Sometimes You Can’t Tell By The Belt!

Most of us have had a chance to roll with a strange white belt.  Often, we glance down at their belt color and made a quick calculation of what to expect in the roll.

But then we get our grips in and we find ourselves immediately in deep water with an experienced and skilled opponent!

Usually this “white belt” is an experienced wrestler, no-gi submission grappler, MMA fighter, or black belt in judo who has put on a white belt for the kimono class in BJJ.

They have the fundamental grapplers’ skills of base, pressure, balance, awareness, and mat strength in abundance and the white belt is NO indication of their level of experience.

This is one of the reasons why grappling tournaments stipulate that you may be a white belt in BJJ, but your judo black belt or several pro MMA fights will bump you up into the blue belt or advanced divisions.

I recall a couple of stories about BJJ guys being fooled by belts.


1) I was teaching an advanced class and half of the guys were blue belts.

A quiet, soft-spoken but solidly built guy joins the BJJ class and executes the warm-up drills smoothly.

As an instructor, I can watch you shrimp and do break falls and get a pretty decent idea of your experience level even before you start rolling.

When the rolling starts, the new white belt demonstrates really solid base and balance, and none of the blue belts could sweep him.

He didn’t have good guard passes, but his pressure was causing all kinds of problems for the blue belts.

What was going on?!?

Turns out the quiet, humble guy was a second Dan in judo and decided to try some jiu-jitsu.

The frustrated blue belts were relieved to hear that the new white belt was not some beginner with super natural talent!

2) Another friend of mine (good competitive purple belt) traveled to Brazil to train at the Carlson Gracie Academy.

He couldn’t wait to get in some rolls and see how his skills stacked up!

The first guy asked him to roll and my buddy wanted to show his skills…only to have his guard quickly passed and get clock choked!

It happened a couple of times and my friend was scratching his head asking “What the hell?!? I know I am jet lagged, but didn’t expect this!”

He took a second, closer look at the blue belt and suddenly realized that was NOT a blue belt.

It was a HEAVILY faded black belt and his rolling partner was none other than former World Absolute BJJ Champion Amaury Bitetti!

Sometimes the belt lies and you have to be ready for all of your training opponents!

So Now I Got My Blue Belt,…Now What??

So Now I Got My Blue Belt,…Now What??


  1. When I was a white belt with a few months of training under my belt, I was asked to roll by another white belt that I’d never seen. I had a couple stripes, and his belt had none. I chuckled as I figured I’d go roll with the new guy.

    The ‘new guy’ had been a wrestler under Dan Gable at Iowa, and beat the living shit out of me. Every single thing he did hurt. After one of the most sound ass-kickings I’d ever experienced, I dragged myself off of the mat, where I was reassured by one of the upper belts that I had no reason to be ashamed of losing to a guy with those credentials. After learning of his pedigree, I knew I’d never judge anyone by belt alone again. He was the last opponent I ever underestimated.

  2. I’m a five year white belt that stopped training for one and a half years. I have been back on the mats three months now, and I am competitive with all of our purple belts. I left my first school with four stripes on the white belt, then moved state to state for work and family. The look on a purple belts face after a sound sweep and submission has become quite regular for me now. I always give them my background so they know what to expect. Testing is next month, Five years until blue, but I am just happy to be on the mats.

  3. As a returning purple belt that’s had about 4 years off this can go the other way too. I get coloured belts bringing the pain when I roll and looking confused when I can’t seem to do the basic things right. It’s super frustrating.

  4. I only have 1 stripe on my white belt but im no slouch and have pulled off some submissions on higher belts but not usually. Its just all about whats in your mind and how you execute it.

  5. You’re going to lose to lower belts, you are going to beat higher belts. Weight, strength, endurance, and everything else plays a factor when you are rolling with someone who has just a little bit of knowledge. You’re belt is only a reflection of you know continuing and not quitting. Several guys who come back and forth every once in a while to the gym, but they don’t come more than once a month. These dudes throw me a round, and i train almost 5 days a week. However these guys have size and strength, and years of experience, but they aren’t getting promoted. Don’t worry about who is beating who, just roll. I don’t judge myself based on the white belt in class who has tapped me. I don’t get upset when i lose in competition. All that matters is that I keep coming back vs those who don’t and guess what? I will one day, be a black belt. And even then, I’m sure someone will still beat me and give me a run for my money, but I will still be a black belt and my ego with be just fine!


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