Over the past few days I’ve been exchanging emails with Serra Jiu-Jitsu’s Billy Hofacker, Billy Ho (cool nickname right?) is a Matt/Nick Serra brown belt and runs a site called TrainingforMMAFitness.com. Not to mention he manages a Serra Jiu-Jitsu location and instructs there.

In those emails we’ve been discussing everything from upcoming MMA fights, to who Matt Serra’s next opponent should be, to his progession as a fighter, and mine. But the one thing we’ve been talking about more than anything is BJJ.

I’m not belted under anybody and have basically taught everything to myself (not recommended) and he’s a brown belt under two Renzo Gracie blackbelts…a stark contrast to say the least.

So I like hearing his take on all things BJJ because I’ve grown to really love the sport and he knows what he’s talking about.

Since I don’t get to be around high level grapplers everyday (hell I don’t think I’ve ever even rolled with anyone above a blue belt) I’m pretty curious as to what it would be like to mix it up with those guys.

And I was wondering what, for example, is the difference between your typical brown belt and black belt if they both have the same tactics under their belt (no pun intended)?

The reason why I asked him that is because I thought once you get to a certain belt level everyone basically knows the same things.

Here was his response…

The Difference Between Belts

Billy Ho: I hear this a lot about how a brown belt knows pretty much the same things as a black belt. I have to disagree with that. Of course it depends though.

I know some black belts that are so good at what they know that they can beat other black belts who may know more techniques than them. The level of knowledge of what they do know goes so much deeper even if their knowledge isn’t as broad.

A lot of this has to do with knowing more setups and transitions.

Knowing more of the little things makes a big difference.

I disagree that a brown belt knows everything that a black belt knows in every case. I base my opinion on personal experience. I’ve been a brown belt for almost 2 years now and feel like a completely different grappler now from when I first got my brown belt.

I compare a brown or black belt to getting a college degree. There is still so much to learn after that point. I’ve seen some black belts dominate brown belts and even other black belts to the point where their opponents looked like they’ve never trained before.

You don’t automatically know everything just because you got a certain belt.

This is why it’s a mistake for grapplers to stop repping and learning new techniques when they get to a certain point.

It’s All About the Details

Well, Billy sort of debunked my original perception that every grappler knows the same things once they reach a certain level and rightly so.

Now I see where he’s coming from when I take into account my own journey through boxing. 2 years ago I thought I knew a lot and now I’ve grown so much that I feel like I didn’t know anything then. I suppose in another 2 years, assuming I’m still striving to improve, I’ll feel the same way again.

I do think at a high level you’re no longer learning the broad strokes, you’re only picking up on the details. But like Billy said, the details can make all the difference in the world.

As for how long it takes to get to that high level depends on work ethic, athletic ability, intellect, instinct, and previous experience.

I hope Billy and I’s conversation was enlightening for you guys, it certainly was for me.