The toughest belt in Jiu Jitsu

Hey guys, Erick is back to tell you about my toughest belt in Jiu Jitsu. Recently Bernardo Faria, one of my FAVORITE Jiu Jitsu practitioners, did a video on what he thought was the toughest belt in BJJ. He came to the conclusion that for him, it was purple belt. This made me sit back and think. And for me, I have to agree. My journey through Jiu Jitsu has been…unconventional to say the least. You can watch the video here.

How did I get to where I am?

It was only six months into my gi training, and I’d been promoted to blue belt. Showing up to gi training I had a lot of no gi experience and some experience fighting in MMA. It was obvious that I wasn’t the next big UFC star but I could hold my own and all of my victories were by submission. Who wouldn’t be happy to get promoted to blue belt so quickly? Most of all I was happy because I was in Afghanistan when it happened. That one is called my “War Belt”.

After the war

I was only a blue belt for about a year when I found myself back in the states training at my home academy, Twin Wolves Martial Arts Academy, and found myself getting promoted to purple belt by a tough competitor and amazing teacher in Alexandre Bueno de Oliveira. GFTeam guys don’t just promote anyone and they look highly upon competitors. Getting a belt from those guys is tough. That said, I feel like my time at white and blue belt were easy. I was competing, winning and learning so many new things.

Which brings us to…well…now.

Here I am now at purple belt. For the last three years and almost 4 by this summer. At white belt, it was easy because I already had a ton of grappling knowledge but even so, it is a time where you learn how to swim. You’re learning to defend and how to stay afloat. Everything is so new and you absorb things at such a high rate. It is exciting! Jiu Jitsu is amazing and you can’t see yourself doing anything else and you fall in love. That’s the best part of white belt days.

It was fun while it lasted.

At blue belt, things were fun. Learning different aspects of different guard games and finding what your favorites are. Learning how you move and how you can feel your opponent’s reactions to determine your next step. Finally learning how to attack and reverse. How to defend things properly. You’re still absorbing new technique and getting to be familiar with stuff to the point where you’re proficient. Blue belt is still a hell of a lot of fun.

Zero fun sir.

Now, for me at least, purple belt has felt…stagnant at times. When you’re a purple belt, you’re at the point in your journey where you already have seen almost everything you’re going to learn. Yes, you’ll still learn new things but, you have gotten to a point where you have already formulated your style. You know your game. This, I think, is what makes this level the most exciting in some aspects. Seeing competitors and others come into their own. Seeing their personalities in their game and how they fight.

Why does it feel dead here?

It’s also where I feel the most, “dead”. It has been a time where, at least for me, it seems progression has come to a halt. I don’t feel like I’m getting any better. I don’t see the improvements like I did when I was coming up as a new grappler and chugging along through white and blue belt ranks. There is a large stable of legit, high level brown belts at my academy and I can hang with each of them. Sometimes, I get lucky and catch a submission. Most of the time though, it is a stalemate. It is frustrating. Absolutely frustrating. I feel like with as much training as I’ve put in, I should be able to catch a limb or a neck at a higher rate than I can. But, that just isn’t happening. So why do I think that the toughest belt in jiu jitsu is purple?

But what is REALLY happening?

Here’s the thing…I’ve been EXTREMELY successful at this level. Throughout 2017, I only lost ONE match. I lost to the man who would go on to become the Pan American Champion at super heavyweight. Of all of his matches, I was the ONLY opponent that he couldn’t submit. And it for sure wasn’t for lack of trying. I didn’t lose by a large margin of points, wasn’t disqualified, but only lost by merely a couple of advantage points. Which says a lot considering he submitted all of his opponents within the first two minutes of every fight.

Winning much?

Since that tournament, I had gone the rest of the year on nothing but W’s. I won three more gold medals throughout the year as well as TWO professional BJJ matches, BOTH by submission and then the highlight of the year, winning gold at the San Antonio International Open by flying arm bar. I’m over here thinking I’m not gaining any skill and I’m not improving. I’m feeling like everything is just repetitive. Like every day is exactly the same and yet…I was killing the competition scene.
That is what Professor Faria said that just hit me like a ton of bricks. He was the EXACT same at this level. At purple belt, he was winning his competitions. Killing it out there and he felt like he was stuck. I can totally relate.

