When looking for a jiu-jitsu coach, most of us want a brown or black belt coach, and rightfully so. Coaches with years and years of jiu-jitsu experience and knowledge understand a lot of the finer details of jiu-jitsu, and, with rare exceptions, will be the best people to learn under as you move up the ranks in BJJ.
However, these “upper belts” aren’t the only jiu-jitsu practitioners you can learn from… and in fact, if you’re a beginner, you may be surprised at just how much you can learn from a humble blue belt.
Obviously, blue belts are still a long way from being deemed “experts” in jiu-jitsu. Nobody with a shred of common sense is saying that you should avoid all the black-belt-led gyms in your area in order to train under a blue belt with no senior coach. But in many gyms, blue and purple belts begin to step into leadership roles, either officially as assistant coaches in kids’ or fundamentals classes or unofficially as helpful and welcoming training partners for newer students. And while this is great for the blue and purple belts who want to one day become head coaches or academy owners, it also greatly benefits the white belts learning from them.
While your average black belt will certainly have more knowledge than your average blue belt, blue belts can often explain what they do know in a way that’s more effective for less experienced students. Sometimes, a black belt has such a deep understanding of a technique that they only know how to explain it in highly technical terms. This can be beneficial to higher-level students who have the foundation to understand the finer details, but for students who still have to take a few moments to think before crossing their legs the right way for a triangle choke, this can be overwhelming and confusing.
Lower-level colored belts can also help white belts troubleshoot techniques that aren’t working for them — likely because they themselves have only recently had to work through these problems. While a good coach of any level will understand the most common points of failure for the techniques they’re teaching, blue belts will often be able to explain the problem and solution in a way that is easier for new students to understand, including simple “hacks” that will be effective and easy to remember.
White belts aren’t the only students who can benefit from what helpful, well-intentioned blue belts bring to the mats, either. Upper belts who are struggling to help a white (or blue) belt with a technique or concept that they are just not understanding can gain a lot from asking a blue belt (at least, a blue belt who does understand) what they struggled with and what tips helped them overcome that hurdle. People who sit in the gap between not understanding and being experts can be a bridge for others who are trying to move from knowing nothing to knowing something.
Again, this is not to say that you should replace all your high-level coaching staff with your freshest blue belts. But you should use them as valuable insight into the minds of students who are ten years behind you in terms of experience and technique. And hey, if you’re a blue belt who wants to be a coach one day, embrace the position you’re in now. Take this time to really think about how you understand techniques — the broad concepts that you use, the layman’s terms that helped you understand tricky submissions, and the tips that helped you understand how to move your body in ways it had never needed to move before. Remembering these things now will help you down the road as you become an experienced coach helping new students on their way to greatness.