Do you have all your basic positions & techniques covered?
Many people are under the notion that the more techniques you know, the better you will be. This is simply not true. The truth is, if you have knowledge of a few effective techniques from every position, then that’s really all you need all the way until black belt. Once you have these techniques, all you really need to work on is fine tuning them. So when you’re thinking you may be ready for the next level, try to think about if you have an answer for as many situations on the mat as possible and how many of your techniques can work in multiple positions. A lot of technical theories in Jiu-Jitsu can be transferred from position to position, especially when it comes to pressure, balance and timing.
With whom do you successfully execute your techniques?
You have to gage the effectiveness of your abilities. If you’re a blue belt who wants to see if he is ready as a purple, then you should be able to have no problem with white belts and most of the other blue belts in your academy. If you see that you are defeating the white belts and blue belts with relative ease and you’re on par with some purple belts, it’s a clear sign you’re on your way. Of course, there is something to be said about casual practitioners testing themselves against competitors. If you know the guy trains three times a day and you only train three times per week, it’s not fair for you to gage yourselves against the guys that can be considered “pros”. So when you compare yourself, compare yourselves to the higher belts that train as often as you do.
How do you do in competition?
Competition is another way to test out your level. The intensity of a tournament is very hard to mimic inside the academy. Your opponents could be tougher in your academy, that’s possible, however the mental pressure at a tournament is a one-of-a-kind thing – it’s hard to control. So part of martial arts is not just knowing techniques and being able to execute them when you’re comfortable, but you also have to be able to perform under pressure. Tournaments are a good way to see if you can keep your technique consistent. This will be also something that your instructor will probably keep an eye on.
Are you putting in the proper mat time?
Beside technique, a lot of instructors look at the amount of time you spend training at your home academy. As sporty as jiu-jitsu has become, it is still a martial art. So when you receive a belt from someone, you represent the team and the instructor. There is a connection between instructor and student. So although you may be good, don’t expect a belt right away if you happen to pop in once a month while training in several other gyms. In martial arts, you still have to respect your instructor and show a level of commitment to your gym. Not all professors value this in the same way, but it’s definitely a factor.