What do I do then?

I think that is what makes it hard to be at this level. Feeling like there isn’t any upward or forward progress. It makes it difficult to stay motivated and inspired. To stay wanting to put in those hours on the mat and keep pushing. When you don’t see those stripes coming or you suddenly get to a point where it’s like everyone is even and you can’t get an upper hand. That isn’t you getting worse. It’s all part of the process. I think the point here is…I think purple belt is the toughest spot. Once you’re a brown belt, you’re honing and fine tuning your game and figuring out what kind of black belt you’re going to be. And you’re just waiting on that black belt. Purple feels like you have to be out there proving something. You have to start shining and if you’re not, you’re nothing. That is the furthest thing from reality as it could be.

Purple Belt is The Toughest Belt in Jiu Jitsu

For all my other purple belt brothers and sisters out there…hell…any belt level. Don’t quit now. Some days are worse than others. Some days you’re the hammer and some you’re the nail. Don’t let it get to you. Keep grinding. Keep going out there and putting yourself on the mats and get those hours in. Hit up competitions and test yourself. You’re getting better and better every day, you just don’t know it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Every person’s journey is different. You are exactly where you need to be and you WILL progress. Don’t let the illusion fool you. See you guys on the mats.

Call it a Comeback

Why do we call it a comeback? First of all there are millions of reasons why people take time off of the mats.  Let’s be real here.  Most of us work full time jobs, have families, go to school…hell, we probably even have other hobbies or passions!!!  What?!?!?!?!  But it all boils down to the fact that life happens.  Sometimes, just sometimes, that forces us to make a sacrifice and because of that sacrifice, we lose some mat time.  Such is the way of the world.  We’re grown, we’ll get over it right?

What’s the hold up?

If you ask me, the worst reason to take some time off is due to injury.  TRUST me on this one.  I’m living that nightmare right now.  We all have gone through it or will end up going through it at some point in our journey on the mats.  It happens.  Injury is a reality in a place where we literally simulate murder on each other.  Therefore, I often say we’re in the joint destruction and suffocation business.  Really when you break it down, that’s exactly what we do.  Back to my point.  Sometimes due to bad dieting, bad exercise regimen, being under the weather or even training too hard or with someone who is acting like they’re in the middle of the ADCC championship final…the unholy inevitable happens.  We get injured. We have to take some time to recuperate, and we call it a comeback.

Overcoming obstacles and driving on.

I’m here to tell you, DO NOT BE DEVASTATED.  While this is something that happens, because it’s a natural part of the cycle of life, no one is invincible nor impervious to injury.  It could be something as minute as a stressed out joint or dislocated finger to even the worst…blown out joints or serious damage.

Step one, cut a hole in the box. 

I’m telling you…if you’re of the mind that you think you need to see a physician to assess what the situation is…ALWAYS GO SEE A DOCTOR.  If you are NOT of the mind that you need to see a professional to tell you what is wrong…ALWAYS GO SEE A DOCTOR.  You’re not Doogie Howser.  Get a legitimate read on what the deal is with the injury.  As a result you will always know exactly what you’re walking, or not walking, into with the future.

Step two, put your junk in that box. 

You’re going to want to sit down and do a LOT of research on rehabilitation of that injury.  Talk to your doctor about the best ways to physically rehabilitate.  You’ll need to rest up, ice up and relax for a while.  DO THAT.  Take that precious time to allow your body to heal.  Make sure you’re eating the right foods to promote a good recovery.  Do the strengthening exercises if necessary to get yourself back on track and back to the mats because let’s face it, that’s where we want to be.  FOLLOW what your doctor and your body is telling you.  Don’t be that person to go back to the mats too early and risk reinjury (Dominic Cruz).  You don’t want to blow out the same thing five hundred times before you figure out that maybe you need to ease up and just do the right thing, no matter how much you miss the mat.  Trust me, we understand why you’re not there.  Your professor understands too.

Have her open the box.

