Purple Belt a.k.a. “The Rolling Belt”

Black belt Eddie Fyvie shares some thoughts on the purple belt in jiu-jitsu.

Eddie Fyvie:

Below are some tips, perspectives and ideas for progression at purple belt.

Some ideas are focused on what the belt is, what your mission is, and why people might get their black belt but never actually move past the purple belt in skill.

These professors have experience to make up for the difference, but usually lack the strategy and concepts to be as effective as possible.

Your future

Once you hit purple belt, your chances of stopping jiu-jitsu just got drastically lower. After all, you have fit BJJ into your life and it is cemented as a permanent fixture.

Your key to success is to realize how purposeful you are training at this belt, not how often.  It is time to take the techniques and moves you know and put them into action with grace, fluidity, and efficiency.

“It’s not about the MOVES, it’s about the movements.” – Tom Murphy

I refer to the purple belt as “the rolling belt”, because I truly believe this is the belt where you master your grappling skills.

This is the belt where the instructor can’t hold your hand as much anymore because you are developing your personal movement and skill. You are entering a semi-unteachable world of BJJ!

How to develop what can’t be taught

There are numerous ways to develop what can’t be taught.

Transitions: Make sure the gaps between positions, submissions, and reversals are being tightened. When you sweep someone, can you get to mount, or is your timing off? Transitions are sometimes taught, but you have to take the initiative to free your mind and move.

Anticipation: Start to read your opponents and develop a sense of how they are going to move or react. This sixth sense is what people search years for in their BJJ journey. Test it out, give openings, close opening, and study the psychology. Don’t fight; let them fight!

Combinations: There are TWO major focuses in this category. You have to understand how to NOT over-commit and you must be able to look at the position from the “Ceiling View“. Get your notebook out and think of combos.

Here’s how:

Ceiling view: You have the arm bar from guard. Look at the position and pretend you are looking from above. The angles and position of your legs have a close proximity to other techniques. Which ones? When you can see it, you will be able to piece other moves behind the arm bar to ensure victory.

Over/Under commit: If you are rolling at a high level, your opponents know what they are in for. If you attack a technique as a decoy to another, you must be able to make it seem real. If you anticipate the first move won’t work, go for it, but if you under-commit, they won’t fall for it. If you over-commit, they will use it against you.

Give enough pressure to make them fall for the first move, get the second move without over-committing to the first. Look at the position from an “outer body” perspective and analyze techniques in the vicinity. Also, ask yourself if the first move didn’t work because of them knowing or are you not doing it properly.

Seven ways you should be rolling

If you always roll the same, you are slowing progression. If you submit the same person with the same technique, you are trapping yourself in a “skill time warp”. If you don’t roll differently with certain ages, body types, or skill levels, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your partners.

Here’s what do do instead:

Crush you opponents: Focus on using heavy weight and really “crushing” on top

.Don’t finish anyone: Try to roll in a way where you catch and release submissions. Focus mainly on positions.

Don’t give anything: Don’t give an inch to anyone.

Keep it playful, but with a purpose: Keep it playful, but adhere to the principles and pick a goal.

Float: Don’t hold positions long; hop around and move quickly.

Allow bad positions, but with a purpose: Allow bad positions with the purpose of escaping and defending. Find comfort in discomfort.

Go for a “marathon round”: Just roll. Roll so long you have to change your attire. Time limits = sport. No time limits = life.

Trade moves for concepts

You should be utilizing the principles and concepts passed down by our BJJ forefathers from DAY ONE of your training!

However, at the purple belt, it is time to kick your understanding of concepts into high gear.

Imagine it like art; white belt and blue belt are learning how the artists’ tools work. You learn how to draw, paint, sketch, and at the end of blue belt, you have picked your “style” of art. The white belt and blue belt level doesn’t allow much room for personal thought. You need a concrete foundation and must master the artists’ tools!

When you reach purple belt, you have earned the right to start exploring the “abstract”. You should always experiment and stay fascinated by the difficulty!

“You can listen to me now or wait until you are 65.” – Frank Popolizio

You are now freeing yourself from the stress of mastering the basics and can start opening up and allowing the abstract form of rolling to take shape. You should be seeing the “big picture” of jiu-jitsu much more clearly and have blended the hundreds of techniques you know into concepts that allow you to start applying them rapidly. You must see the “blend” of techniques in the various situations.

The figurative samurai sword has been sharpened once you hit black belt. The purple belt has acquired the sword and has the skills, but still needs to smooth out the blade for extreme precision.

Purple vs brown vs black

This belt is so fascinating to me.

Some people say purple belts have learned all of the techniques they need to know.

What they do not have, though, are the experience, details, psychology, and the ability to be analytical. This is something only a black belts with years of experience has.

The differences between belts are:

  • The black belt can beat you and tell you how he/she did it.
  • The brown belt ” feels” like a black belt and is almost there with trying to figure out how to explain it and is “cramming” to become the Professor.
  • The purple belt is doing it, honing it, executing it, but is still focused on his or her own development and is still organizing the circuits. He or she doesn’t have time to spend “giving back” just yet.

At this point in your journey, you should be able to teach yourself. This means you should be able to reflect on training and problem solving with little help.

At this point, the concepts need to be ingrained. It is commonplace to search for more moves, new moves, newer moves, and get off track.

This will only lead you down a road where you know half of every move, though. I know black belts that never actually improved past black belt. Their experience earned them the belt, not their skill. That is sad.

Do not be the black belt who is still a purple belt because you lack the concepts, psychology, and philosophy. The principles, concepts, and philosophies, give the art its invincible powers. They are the key to jiu-jitsu mastery.

Roll with purpose.

Roll for fluidity.

Roll for effectiveness while remaking efficient.

Roll to improve.

Strategize and analyze.

Eddie Fyvie
Spa City Jiu-Jitsu – Owner
Check out Eddie’s Bjj blog

Read also: Largest Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar in American History with Rickson Gracie!


  1. Nice article – I think this is an error though – “I know black belts that never actually improved past black belt.” – I think you mean “past purple belt” ?

  2. Maybe I misinterpret, but as a purple belt, why shouldn’t we learn new moves or add moves to our concepts?As a purple belt you can still have some holes in your game, eg. weak wrestling, not to technical in leg locks yet. I absoluteley understand that purple belt is were we sharpen our swords, and hone the skills we learned at white and blue, but I don’t get what you mean that I should now know everything I need to know when there is sooooooo much more to know in JiuJitsu.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here