About 10 years ago, there were many schools that were run by blue belts. Now, although it may sound insane to many of you, these blue belts were only running schools because they were in regions where there were literally no other belts around. The schools were small, so they didn’t have the funds to fly-in any high level instructors to stay and teach. They either had to travel to the nearest city with a qualified instructor or trust in the teachings of a blue belt. This practice still occurs today, generally in more remote regions.
There are many different levels of blue belts as well. Some blues have a very shallow knowledge base, only using a couple of techniques that work well for them, but there are also extremely ‘geeky’ blue belts that have a huge technical knowledge base but have not been able to practically apply all of them yet – that comes with time and practice. Sometimes they are able to teach these techniques that they themselves have not really used all that much.
After all these different scenarios, the question remains: When is someone ready to pass on jiu-jitsu knowledge? At what level should they do this?
The general consensus in the BJJ community has always been that at purple belt, you can begin to be an assistant instructor. For example, Kron Gracie was already teaching at his father’s school at purple belt. And although we are talking about a high-level practitioner in Kron, this is the general Gracie way of allowing practitioners to start teaching.
Purple belt is also considered to be the beginning of “advanced” jiu-jitsu. Many years ago, when jiu-jitsu was a little less popular abroad, even in the United States, there weren’t even belt divisions – especially in no-gi. Divisions were divided by experience – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. These left the boundaries of what is considered to be “experienced” quite open. But generally, white belts would compete in beginner, blue belts would compete in intermediate, and purple, brown, and black belts would all be clumped together into advanced. Even in the earlier days of the Abu Dhabi World Pro, purple, brown, and black belts were all in one division. So this helps enforce the general consensus that purple is already advanced and thus can start teaching at gyms, and if there is a need in the community, they can open schools and teach beginners.
The bottom line is that anyone with sufficient knowledge can really teach depending on the circumstances. BJJ needs to continue to grow. If a blue belt has to open a gym because there is no other choice, then so be it. It’s better to train than not to train at all. But as a general rule of thumb, it seems that purple belt is the more broadly accepted level where you can accept someone as a teacher (depending on your situation).