In many ways, the rank of purple belt can be viewed as a bridge rank. When a practitioner receives a blue belt, this represents a huge step simply from a standpoint of dealing with the challenge of an existence as a white belt. This existence starts with cluelessness, continues with beatdown after beatdown, and culminates with having a foundation of knowledge and skill in BJJ. Since so many white belts fall by the wayside, the rank of blue belt is often rewarding simply from a standpoint of survival.
Receiving a purple belt, however, is a different story. It’s very difficult to advance to this rank without possessing definitive skill. This skill ranges from a development of BJJ strategy, an overall wider knowledge base, and extremely refined technique. A purple belt has demonstrated an aptitude and commitment to BJJ far beyond the earlier ranks, and understands that they are halfway to the ultimate goal: black belt. This is why it can be viewed as a bridge rank; you stand squarely between novice and expert.
That’s why many purple belts will admit to this rank being one of the first times they feel pressure on the mat. They’re now viewed as an advanced practitioner, and in most schools this places that purple belt at the top of the food chain, and they feel an expectation to feast upon the white and blue belts at their disposal. Therein lies the purple belt problem.
Here’s a quick newsflash: as a purple belt, you’re going to have blue belt days. This might come about due to injury or by having an off day. Conversely, a blue belt is going to have a purple belt day every now and again. This means the stars will at some point align, and lead exactly where a purple belt doesn’t want it to: with tapping out to a “lower” belt. You can fight against this idea as much as you want to, but it’s inevitable for most purple belts.
So at that moment when a blue belt achieves the upper hand, accept that you might be having one of those “blue belt days.” This is most important at that moment of pain when your stubborn pride prevents you from tapping against your blue belt brethren. But tap, and just move on. Remove this pressure—pressure you have heaped upon yourself—and acknowledge the moment’s inevitability.
Here’s an additional tip for dealing with what will certainly feel like a moment of defeat: think back to that glorious moment when you—as a blue belt—tapped a purple belt yourself. You were having a good day, and maybe that purple belt slept on you or was simply a step behind. Catching belts above you is part of your development. Believe it or not, being caught by belts “beneath” you is part of that development, too. How you deal with it will go a long way toward your emotional and psychological toughness on the mats.
So many BJJ lessons end with the advice to let go of the ego. But for the purple belt problem, the good news is that over time a purple belt’s blue belt days will be few and far between. Soon you may not have any at all, and you’ll be a purple belt having a brown belt day every now and then. Of course, you know how it is with jiu jitsu: pretty soon you’ll be a brown belt, one worrying about having a purple belt day.