Chess with the Belts : From White to Black Belt

BJJ Belts on chess board

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Progression is an important aspect in every walk of life. It is a metaphor for consistency, discipline, dedication, determination, hard work, and growth. In most fields, progression is often met with reward, such as certificates, trophies, money, or promotions.

In BJJ, belts have a greater use than to just hold the uniform together. They are a way to recognize commitment, skill, experience and seniority, for the colour of your belt is a symbol of progression in the sport. Every student begins their journey with a white belt, after which Jiu-jiteiro are presented with a new belt colour each time the professor feels that their student is worthy of a promotion. Starting with a white belt, practitioners are subsequently awarded with a blue, purple, brown, black, and red belt. For kids, belt progression varies from dojo to dojo. Let us take a look at what each belt represents.

White Belt

A white belt marks the most nascent stage of a practitioner’s journey. It showcases open mindedness, eagerness, and an early development of skills and knowledge. It is that stage where it is hard to determine whether a glass is half full or half empty.

According to many BJJ experts, this is the stage where one has the most fun, as students are often full of fascination, adrenaline, urgency, confusion, and are ready to take on any challenge. Moreover, beginners will often rely on strength while learning, as technique is still underdeveloped, and it is the gradual transition from relying on strength to relying on technique which reflects one’s journey.

So, what does it take to progress to the next stage? Simply put, it takes a million defeats and still taking on the next challenge with grit and a smile on your face to be eligible for a promotion.

bjj white belt on chess board

Blue Belt

Having the honour of wearing a blue belt marks a huge achievement. It shows that the recipient has developed a ‘never give up’ attitude and is ready to tackle more challenging obstacles. Known as the ‘rooks’ of human chess, blue belts learn to put together pieces of a puzzle without much contemplation. In this stage, progression becomes more linear, like the movement of a rook in chess, where one will focus solely on perfecting techniques. 

There will be times when people will be tempted to use strength, but because of a more developed sense of awareness, the occurrences will be low. This stage also includes certain desires, such as performing fancy moves and wanting to participate in competitions, desires which have been subject to countless BJJ memes. 

It is only the second stage, and there is a lot that is yet to be learned. One might lose motivation, but the key is to stay calm, panic less, be more consistent, and watch yourself progress.

bjj blue belt in chess

Purple Belt

purple belt in chess

This stage is where the rook becomes the knight. The third rank in JJ also marks the halfway mark to supremacy. A purple belt means that one has overcome any kind of struggle one faces in the initial stages, and what was a hobby has become passion and what was trial and error has become skill and technique. Just like a knight moves in chess, one would have developed enough knowledge to know how to threaten opponents from various angles. 

A purple belt’s arsenal includes excellent muscle memory, escaping from various positions, executing complex moves in the form of guards and submissions, and an excellent grasp of fundamentals. Purple belts understand the importance of rigorous drilling and start to value the phrase ‘position over submission’. At this stage, one develops enough wisdom to be able to share this gentle art with others.

Brown Belt

brown belt in chess

Earning a brown belt in BJJ is an acknowledgement of having developed an excellent all round game. Unsurpassable guards, inescapable submissions, and flawless sweeps are all synonyms with brown belts. 

Brown belts are also known as bishops of human chess, as akin to bishops in chess, they sit beside the queen (black belt), which is why they are also known as assistant black belts. The criteria for obtaining this belt increases with the number of injuries incurred, as the journey gets prolonged and more time has to be given to practice.

Black Belt

black belt in chess

The queen of human chess, a black belt is a powerful weapon. Just like a queen, it is very powerful and can attack you from any direction, and can dominate you with considerable ease. Obtaining a black belt is also a way to give back to Jiu Jitsu what it has given you.

At this stage, there is nothing new left to learn, yet so much left to learn, which signifies Jiu Jitsu’s everlasting journey. This is why it is said that ‘black belts are the new white belts”.

Red Belt

red belt in chess

Don’t even think about this level right now. Seriously, go train!

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