Ask DeBlass: An Open Letter to the New Blue Belt

As any BJJ practitioner knows, the journey to black belt is long and arduous.  Many of the friends and training partners you gain along the way, will undoubtedly fall victim to life’s many distractions, responsibilities, and other trappings.  The blue belt is your first major progress marker on the seemingly endless journey to black.  Barely 25 years ago, a blue belt in America was just shy of being able to walk on water.  Today with the jiu jitsu’s continued rise in popularity more and more people are feeling the weight and mystique of this belt.  Professor Tom DeBlass offers an open letter to those blue belts, but the advice is applicable to all belts.  Enjoy!

Dear Blue belt,

First off, I want to congratulate you on making it this far. I still remember the day I was promoted to blue belt. It was by far one of my most memorable promotions.  I had been training consistently for approximately 8 months when Professor Ricardo Almeida presented me my blue belt during live training.  I was very excited.

There are a few things I want to share with you in order to make the rest of your Jiu-Jitsu journey as smooth as possible.

Professor DeBlass instructing students at his academy Orange County BJJ--photo courtesy of Tom DeBlass
Professor DeBlass instructing students at his academy Orange County BJJ–photo courtesy of Tom DeBlass

Shouldn’t I Be Able to Beat All the White Belts?

With your blue belt promotion, it doesn’t mean you automatically become much better then all white belts. And this is ok!  Don’t put added pressure on yourself or feel undeserving of your knew belt. Trust in yourself and your instructor and you will steadily improve.

When Do I Find My Game?

As a blue belt, whether you realize it or not, you are beginning to develop your personal game. Blue belt was when I fell in love with the half guard. It was very well suited for my body type. My torso is a bit longer than some practitioners in relation to my legs, so for instance, playing the spider guard was never easy for me.  Start to find where you are most comfortable and practice it often. Don’t be discouraged if you are having trouble from the new positions you work. It doesn’t mean that you will not find success. Stick with it and understand that everything takes time.

The Blue Belt Is As Deep As The Ocean

Blue belt is one of the toughest belt levels there is. There is such a wide gap between skill levels, as some people progress faster then others. Generally speaking, at the blue belt level strength and aggression may seem like it prevails over technique. It’s not true! Don’t fall into bad habits in order to achieve temporary satisfaction. Strength and conditioning are important, but nothing is more important then technique. As a blue belt I always did my best to avoid training with strength and use as much technique as possible. I tried to remind myself that strength will not overcome great technical knowledge. So in the short term, one can use strength against equal or lower belts, this same strategy may not work on everyone, especially higher belts.  Perfect technique on the other hand, can level the playing field at all belt levels.

Plateaus Are Normal

Don’t be alarmed when you feel you are hitting a sticking point. Sometimes blue belts find they hit a block in the road that makes it hard for them to improve. Don’t be alarmed. Simply mix things up a bit. It can be as simple as trying to passing the guard to the left instead of the right. Work your weak side half guard a few days. Relax and understand a positive outlook will pull us out of any rut we feel we are in.

Shouldn’t I Know More Than I Feel Like I Do?

Remember, it’s ok to have days where you feel like you are lost a bit. At the blue belt level you are the middle child. You are a little bit more advanced than the white belts, but not quite as advanced as the senior belts. Do not worry, just as you advanced from white belt, you will advance from blue belt. Pay attention to the senior students. Watch how they train and roll. Pick up on any great things they do. People love to talk about their journey.  Ask lots of questions!  It shows you are passionate and eager to learn.

Do not be one of those clichéd blue belts who stops training once reaching the milestone.--photo courtesy of Jiu Jitsu Times/Todd Shaffer
Do not be one of those clichéd blue belts who stops training once reaching the milestone.–photo courtesy of Jiu Jitsu Times/Todd Shaffer

Do Not Forget the Fundamentals

Last but not least, do not abandoned basic class! Remember your fundamentals you develop at blue belt are the foundation you are building to carry you safe and sound through your Jiu-Jitsu journey. Do not master the flying arm bar before your basic arm bar is mastered. Keep the student mentality and stay hungry for knowledge.  I think sometimes at blue belt it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes people get bored with being the middle child. Many times finding our game can be difficult and discouraging. During these times it’s imperative for blue belts to remember they are not alone and everyone has gone through this. Keep a positive mindset.

Remember, the journey is not easy,  but it’s worth it!


  1. 8 months, way to quick in my opinion. Year and a half to 2 years should be average, i think it takes time for your basics to sink in mentally.probably pure sport jiu jitsu, promoted because he looked good on the mat.20 years ago new instructors to america were quick to throw blue belts on people to kind of “kick start” its totaly out of control on promotions .

  2. Just got my blue belt after two years of probably about 10 classes a month with a hiatus or two.
    First night with the belt, as the smallest new blue belt ( and 51 years old ), I had the young turk white belts coming after me. Luckily, all the biggest white belts got promoted with me. As for Tom’s 8 month to blue belt, it would absolutely depend on what he had done before. A decent judoka, wrestler or just natural born fighter could easily reach a level worthy of a belt promotion in that time. I have a colleague who is a monster after that amount of time, throwing up triangles from spider guard, pinning me in knee on belly etc. He trains like a man possessed though, even with a broken hand.

    Personally, I found the promotion very motivating. I would have been crushed not to have gotten the belt because I knew I deserved it. I had done the work and I have the ability. Validation is good but it is just back on the mats for more work. Being as old as I am, I can’t delude myself that I have time, so I don’t intend to take time off. I think injury or some major catastrophe is the only thing that will derail me. I am blessed ( touching wood ) to have a body that holds up very well to the strain, as well as having training partners who aren’t looking to do harm.


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