If you’re new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, then you might be wondering what the deal is with all the different colored belts. In this blog post, we’ll give you a crash course on the BJJ belt system, including its origins and history, why it is used, how promotions work, and what the highest rank one can achieve.
So let’s get started!
The first thing to know is that it was actually modeled after the Judo ranking system. In Judo, there are seven different ranks represented by six different colored belts: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown.
The History Of The Belt System
In 1907, Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, introduced the gi and the belts ranks to his students. In doing so, he established a system where practitioners could track their progress and mastery of the art. The belt system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is similar to the one used in Judo, but with a few differences.
When Judo was first introduced to Brazil in 1914 by Mitsuyo Maeda (also known as Count Koma), the belt system was adapted to better suit the Brazilian culture.
The Gracie family eventually played a role in standardizing the BJJ belt system, settling on four ranks for adults: white, blue, purple, and brown. The black belt was reserved for those who had achieved a certain level of mastery and was not necessarily indicative of a higher rank. The Gracie family also introduced the concept of “degree” belts, which indicated an even higher level of mastery.
Judo vs BJJ Belt System
The main difference between the Judo and BJJ belt systems is that, in BJJ, there are five main ranks represented by five different colored belts: white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red (also called coral). The first six ranks (white through black) correspond to the Judo ranks, but after that, things start to diverge. In addition, promotions in BJJ tend to happen at a slower pace than in Judo. For example, it typically takes a minimum of four years to achieve a black belt in BJJ, whereas a Judo black belt can be achieved in as little as three years.
There are different color belts in Judo that signify the level of proficiency and expertise of the practitioner. The colors, from lowest to highest, are white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. Red is the highest level and is only worn by Judo masters.
Why Does This System Even Exist?
Now let’s talk about why this system is used. The main reason for having a belt ranking system in BJJ is to provide a clear and concise way to measure an individual’s progress and abilities. By wearing a certain colored belt, both practitioners and instructors can quickly identify what level someone is at and what techniques they are likely able to execute.
Another reason for the existence of the different belts is to promote sportsmanship and camaraderie within the community. When you see someone wearing a higher-ranked belt than you, it serves as motivation to keep training hard so that one day you can achieve that rank yourself. Similarly, when you see someone wearing a lower-ranked belt, it reminds you to be humble and to always try to help out those who are newer to the sport.
Adult BJJ Belts
The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the largest and most prestigious BJJ organization in the world. The IBJJF recognizes six ranks for adults: white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red. The red belt is reserved for those who have not only mastered the art of BJJ but also put effort into spreading it to other people all around the world. Therefore we will only talk about the five belts that are realistically achievable (white, blue, purple, brown, and black).
The belts are:
A white belt signifies that a practitioner is new to the art. At this level, students should focus on learning the basic techniques and principles of BJJ. White belts should primarily develop a good understanding of escaping mounts and submissions since they will most likely be put into unfavorable positions in grappling matches during the early stages of their career.
A blue belt indicates that a practitioner has a good understanding of the basics and is beginning to develop their own style. Students at this level should focus on refining their techniques and developing their own gameplan. At this stage, the practitioners learn a large number of techniques and spend a combined 100 hours on the mat at least. The practitioner needs to remain a blue belt for at least two years before being promoted to the next belt.
A purple belt signifies that a practitioner is an experienced fighter who has developed a strong personal style. Students at this level should focus on perfecting their techniques and continuing to develop their gameplan. The IBJJF requires that students be at least 18 years old and recommends they have spent a minimum of 18 months as a purple belt to be eligible for a brown belt.
A brown belt indicates that a practitioner is an expert fighter who has perfected their techniques and has a well-rounded game plan. Students at this level should focus on staying in shape and continuing to refine their skills. Brown belts are considered advanced BJJ practitioners who can start teaching lower-leveled students. The IBJJF requires brown belts to remain brown belts for at least one year before advancing to the black belt.
A black belt signifies that a practitioner is a master of the art. A black belt in BJJ is the highest level of achievement one can realistically earn in the sport. It signifies a deep understanding and mastery of the techniques and principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To be awarded a black belt, a fighter must typically have spent many years training and competing at lower belt levels and must have demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication to the art.
