Monday, August 17, 2009

Purple Belt

I graded my long time training partner Rich Hudson his long overdue purple belt a couple of weeks ago.

Which brings me to the question what is a purple belt? I am sure my numerous blue belts would want to know what my requirements are and what to strive for to attain the next belt level.

The generic answer to this is that "to be a purple, you have to be able to beat or fight at the same level as a purple". However the problem is both the purples I've graded, Rich and Vince are so far better than my blues, that it is hard as a blue to measure yourself against them.

Traditionally in Brazilian gyms, you get the next belt level when you win tournaments regularly. If you keep winning tournaments in your belt level, it is pretty obvious you should get to the next level. I have heard further that some gyms have the facilities whereby in order to grade, you have to fight an MMA fight within the gym.

However, for us here, this is not an option. That being said, with cheaper travel, and more tournaments in the region, this may be an option for many in the future, who knows?

On the other hand, I know of gyms that have 3 hour gradings, where you have to demonstrate technique upon technique, with the last hour saved for rolling.

What about my requirements? I have broken it down to several categories that I think are essential to be a purple belt.

Grappling Ability

The most first and obvious qualification for a purple belt is that s/he should be obviously better than the majority of blue belts out there (yes, I take into account there are some sandbagging 10 year blue belts). This can only be determined by rolling, no short cuts. 

Have a Complete Game

If my simple requirement for blue belt is that the student must have a game (eg a guard game, or a top game), then a purple belt must have a complete game, meaning s/he should have a game in most common positions. Quite a few of my blues are getting there.

Build your own game

As a blue belt, your instructor will tell you, you need to work on your guard, or your passing etc. But a purple belt should be able to be self taught. That is not to say that you stop learning in class (as we are always growing in BJJ) but that you do not need your instructor to spoon feed you anymore. You have enough technical ability to form your own game, and add and build it yourself. Of course you can ask and learn from your instructors, but the growth and direction of your game is up to you, not your instructor.

I have heard many times that the jump from blue to purple is perhaps the biggest jump after white to blue, and I suspect this to be true.

Blue belt is where probably the majority of all students who ever step on the mats ever reach up to. Many quit at blue for a huge number of reasons. But if you reach purple belt and above, I believe thats when you're dedicated to the art for life. 

Sam Wee is the head instructor for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) at the KDT Academy (, Malaysia and has been teaching BJJ since 2003.