If you’re doing all the right things, you’ll be back to the mats before you know it.  Ease back into things.  Don’t go hard in the paint the minute you get there.  You have to get your body back to where it was before you were jacked up.  Your knowledge won’t have left you.  Maybe a little cardio but the muscle memory is there.  You didn’t lose any Jiu Jitsu.  Just remember that this is part of the game and that we all have to endure some struggle to get to where we want to be.  After all, if it were easy, we’d call it boxing.  Am I right?

Call it a comeback.

When it’s all said and done, no one wants to get hurt while training or competing. When injuries to occur, we need to take that step back and properly assess the situation. We may need to take time off the mats, which no one wants to do, but it’s much better to heal a temporary injury than to be hard headed and get a permanent injury. That’s why we call it a comeback.

Don’t Go Chasing Quick Belt Promotions

No matter what you do in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, don’t go chasing quick belt promotions!

The worst thing you could ever do in BJJ is to put your own goals and aspirations before the art. That’s why you’ll hear people say don’t go chasing quick belt promotions.

First off, I’d like to express my gratitude to Jared and Gorilla Gi Co. for allowing me to contribute to the content of this site and offer my opinions and my view on combat sports and specifically, my experiences in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Little old me, a kid from Chi-town reaching out and speaking to the world. Who knew?

Okay, so initially, I was going to talk about the mental game and competition mindset and how I personally get things done. I won’t say I’m very good at Jiu Jitsu, but I know what works for me. I don’t claim to be a sports psychologist or to know how the mind works and I definitely don’t have a cure all for people on how to get the confidence they need to accomplish their goals. So, I figure I’ll save that one for another time. Right now, I’d like to talk about something entirely different…

Belts…let’s face it. Belts are important right? Anyone who walks into a gym to figure out if that is where they want to train or lines up for class is going to take a look around at who is already there. You’re looking at how these folks are rolling and sizing everyone up. You’re thinking to yourself man, I am starting now and I have no idea how I’m going to ever add up to these people, might as well sign up and get started.

Six Months Later… Still don’t go chasing quick belt promotions!

Fast forward six months and you’ve already done your first competition. Maybe you got a gold medal, maybe a silver or two and you have a little bit of experience. You’re starting to stomp on some of the white belts in your class and you’re maybe starting to hang with some of the blue belts. Now you’re thinking man, where’s my belt?

Stop. Just stop. Why the rush? What is so important that you have to have the next belt as soon as possible? I’m all for getting a black belt one day. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t come into Jiu Jitsu thinking I’d forever be at one belt level or another and I certainly didn’t come into this just to quit. But we have to remember something. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not just as sport or an art. It is a literal WAY OF LIFE!!!

Your belt color is NOT an indicator of skill level. Now, if you would, just bear with me for a second. To a certain degree, yes, seems like it indicates that this person should know a certain amount of things and should be able to execute these techniques with a certain level of efficiency and be able to teach back a certain amount effectively. Got it.   I don’t look at it that way at all.

Your Martial Arts Belt Rank Is An Investment. Still, don’t go chasing quick belt promotions!

Fortunately, I see a belt color as a level of investment not only in yourself, but the level of investment into your journey and into Jiu Jitsu. When I look at someone’s belt, I don’t see someone with an unstoppable skill or someone who knows more than I do. I see how much of themselves that person has put into their training and into the sport and lifestyle. My personal experience is this…I’m a purple belt. I’ve got four stripes on that sucker. You’d think I would be able to crush most blue belts, put up a fairly dominant effort against other purple belts and be hanging with the brown belts all the time as that should be where I am at skill wise. My belt says so.

Nah, it isn’t that simple. There are blue belts in my academy who consistently give me a hard time. They’re good. I mean really good. They have athletic ability. They’re young. They’re hungry. The difference? I’ve been in combat sports for more than a decade, I’ve invested years into this game. I have experience to go with the skill. These young cats, they have the skill no doubt…it’s the experience on how to best utilize that skill that they lack. That experience means something. When I see a belt, I see how much of their life this person has given to this sport. I see the following:

  • Years spent training on the mats.
  • Competitions lost or won.
  • Injuries
  • Lessons learned
  • Friendships built
  • Dedication

There is always a “Method to the Madness”. Still, don’t go chasing quick belt promotions!