There are different types of black belts in BJJ, depending on the lineage of the fighter’s instructor. The most common type is the IBJJF Black Belt, which is regulated by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. Other common types include the CBJJ Black Belt (regulated by the Confederação Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu) and the Nogi Black Belt (awarded by some schools that focus on no-gi grappling).
Being a black belt in BJJ is a lifelong commitment to learning and improving one’s skills. Fighters who have achieved this level of mastery often become instructors themselves, passing on their knowledge to the next generation of fighters.
A red belt is the highest level of achievement in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Students at this level should focus on continuing to promote the art.
Red belts in BJJ are the highest level of practitioners, and there are very few of them. In order to achieve a red belt, a practitioner must have already obtained a black belt and must have been training for many years. There are only a handful of red belts in the world, and they are all highly respected in the martial arts community.
In Brazil, the red belt is reserved for those who have achieved the rank of seventh-degree black belt. This is a very prestigious rank that is only held by a handful of people in the world. Some notable practitioners who have achieved this rank include Carlson Gracie, Rickson Gracie, and Roger Gracie.
How Many Red Belts are There?
There are more than 40 red belts in Brazilian jiu jitsu at the time of writing. The Gracie family has the most, with famous names such as Carlos Gracie Sr (10th degree red belt), Oswaldo Gracie (10th degree red belt), Hélio Gracie (10th degree red belt), and many more.
How To Get Promoted?
So how does one actually get promoted in BJJ? In general, promotions are based on a combination of factors, including time spent training, proficiency in techniques, demonstration of good sportsmanship, and competition results (if applicable).
The specifics vary from academy to academy, but typically there is some sort of testing or evaluation process that must be completed before being eligible for the promotion. For example, at my academy, students must first complete a written exam covering the material they have learned before being able to test for their next rank.
BJJ Belt Stripes
Stripes are typically awarded by a BJJ instructor after a student has demonstrated some level of progression in their skills and knowledge. They are usually given out at regular intervals (e.g., every three months), but this can vary depending on the individual school’s policy. In some cases, students may need to achieve a specific goal or accomplish a certain task before being eligible for a stripe (e.g., successfully completing a difficult technique).
Each belt has four stripe positions, and a student can have a maximum of 4 stripes on their belt at any given time. The number of stripes a student has is often used as an indication of their progress and can be seen as a marker of achievement.
Stripes are usually sewn on by the instructor, but some schools allow students to do it themselves. There are a few different ways to sew stripes onto a BJJ belt, but the most common method is to simply stitch them onto the end of the belt.
When it comes to the actual stripes themselves, there is no standard size or shape. They can be any color and are often made from simple materials like cloth or ribbon.
The black belt doesn’t have stripes per see but degrees; all promotions thereafter are more formal.
While stripes are not required for participation in BJJ, some people enjoy working towards them as it provides a sense of accomplishment and can be a fun way to track progress.
Kids BJJ Belt System
The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) Kids belt system is a great way for kids to progress in their jiu-jitsu training. The IBJJF has a set of specific guidelines that must be followed in order for a child to receive their next-level belt. Here are the requirements for each belt level in the IBJJF kids belt system:
White Belt: A child must be at least four years old to start training and can be promoted to the white belt after six months of consistent training.
Gray Belt: A child must be at least six years old and have one year of consistent training to be eligible for the gray belt.
Yellow Belt: A child must be at least eight years old and have two years of consistent training to be eligible for a yellow belt.
Orange Belt: A child must be at least ten years old and have three years of consistent training to be eligible for the orange belt.
Green Belt: A child must be at least 12 years old and have four years of consistent training to be eligible for a green belt.
Blue Belt: A child must be at least 14 years old and have five years of consistent training to be eligible for a blue belt.
Brown Belt: A child must be at least 16 years old and have six years of consistent training to be eligible for a brown belt.
Black Belt: A child must be at least 18 years old and have seven years of consistent training to be eligible for a black belt.
The IBJJF has a set of specific guidelines that must be followed in order for a child to receive their next-level belt.
So there you have it! That’s everything you need to know about the BJJ belt system. We hope this blog post has provided some helpful insights and that you now feel more confident navigating your way through the different colored belts. Until next time, happy training!
Do you have any questions about the BJJ belt system? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll be sure to answer!