The Five Stages of Jiu-Jitsu Competency!


This is a concept I borrowed from the “Four Stages of Competence” also known as the “conscious competence” learning model.  This is a learning theory developed in the 1970’s by Gordon Training International.  I have applied this contention to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as it relates to learning and belt progression.

White Belt – Unconsciously Incompetent – you don’t know what you don’t know.

At this stage you’re barely aware of the difference between an arm-bar and a choke…you rapidly learn that there’s normal looking people walking around with super-hero like skills!  You sign up for BJJ so you too can be a super-hero.  As exciting as these skills are…you quickly realize that they are earned through time, hard work and patience.  These techniques are also very dangerous, so TRAIN SMART, tap early and don’t get hurt!

Blue Belt – Consciously Incompetent – you know what you don’t know.

After some time (usually around blue belt) you become “painfully” aware of your deficit.  You realize what you don’t know and you become conscious of the vast space from where you stand to becoming a black belt someday.  This can be a challenging stage as this massive shortfall can seem overwhelming and reaching black belt someday nearly impossible.  At this stage, in spite of how you may feel, don’t give up!

Purple – Brown Belt – Consciously Competent – The techniques require some conscious effort, but you can now perform them with a degree of confidence and success.  

At this stage you’re beginning to develop your own sense of self on the mats.  Your toolbox will begin to take shape as you define your Jiu-Jitsu game.

Black Belt & beyond – Unconsciously Competent – Your skills are becoming second nature.

You can now perform techniques without relying on lower level functions, skills and thought patterns. This is an exciting time as you begin to free yourself from external thought and effort for the first time.

Be careful as ‘auto-pilot’ can be the death of creativity.

Continue to challenge, create, refine and redefine your Jiu-Jitsu experience and this will lead to a state of consciousness free from ‘everything’ called FLOW…



4 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Jiu-Jitsu Competency!

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  1. Is there another stage where you stop and find it hard to get back into it again? This is what’s happening to me now. I don’t like where I can train either and traveling to where I do like training is long and time consuming. I feel like life is robbing me of the Jiu Jitsu life I want. Any advice or positive criticism is welcome.

    1. I’ll assume that you can’t find another place to train that is closer. Is there anything you can do to embrace the place that you are training now? Is there something inside you that you can change that will make you want to own the time consuming drive?
      If no, then there are lots of warm up drills that you can practice inside/outside to help keep you sharp (shrimps, side shrimps, bear crawl to sit out, fwd/bwd rolls, etc). And there are tons of videos for moves to practice, but you will have to find someone that wants to learn and train with you.
      And of course, you can always reach out to the Gracies.
      Good luck!

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