Black Belt Show Preparation: Part 2

A system to MASTER.

The Black Belt Show Preparation System: Passing the test for each belt – WHITE, BLUE, PURPLE, BROWN, BLACK, RED – represents a different benchmark of preparedness. Attack each belt test sequentially for a show.  The further you progress before the show, the harder you will crush.

Last time, we discussed the white, blue, and purple belts.  (Read that first here.)

The PURPLE BELT is generally good enough for most shows, I personally will not commit to a show unless I think I’ll have time to pass at least the PURPLE BELT test beforehand.  And frankly, it’s not realistic to aim too much higher for every gig. Not every gig can be a RED BELT gig. You have to prioritize and make smart decisions.

But for those special gigs that you decide to take to the next level...

Jiu Jitsu fighters dressed in black and white, wrestling on the ground during a tournament


The path walked.

The Test:

The jiu jitiero/a, having recorded an passable simulated run of the gig while playing along with the playlist, will obtain their BROWN BELT.

On Stage:

You won’t feel in complete control, but you’ll competently make it through the show–and you’ll crush your hero moments.

Training Tips:

  • Simulate the gig as closely as possible. Set up the mic, music stand, and everything else as it will be.  Stand if you’ll be standing.

  • Play everything down top to bottom.  Only rest as much as you will get to on the gig.

  • Don’t forget stage presence.  Behave as you will on stage.

  • It may feel silly and take a lot of effort up front, but every detail you simulate will add to your comfort on stage.  For very important gigs, I’ll set up chairs for a fake audience and even wear the correct outfit.

  • No need to take the time to listen RIGHT AWAY to your recordings.  Put them on during your downtime–just like with the playlist.




The path mastered.

The Test:

The jiu jitiero/a, having recorded an outstanding simulated run of the gig in silence, will obtain their BLACK BELT.

On Stage:

You’ll feel confident.  You are in control. All moments will feel as solid as the HERO MOMENTS.  ...But the music stand holds you back.

Training Tips:

  • Picture the accompanying music as vividly as possible while you play.  Don’t skip the rests. Sing the other parts until you come back in.

  • The simulation should be just as vivid as your BROWN BELT test.  Keep up your stage presence.

  • If you feel silly rocking out in silence, turn the volume knob on your imagination way up.

  • Unless time budget prohibits, resist the temptation to shorten forms for your test.

  • This will feel unnatural and profoundly difficult.  This is like a runner training with foot-weights. You are being forced to internalize the show. The gig itself will feel like removing those weights.

  • Work up to this by playing along with the playlist set to a very low volume–quiet enough that you have a little trouble hearing it while you are playing.



RED BELT: (highest degree BLACK BELT in Jiu Jitsu)

The blindfolded warrior.

The Test:

The jiu jitiero/a, having completed the BLACK BELT test without aid of charts, will obtain their RED BELT.

On Stage:

You’ll have such a high level of control over your parts that you can focus on higher level aspects of musical and stage performance.  You’re gonna have a blast. Stadium level execution.

Training Tips:

  • You may progress to this test by 1) playing along with the recordings off-book and 2) playing along with the recordings at a very low volume.

  • This can be wise preparation even for gigs where you will be able to read.  You always want to be further along in the practice room than you expect to be on stage.  Stage-fright always reduces our ability. Have chops to spare.



Go forth, jiu jitiero/a, and shed.

Jiu Jitsu Winner


Bryant Smith
Contributing Editor

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