I’m so glad this question came in! Navigating your purple belt is completely different from white and blue belt. There is a big shift in the journey and figuring out what it takes to progress.
Are there any posts for Purple belts?
Or over 30’s?
Just getting back into it. I have had a bad back for about a year now. I have also had a MMA career of 10-5 but have now stopped that.
I have been training for over 12 years and a brown belt would be nice.
I do prefer no gi.
Remembering What Got You To Purple Belt
First of all, congratulations on making it to purple belt. This is a huge deal!
You’ve sunk enough time into the journey now that you are in much less danger of quitting. BJJ has become a habit and an integral part of your life.
Eventually you’ll be a black belt if you
- keep doing what you are doing
- apply consistent effort
- make small adaptations
- and avoid major injuries
As a purple belt, I was in my 30’s so I understand the struggle. By the time someone gets to purple they’ve shown determination and put in lots of time.
Coaches typically won’t promote someone out of their blue belt and into purple until they feel a certain development of an individual’s character and building of skill. To me, when someone gets their purple that is their coach labeling them as a “hot prospect to become a black belt eventually.”
Remember, the number one key to getting to black belt is, Don’t quit. Your instructor expects you to get your black belt and feels you have the tools. It is just a matter of effort and time.
But Which Direction Do I Go?
The path for the white and blue belt seems so straightforward – train consistently and learn new things. Most of my blog is focused at this demographic because the struggles are all so universal.
White to blue – learn the lay of the land and scout out your surroundings. Simple enough. Being over 30 doesn’t really matter as much.
There is something unique about becoming a purple belt though, especially a purple belt over 30. What got you from white belt to blue belt to purple belt isn’t the same thing that will get you from purple belt to brown belt. When your peers stop making mistakes, athleticism can start to play more of a factor.
Yuri Simoes had some great advice for adding appropriate intensity to your Jiu Jitsu at purple belt. Intensity is key to executing techniques, but finding the balance between intensity and longevity is delicate. Managing injuries is an enormous part of your journey.
So now you know what the lay of the land is and can see the whole map. But where should your journey take you? There are so many opportunities and choices.
Will What Got You Here, Get You To The Next Level?
I think a lot of people feel a sort of imposter syndrome when they first get their purple belts . Some days this pressure will make it hard to find the motivation to train BJJ. Getting past this is the first giant milestone and the BIGGEST obstacle to making it to black belt. The instant you stop worrying about belts and refocus on YOU, is the instant you are on the right track.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that white belt over there needs way more help than you!
The Landmines – Avoiding Pitfalls
Don’t be afraid of embracing failure. Just because you are a purple belt doesn’t mean you are infallible. Many purple belts look back nostalgically on their time at white and blue belt as carefree times where it was okay to mess up. You can still do that!
Don’t let yourself get locked into an attitude where the gravity of past success limits your growth.
You should be putting yourself in positions that stretch your abilities. Getting caught by blue belts occasionally is part of the journey. It means you are operating on the borders of your abilities.
There is a chance you’re becoming the best grappler on the mat which creates its own new set of difficulties. Approaching rolls with lower belts has a newfound area of difficulty to make sure you both get quality training from it. Occasionally setting up some secret games while rolling can keep the training feeling fresh.
Finally, Jiu Jitsu should be one of the funnest things you do in a day. Don’t let it become a job. where you feel obligated to put in hours to get that promotion. Remember not to take yourself and your journey too seriously and to keep Jiu Jitsu fun like Jeff Glover. You are only halfway through the process, don’t start burning yourself out now!
Review The Fundamentals Of Growth
A key concept in growth is that if you focus on the areas where you are already strong the percentage of growth is minimal. Neglected areas offer the biggest initial improvement opportunities.
Revisiting the ways to improve at Jiu Jitsu is a great way to identify weak areas that have been neglected.
- Train Consistent – You don’t have it all figured out yet. Make sure you are hitting your weekly class goals. Took a break? Get back in there today!
- Private Lessons – When was the last time you took a private lesson? If there is a move that you just still don’t get at purple belt it is probably because you have misunderstood the core of it. Find out what you don’t know and fill that toolbox..
- Seminars – You are in a beautiful spot to absorb 95% of things taught at seminars and be able to retain and drill them later.
- Cross Training – Spice up your training by encountering other styles.
- Compete – Continue tracking your progress and focusing in. Make sure you have a gameplan.
- Take Notes – By the time you get to purple belt you’ve probably forgotten more Jiu Jitsu than you remember. Bring out those old notebooks and see what moves you left to the graveyard of forgetfulness. Pick some of those out as new projects to add to your arsenal.
If you are fairly evenly advanced on all of these, then start focusing on honing your strengths and building your style.
Purple Belt Is All About Developing Your Style
To me, purple belt is largely about positioning yourself to become a black belt someday. Rolling with other purple belts we start to realize that the bazooka we used at blue belt just doesn’t blast through defenses anymore.
