Like many martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a belt system to rank and measure one’s progress.
They are an important part of the art of BJJ, and they signify the progression of one’s technical skill and knowledge of the martial art.
Belts or stripes can only be given to students by a practitioner who has been awarded a black belt.
For adult BJJ practitioners, there are 8 belts in total. For children under 16, there are 13 belts in total. The 8 belt levels for adults consist of the following:
- White belt
- Blue belt
- Purple belt
- Brown belt
- Black belt
- Red and black belt (7th degree black belt)
- Red and white belt (8th degree black belt)
- Red belt (9th or 10th degree black belt)
Achieving a black belt is a lifelong ambition of most BJJ practitioners, and it requires a staggering amount of time, training, hard work, and determination.
There are five primary belt colors for adults; white, blue, purple, brown, and black.
There are four degrees or “stripes” for every belt below black belt, and the black belt itself has six degrees.
The three belts that you can see after black on the above list are there representing the 7th degree and above.
The 10th degree, however, is reserved solely for the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Like many martial arts, the progression of any BJJ practitioner is up to a qualified instructor, rather than any regulatory body.
Instructors need to have enough experience in order to rank their students.
The IBJJF have a number of officially recognized requirements regarding the minimum amount of time a student has to spend on each belt.
A blue belt, for example, has to hold this belt for two years before they can graduate to the next level of belt, which is the purple belt.
Let’s look into each belt ranking in some more detail.
The white belt is the first belt on the ranking system. According to Bernado Faria, the IBJJF World Champion and black belt competitor, white belt BJJ practitioners must focus on their fundamentals.
This includes closed guard posture, opening and closing the guard, three basic submissions from closed guard, three sweeps from the bottom, and escapes.
The elite BJJ instructor John Danaher claims that the top 3 escapes that a white belt should learn are the escape from low mount, side control, and back control.
Firas Zahabi, a renowned MMA coach emphasizes the importance of doing drills when training as a white belt.
The minimum age that you must be to achieve the blue belt in BJJ is 16 years. For BJJ practitioners above 18 years old, they must stay at blue belt for a minimum of 2 years before they can achieve the purple belt.
The blue belt is one that is achieved based on merit, and it is likely to be the belt that most BJJ practitioners will spend the longest time at on the way to the level of black belt.
The blue belt signifies that you can, in fact, survive, and you have achieved a certain level of skill and strategic thinking.
It is a time for experimentation in terms of style, since you have improved your fundamental techniques.
According to John Danaher, the most important things a blue belt should be working on are:
- Being just as effective from the bottom position as on top
- Being able to escape someone of the same level of experience as you
- Being able to tap out some people
- Having a good practical knowledge of various techniques such as the elbow escape, hook sweep, knee slice guard pass in addition to back strangles
Following the blue belt is the purple. Firas Zahobi, the well-known MMA coach says that the purple belt should be difficult to earn and take approximately 5 years to achieve.
The minimum age to achieve this belt is also 16 years, but once achieved the minimum length of time people have to keep this belt is only 1 and a half years.
The purple belt is the one where you start refining your skills and start mentoring blue belts.
Saulo Ribeiro states in Jiu Jitsu University that purple belt students should be building their confidence and believe in themselves and their skill.
The minimum age to achieve the brown belt is 18, and brown belts must spend at least 1 year before they can become a black belt. Saulo Ribeiro describes being a brown belt practitioner as polishing out all the rough edges of your technique.
To become a black belt, a BJJ practitioner has to be at least 19 years of age, and the minimum time one has to be a black belt before graduating to the red and black belt is 31 years.
According to the IBJJF, the requirements to become a certified black belt are:
- Must have full first aid and CPR certification
- Must be affiliated with IBJJF
- Must go to an IBJJF referee course and achieve above 60%
- Must practice in or be an instructor at a IBJJF-affiliated gym
- Must be awarded by an IBJFF 2nd degree black belt instructor
It goes without saying that the black belt is a much sought after achievement for BJJ practitioners.
At this level, one is skilled and experienced enough to develop their own approach to the sport.
On average, it takes around 8 to 12 years for someone to become a black belt in BJJ. There are, however, many exceptions to this trend.
Red and Black Belt
Once a BJJ practitioner has been a black belt for at least 31 years, they can finally achieve the red and black belt, as long as they’re at least 50 years old.
Red and White Belt
After spending 7 years as a red and black belt, you are eligible to be awarded the red and white belt, which is regarded as a BJJ “master’s” belt.
The top rank of belt is the red belt, which is regarded as a BJJ “grand master’s” belt. The 10th degree red belt has only been awarded to the founders of BJJ, Helio Gracie, Gaston, George, Oswaldo, and Carlos.
BJJ has a belt ranking system with very clearly defined requirements and boundaries. Good luck in your journey towards achieving the coveted black belt.
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy our article on ‘How To Learn Jiu Jitsu‘.