- Defending the kimura from guard (how to avoid it, early and late escapes)
- Defending the omoplata from guard (how to avoid it, early and late escapes)
- Defending the straight ankle lock (how to avoid it, how to escape)
- Good posture, grip fighting and footwork
- Hip throw
- Fireman’s carry
- Double leg
- Single leg
- Rear takedown
- Sprawling to defend takedowns
- Pulling guard
- Posture in closed guard
- 2 ways to open closed guard
- Stacking pass
- Double under pass
- Over-under pass
- Bullfighter pass
- Cross knee pass
- 2-3 half guard passes (underhook, facing legs, etc.)
- Advancing from side control to knee-on-belly
- Advancing from side control to mount
- Taking the back from mount
- Taking the back from side control when they turn away
- Taking the back from the front headlock/sprawl
- Taking the back from side ride/top of turtle
- Taking the back from the bottom of half guard
- Returning to closed guard from half guard
- Scissors sweep
- Pendulum sweep
- Hip bump sweep
- Double ankle grab sweep
- Overhead (feet on hips) sweep
- Tripod sweep from spider guard
- Sickle sweep from spider guard
- Hook sweep from butterfly guard
- Armdrag from butterfly guard
- Guillotine from standing
- Guillotine from closed guard
- Kimura from closed guard
- Armbar from closed guard
- Collar choke from closed guard
- Triangle from closed guard
- Omoplata from closed guard
- Armbar from side control
- Kimura from side control or north-south
- Armbar from mount
- Americana from mount
- Arm triangle from mount
- Collar choke from mount
- Rear collar choke from rear mount
- Rear naked choke from rear mount
- Straight anklelock
You will be paired up with several partners of different sizes and experience levels (including your instructor) to do positional and free sparring. You are not required to “win” these matches, and you will not fail if you tap to submissions. The goal of this sparring is to test specific skills in live grappling, as well as your physical conditioning and endurance.
Attributes of a Blue Belt
- Good base and balance while on top
- Good posture and arm positioning while on bottom
- Not committing basic mistakes or being clueless in common positions
- Capable of defending against an untrained attacker
- Able to maintain composure and not panic when stuck in bad positions
- Able to skillfully perform one or more basic moves from each major position
- Physically fit and able to complete each round of sparring without needing to stop