How to Beat the Blue Belt Blues
If you're a blue belt, chances are you've heard, and maybe experiencing now, some form of the blue belt blues. You can find many articles about it, describing what this blues is. But from my experience, it isn't easy to find practical information on how to get beyond it.
In this article, we'll quickly describe what the blue belt blues is and why it should be taken seriously. Then we'll see three clear and applicable ideas to get past this Jiu-Jitsu rite of passage.
WHAT IS THE BLUE BELT BLUES, AND WHY IT'S A BIG DEAL
The blue belt blues hits a lot of fresh new blue belts. They feel the pressure of the rank and become frustrated because they might struggle against experienced white belts (who give their all to prove themselves), or against advanced blue/purple belts (who also give their all to keep you in check). Those struggles can make you think you're not good enough, or that you're not making progress. They are the main reason behind the blues.
Another reason is the feeling of boredness. You now have a basic game, and you understand all the main situations of the sport so that you might experience a loss in motivation, as the excitement of discovering new stuff every day seems lost.
This trial is a serious issue because the level of attrition is the highest at this belt. Everybody knows the joke about the guy who got promoted to blue and disappeared. Well, it's because there is a lot of truth to that. It's a shame because if you manage to get past this and reach purple, you're most likely to practice for life, and get all the benefits of a lifetime on the mats.
We need a solution to break this curse!
HOW TO BEAT IT
Getting Rock-Solid Defenses
The first thing you should be doing is working on your guard retention, and your pin escapes. Of course, you know some of it by now, but you want to focus on those two aspects and become proficient with them against higher belts. As always, if pinning you or passing your guard is a daunting task, you'll feel all your live training much more manageable. At the same time, white belts won't be a threat at all if they can't pass your guard, as they don't know any sinister leglocks yet!
You need to focus on the general system of guard retention. This system is built around simple and generic moves, and as you guessed from its name, it not bound to a specific type of passing.
The system is laid down in the Guard Retention FlowChart, but in a nutshell, here is what you need to know: To pass your guard, your opponent needs to fulfill five tasks: (1)Getting strong grips, (2)Getting an angle, (3)Closing the distance, (4)Performing a level-change, (5)Pinning you 3 secs.
The Guard Retention System offers a series of frames and basic moves (scissoring, scooting, heisting)to counter your opponent, depending on the task he's performing. Make sure to spend time on this system. It will be the foundation on which you'll build your Open Guard.
The second part of your defenses is your pin escapes. It's a vast and complex subject, but if there is one thing you need to focus on, it's your elbow escape from bottom side control. For this specific escape, there is one critical insight: To pin someone in side control, you need to have your head and your legs on opposite sides.
Having this insight, you know that an elbow escape from bottom side control starts by shifting your opponent's head to the other side. To do so, you have three main options: Reverse cross face, Biceps cross face, and an Underhook, coupled with a sturdy bridge. Make sure to master this escape! It's of the utmost importance.
And A Deadly Weapon!
The second thing will be to develop a deadly weapon. The Back Attacks System looks like the logical first step, as it's the one John Danaher recommends to start with. But I would advise you to develop another one first! Why? Because to use the back attacks system, you need to get to the back, which can be impossible for you at the moment against the higher belt!
But what about a sharp guillotine? The front headlock system is always there! It's a submission you can get during scrambles, during defensive cycles, from closed guard, from top positions, during passing. The opportunities are countless. To discover everything about the Front Headlock System, it's this way.
Dive Into Something New!
A powerful anti-depressor is to find a new passion. You already found it with Jiu-Jitsu, and I'm not suggesting to do something else! Jiu-Jitsu is a jealous Art! But you could take advantage of one of the particularities of the sport.
From my knowledge, Jiu-Jitsu is the only sport that you can practice for decades and have a very different experience based on the game you're playing. Playing lapels or having a no-gi leglocks game brings different sensations. In all other sport, you cannot wholly reinvent yourself. You're "doomed" to do the same thing over and over again, but faster and better.
So play around with stuff you're not familiar with, a new guard, a new system of submission, and see how it brings this excitement of discovering new stuff every day again!
We saw what the blue belt blues is, and why it's a big deal. We came up with a plan of action that you can start today to get past this trial as quickly as possible. Work on the general system of guard retention. Work on your pin escapes, focusing on elbow escape from bottom side control. And develop a killer front headlock! Besides, dive into something new, like a new guard, to rediscover the thrill of novelty!
By doing that, I do believe you'll get past this blues in no time, and you'll be on your long, and fabulous path toward mastery!
If you have any questions, requests, suggestions, or if you just wanna chat, send me an email or a message on Instagram @maxigarami, and I'll be more than happy to talk with you and to hear your feedback.