We need to use more finesse. The blending of moves, creating of systems, and deepening of knowledge is the focus. How we combine and apply our moves is our own unique BJJ style.
The style we develop at purple belt will be version 1.0, and will get upgrades over time. Largely it will be a fundamental version of the same style we implement at black belt.
Did you notice in the video I created that many of the tips collected from Black Belts revolve around how they implement their styles and not moves?
Developing your own BJJ style is one of the most amazing parts of Jiu Jitsu. You are like an artist that finally has all of the tools you need, paint, canvas, brushes, and ideas. How are you going to combine them to express yourself on the mat?
Is your style going to be a direct unstoppable steamroller always moving forwards and never giving up an inch?
Are you one giant booby trap, setting up your opponent to fall for your sneaky tricks?
Do you play a mobile style where no matter how hard your opponent tries to tangle you up you just keep evading your way into dominant positions?
Are you playing guard and trying to submit from bottom?
Using guard to sweep and squish?
Refusing to end up on bottom?
A quick reminder, is that much like your personality, you don’t pick your style so much as it picks you. But having the personal awareness to notice which is your style is helpful. You can accentuate your positives and minimize your liabilities.
Some tricks to finding where your style fits
If you are having trouble finding your own individual groove, mix up what you’ve already been doing. The variety will open up new areas for you to excel.
One of the first steps is to make sure your Jiu Jitsu isn’t one-level. Adding dynamics can be a really
interesting way to tweak and adapt your current move set by adjusting timing and forcefulness. Changing the dynamic of moves doesn’t involve learning anything new, just applying your knowledge differently. Adaptation like this is invaluable.
Some other easy ways to mix things up are with your types of training. If you’ve trained largely in the gi, think about adding in some extra no gi time to experience new concepts. If you’re a no-gi guy, put on the dreaded bjj pajamas and lapels and focus on that part of the game for months.
Maybe you’ll end up adding a butterfly guard to your gi game, or controlled pressure passing to your no gi.
Creating mind maps of your game plans as your style develops can streamline the process.
Who are you now, and who do you want to be?
There are two ends of the spectrum I see. Most people are a blend of the two.
You know enough Jiu Jitsu to realize that although technique is incredibly important, strength, athleticism and the ability to recover are key ingredients to high level success. You have probably competed at the lower belts on the way up.
My advice to the competitor is to do a checkin evaluation to make sure they are still on track with their mission.
“I feel fine now, but how much more does my body have to give? Can I keep this pace up training at least 5 intensely focused weekly training sessions for 4 or 5 more years?”
Sometimes the answer is yes! If you said yes and you think you have what it takes, then my all means keep striving for gold. Remember, Eddie Bravo was a 33 year old brown belt when he submitted Royler in 2003. Exceptions happen all the time, but they also require exceptional work, planning, and luck.
If not, you should be thinking of shifting away from competition with the young bucks. This is probably a smart move for longevity, even if you were successful at white and blue belt tournaments. Time isn’t on your side to become a black belt adult world champion, but a master’s world champion is still a possibility!
Saulo Ribiero and Comprido were one of the best fights at Metamoris 4 and both of them were approaching 40 years old.
Preparing For A Style Of BJJ You Can Do The Rest Of Your Life
The biggest threat to the aging competitor is getting injured. These have likely been accumulating over white and blue belt training camps and competitions. Not recognizing that sometime between 30 and 40 most of our bodies need to slow down a little can lead to more major injuries that can sideline the comptetitor taking away precious time from the mats.
I’ve written before about how important keeping your lower back pre-habbed to prevent injury is. I even included some types of exercises to keep your guard play from wrecking your lumbar.
A smart competitor learns a lot about their body and makes sure to spend time strengthening their liabilities to prevent injury. They also do a good job of taking the proper time to heal from more major damage. Building your own recovery protocols, for an elbow injury, for example, is part of the journey.
The competitor is like a car that has been driven hard. At some point in time without the proper care it is going to break down leaving the driver stranded. Youth won’t protect you forever, eventually bad habits will catch up with you.
The competitor can learn a lot from the martial artist’s more relaxed approach to BJJ
The martial artist.
This is someone that is more of a hobbyist. Their focus is on Jiu Jitsu as self expression and a tool to make them a better person both on and off the mats.
Maybe they have never even competed. The martial artist can learn a lot from the competitor’s focused approach.
(If you have somehow never competed and made it to purple belt you should compete at least once here! I like the idea of competing once per belt level, but this is the last chance to compete in an amateur style environment. At brown and black belt things develop rapidly.)
The martial artist by nature has been more conservative with how hard they have used their body. Sometimes the downside is that they have been too relaxed. If they were a bit more driven, they could step up to the next level.
Eventually, our bodies will slow down enough we all will become martial artists.
Train hard, compete if you like and enjoy the journey while you can. Time flies!