Maybe I’m going on a bit but, I’m just saying, don’t be in such a rush. There’s a reason your Professor has you at a belt level for the amount of time you’re there. Your instructor sees something that you don’t. You have to trust that experience. You have to trust that insight. We’ve all been where you are, in addition to most likely being that white belt with a couple competitions and maybe a medal or two. You want that next level, that next challenge…maybe you feel you’re ready for it. Maybe you are. But don’t be in such a rush to make it happen.

Enjoy the time it takes you to get to the next step. Because once you’re there, it starts over and over again. You never stop learning. You never stop being that new guy. The minute you think you are better than most, is the minute you find out that you’re on the same level as most of those folks you think you’re better than.

I’ll link it to something my first team leader used to tell me when I was a Private. Don’t rush to be grown too quick. Enjoy being where you are. Learn as much as you can learn and then try to learn more. Be happy with what you have where you are, want the next thing but be patient. Your time will come.

I hope you enjoyed this first little blurb and I hope I can write more for you guys in the near future.  Until then, get off Youtube. Stop watching FloGrappling trying to be the next berimbolo master. You just need to “shut up, show up and train.”

Kaiju Jiu Jitsu Gear

We have begun to develop product mockups for the Kaiju Jiu Jitsu club! They are a small Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club that is located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Although they don’t currently have a website, Kaiju Jiu Jitsu Club can through their only social media page. They can be found on their Facebook page by clicking HERE.

We will be starting with their amazing mascot-styled logo! We hope to be developing a full range of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gear, but we aren’t the deciders for the club. The full range of gear would include the following:

  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gis (the traditional uniform for training and competition)
  • Rashguards (Long sleeve or short sleeve, these are similar to compression shirts but are designed for jiu jitsu)
  • Mixed Martial Arts Shorts (also known as No Gi shorts)
  • Spats (similar to compression pants, these are specific for jiu jitsu)
  • T-Shirts
  • Hoodies
  • Hats
  • Gi Patches

We can also go deeper into the development of martial arts rashguards and the Mixed Martial Arts shorts. This would include a full set of “ranked” options. Basically, we would take all of the martial arts belt colors of the discipline, and factor that into a design that could be used for all colors. It’s an exciting time here at Gorilla Gi Co. and we will definitely have to keep the public updated as we get closer to unveiling the school’s custom designed gear! Here is the slick Kaiju Jiu Jitsu Club logo that we are going to be using and incorporating into the final design mockup of their custom gear!



GroundStone BJJ Playful Logo

From the CEO:

Professional and personal development has always been apart of my life. Upon taking a college course to get a crash course in Adobe Illustrator, I was playing around with the GroundStone BJJ circle logo to meet the specifications of the assignment. One of which included a gradient, so I added the BJJ belt rank colors to the border. It definitely looks pretty slick.

GroundStone BJJ Circle Logo

The first time that we had the GroundStone BJJ Banner logo directly embroidered it didn’t turn out so well. Before we realized that we should add an outline to the GroundStone BJJ parts of the banner logo, we created the above circle logo as a backup plan. Fortunately, it turned out to be an amazing work of perfection.

GroundStone BJJ Original Logo

The owner of GroundStone BJJ is a close friend of the Gorilla Gi Co. owner. We received the GroundStone BJJ logo above that was created in a word document. We were able to convert and recreate the logo in the proper Adobe printing formats.

GroundStone BJJ Updated Banner Logo

After the first version of the banner logo was utilized to embroider a patch on the back of a BJJ gi, we discovered that the actual GroundStone BJJ parts don’t really stand out. So we decided to add a 1 pixel outline to the GroundStone BJJ parts, which results in the featured image above. The background color is solely for visibility purposes.

GroundStone BJJ Banner Logo

We were asked by GroundStone BJJ to make a banner design for them using the following logos to create the featured image above.


The original GroundStone BJJ logo:


Their affiliation logo, Fredson Paixao: