August 15, 2020
Bjj

BJJ Belts and Ranking System: A Definitive Guide

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or the “gentle art” received its belt system in 1952 through Helio and Carlos Gracie. 

The progressive darker shades mean the wearer holds an instructor diploma or even can be professors. Of course, you must remember, acquiring all the belts is no easy task in BJJ. 

It can take over 10+ years to get the first black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If you wish to become an instructor, the progressive black belts will hold red bars. As for a non-stricter, it would be a black belt with one white stripe. 

The belt progression for BJJ is a journey of hard work, daily training sessions, and discipline to receive the next belt in line.

Now, the jump into the next belt is no easy task. BJJ’s belt system might contain a lesser number of color progression but each requires years of training and practice before being worthy of the next. 

According to information under the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation or IBJJF, there are no set times for the progressive belt acquisition. Instead, this decision stays under the responsibility of an instructor. 

When an instructor deems you appropriate for the next belt, you can prepare for the examination. Various factors play vital roles in this decision such as your age, duration of your present belt, overall ability, focus-factor, and more. 

IBJJF takes in age-factor as a serious criterion for trainees to be deemed fit for the next grade. Let us take the example of a purple belt.

You as a purple belt-holder might have the capacity to progress to the next belt in no time. But you must retain your purple belt for at least 2 years before the brown belt promotion under a qualified BJJ instructor. 

For those who wish to become instructors also have the power to promote a trainee to a black-belt, while holding a 2nd-degree black-belt under their certification. 

Brazilian Jiu JItsu Black Belt and blue kimono gi

BJJ Belt Progression Order

In terms of age, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system has 8 belts for adults and 13 for children. 

The belts for children include:

  1. White
  2. Gray/ Grey White Stripe/ Grey Black Stripe
  3. Yellow/ Yellow White Stripe/ Yellow Black Stripe
  4. Orange/ Orange White Stripe/ Orange Black Stripe
  5. Green/ Green White Stripe/ Green Black Stripe

And as for adults, the progressions look a little like this:

  1. White Belt
  2. Blue Belt
  3. Purple Belt
  4. Brown Belt
  5. Black Belt
  6. Red and Black Belt which is the 7th-degree black belt
  7. Red and White Belt (8th-degree)
  8. Red Belt (9th-degree)

Meaning, the 5 primary colors for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training include, white, blue, purple, brown, and black. The 8th and 9th-degrees portray expertise in the field of BJJ as a martial art discipline. These include the red and white stripes to reflect further expertise. 

BJJ Belt Progression Timeline

Belt ColorMinimum AgeBelt Retaining PeriodMin. Time Needed to Acquire
WhiteAny1-2 years1-2 years
Blue162 – 3 years2 years
Purple161.5 – 2 years4 – 6 years
Brown181 year7 years
Black193 years8 – 12 years
Red and Black50731
Red and White57107
Red67Undefined10

Things you Ought to Know for Each of BJJ Belts

When you focus on achieving the next belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, some set techniques, principles, and requirements can help achieve it with precision. 

As a practitioner, here are the few things to remember for all belts and their respective requirements:

White Belt

The White Belt is the Tabula Rasa of BJJ training. As the first belt to a practitioner, the white belt allows complete learning and mastering everything there is to know about BJJ. 

Here, as a trainer, you will have unprecedented time to learn and names of positions, moves, and become familiar with every bit of base knowledge. 

As a white belt holder, your focus should stay on survival and defensive tactics. A beginner needs not to worry about proving their worth by winning or fearing to lose. 

bjj white belt

Here, the goals include:

  • Tap Out: Learning the basics of tapping out. Here, the ego does not play a part. Tapping out helps to know when you are ready to learn the next move. 
  • Survival: As mentioned before, survival as a newcomer is key. You must learn how to block an opponent’s attack and avoid dangerous situations during a ring-brawl. 
  • Blend-in: A white belt practitioner must learn all there is to know how to achieve bodily resistance and defense mechanics. You must gain adequate knowledge of movements and overall grounding techniques. 

Minimum Age

There is no minimum age requirement for a white-belt holder. A holder can keep their belt as long as possible to resume their training until the instructor deems them appropriate for the next belt. 

 Minimum Time

There are no minimum time criteria involved with white-belt. This is your first belt and can help you jump start your passion for learning more under the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu discipline. 

Blue Belt

The blue belt might take some time to achieve, however, given the duration of practice, it is the pinnacle of learning in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

As a white belt, your main aim will be to master a decent defense system before seeming deemed for the next level i.e. blue. The blue belt is all about experimentation. 

During this time, you will get to practice on multiple guard forms, and advance towards positional dominance. The time allotted for blue belt helps a practitioner learn more on back strangles elbow sweeps and various other escape routes. 

This is the core belt of learning and attaining the fundamental understanding of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu discipline. As the basic techniques are diverse in Jiu-Jitsu, a blue belt holder can modify their skill set accordingly. 

blue belt bjj

Goals

  • Development: As a new blue-belt holder, you must hone your techniques of survival and defense. 
  • Practice: A blue-belt helps you learn more about submitting the enemy than that of being submitted. 
  • Learn Tactics: A blue belt holder has permission to learn about escaping mounts, mastering guard pass, and partaking in competitions. Make sure to utilize these benefits. 
  • Choose Right Opponents: Your goal is to train your weaker moves with white belts and challenge the practice with higher belts. 

Minimum Age

You will need to be the minimum age of 16 to receive the blue-belt from your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor. 

Minimum Time at the Belt

You must maintain your belt for a maximum of 2 years before becoming eligible for the next one (purple).

Minimum Time to Achieve the Belt

Depending upon your time on the mat, competitive experience, and overall grappling quality, the instructor will be deeming you worthy after 2-3 years of being a white belt. 

Purple Belt

The purple-belt is a sign of expertise as well as redemption. It showcases an advanced form of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that the practitioner has mastered everything there is to know on defensive tactics and offensive takedowns. 

A purple belt holder becomes their teacher, rectifying their past mistakes in techniques and polishing them for powerful groundwork. 

A well-trained purple belt is at par with the knowledge in Jiu-Jitsu, as a black belt, of course, limited in refinement. As an advanced belt-holder, you can formulate your sequential strategies, coordinating various move-sets from your training. 

Here is what you can do when training as a certified purple-belt:

  • Brawl against other blue belts, effectively submitting them to their defeat. 
  • Can train with brown belt holders for combat practice. 
  • Must train muscle memory to dish out personalized special attack combinations that can result in a powerful win. 

A purple belt holder’s attack style is steady and slow, but highly impactful. They can string together, various techniques, and create their personalized game plans to execute on the battlefield. 

The goals of a purple belt holder are compact, on point and attainable if they give their all to the BJJ discipline:

Goals

  • Self-Educate: A purple belt must correct their mistakes without taking frequent help from the instructor. 
  • Assist: As an advanced belt holder, a purple belt JiuJitsuka should train their teaching capability to convey their fighting style to learners. 
  • Self-confidence: As a purple belt holder, you must work on your confidence in yourself to utilize your skills to impart both offensive and defensive tactics during a match. 

Minimum Age

Similar to the blue belt, a person can be of 16 years of minimum age to acquire their purple belt from a BJJ instructor. 

Minimum Time at the Belt

It is advisable to maintain the purple belt for at least 1 to 2 years before heading on to the next promotional belt. 

Minimum Time to Achieve the Belt

Approximately, it takes around 4 to 6 years before you can jump from blue to purple belt. Of course, it also depends on your instructor’s decision to permit you. 

Brown Belt

If a purple belt-holder has perfected a personalized technique, a brown-belt will refine every move to perfection. 

They are the epitome of competitive action when it comes to MMA ring fights. As a brown belt holder, you will also have the choice to progress as a fighter or become an instructor. 

A brown belt holder in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is proficient in training beginner belts on basic approaches such as grappling, mount escapes, and more. 

Not to forget, a brown belt will also make use of superior techniques to take down an opponent or even a lower belt. Counterattacks and full mounts are easy for them due to their understanding of body-weight proportions. 

brown belt

A brown belt, during their training time, can contribute to the following:

  • Perfect top and Bottom Position: A brown-belt holder should have impeccable balance and control during the top as well as the bottom position. The ability to mount must come with the ability to escape being side or top-mounted. 
  • Train Self on Coaching Others: The essence of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu discipline comes from the ability to impart the knowledge to others, especially beginners in the white and blue belts. 
  • Practice on Counters: As BJJ relies on blocks and grapples, a brown belt holder should perfect their attacks against such approaches, which also include leg-locks and strangulation tactics. 

Goals

  • Defeat Fellow Black Belt Holders: The principle of BJJ is to pick someone larger or your size. As a black belt BJJ practitioner, you should sharpen your skills to take on advanced opponents for training. 
  • Expand Your Knowledge: As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, you must continue to learn more and improve your techniques for more advanced and serious competitions. 
  • Personalize Your Style: Your combat style should be lethal, unforgiving, and unique. And the brown belt is the perfect time to personalize the sequential takeovers to land the opponent and mount them over the ground. 

Minimum Age

The minimum age set to attain the brown belt is 19 years. The decision of course also depends on the instructor’s observance of the practitioner’s progress.

Minimum Time at the Belt

A brown belt holder must hold on to their belt status for 1 year before aiming for the ultimate black belt. 

Minimum Time to Achieve the Belt

It takes 1 year to achieve the brown belt from the previous purple. Within this time, a purple belt can create their personalized technique and hone it after receiving their brown belt. 

Black Belt

The black belt is the master-class of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is more than a new experience, rather a combination of every experience, refined and cultured for relentless combat. 

As a fellow practitioner, a black-belt holder is humble, disciplined, and helpful towards the lower level practitioner. A black belt BJJ practitioner can refine the most basic moves and turn them into lethal counter-blocks and attacks. 

Moreover, a BJJ black belt knows when to tap-out, move, block, and accept an attack to benefit from it later on during a brawl. It is more of a “coming of age” ceremony when a brown-belt practitioner can attain their black belt after passing through the tests. 

Black-belt sessions include more teaching than that of learning. A black belt jiu-jitsuka has the capability of formulating a different combat tactic for each of their competitions. 

They also gain the status of a teacher, similar to the Japanese “sensei”. The black belt has 6 levels for achievement. 

Of course, to achieve the first black belt in your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey, the official IBJJF certified black belt requirements are as follows:

  • A practitioner should have their certifications in first aid and CPR
  • They should also attend an IBJJF referee course and score over 60%
  • Overall affiliation should also be under IBJJF
  • Promotions must take place under an IBJJF-affiliated 2nd-degree black-belt holder and instructor. 
  • Their positions should be either of an assistant instructor or a practitioner from an IBJJF-affiliated gym. 

The black belt phase not only showcases practical knowledge but also the capability to teach a class, everything there is to know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

Goals

The goals of a black-belt practitioner cum instructor are strict, challenging, and reflect the hard work that can help them progress to the advanced stages. 

  • Humility: As a black belt holder, you must portray your humility and kindness towards fellow practitioners. Ego and showing-off hold no place in the Jiu-Jitsu approach. Only a disciplined student can reform into an effective instructor. 
  • Complete-Understanding: Although a black-belt BJJ Jiu-jitsuka reserves their personalized brawling methods, they must have an impeccable understanding of every move-set, defensive and offensive, present in the discipline. The ability to customize fighting styles portrays a black belt’s advanced abilities. 
  • Personal Progress: A black belt jiu-jitsuka must also remember that this belt is not the ultimate, but only the starting point for the road ahead. They must never discontinue training and practices during their instructor-services. Personal progress aids in improving the overall understanding of the discipline’s methodologies. 

Minimum Age

The minimum age requirement to attain a black belt would be 19 years. The progress should take place under an IBJJF-affiliated instructor. 

Minimum Time at the Belt

A black belt jiu-jitsuka in BJJ must retain and train under their first black belt for 3 years before aiming for the progressive ranks. 

Minimum Time to Achieve the Belt

The first black belt in Jiu-Jitsu requires approximately 8 to 12 years of rigorous practice and training. The duration, of course, varies with the practitioner’s acquired experience from the previous belts. 

Red and Black Belt

The Red belt is the first step towards you achieving the highest ranks in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. These are belts specialized and reserved for those who have acquired and learned to make proper use of their knowledge on BJJ’s tactical defensive approach. 

It is also known to be the coral belt that you must retain this 7th-degree black belt for 7 years before moving up a rank. While wearing the red belt, you can learn about the advanced techniques and training that can perfectly display your expertise. 

Red and White Belt

This is also the well-known coral belt name-sake, and the 8th-degree black belt under the BJJ belt system. As the holder, you must retain the red and white belt for 10 years before utilizing your training to move up a rank. 

Not to forget, this is a rare-to-receive belt, acquired by only the best and the most advanced red and black belt holders. 

Red Belt

This is the 9th-degree black belt, a life-time achievement to acquire and truly the highest rank to receive in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Only someone with a deep connection to the martial arts style can have their luck at the finest to receive the belt after hard work and dedication.

BJJ Kids Belt System

Belt ColorMinimum Age to Get the Belt
White Belt0-4
Grey Belt4-6
Yellow Belt7-10
Orange Belt10-13
Green Belt13-15

The children’s belt ranking system ranges from 4 to 15 years of age. There are, of course, 5 belts to practice through before knowing how to tackle bullying and street-harassment. 

Here is a list of belts under the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu discipline that can help the children progress further:

White Belt

The white belt portrays the beginner’s years. The learner can initiate their training through:

  • the foundations and basics of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 
  • Physical improvements for grappling and other move-sets.
  • Make sure to add-in mental exercises, breathing techniques to hone these skills alongside physical training. 

Duration of Classes and Stripes

A student can obtain a stripe on their white belt after 20 classes. This is possible after the instructor’s noted observance of the practitioner’s training quality and overall progress. 

Grey Belt

The grey belt reflects the progress of the child’s training from the initial stages. Any child within the age group of 4 to 6 can train through the grey belt BJJ discipline.  

The training comprises of:

  • Practicing positional dominance and overall physical balance. 
  • Co-ordinating through teamwork and practice-fights to help hone the grappling and takedown skills. 
  • Understanding basic instructions to prevent injuring self through practice sessions. 

Duration of Classes and Stripes

The grey belt comes in the plain, with a white stripe as well as a black stripe. A student can acquire 4 stripes on each of these 3 belts. 

Each of these stripes is attainable after 40 consecutive classes alongside one examination to head to the next. 

Kids pratice bjj

Yellow Belt

The yellow belt reflects the 3rd stage of BJJ training for children. A child within the age range of 7 to 10 is eligible for promotion to the yellow belt. 

During the practices, a yellow belt-holder learns about:

  • The LCCT Brazilian JiuJitsu program, a complete combat system incorporating a healthy and fun environment for trainees of all ages. 
  • Training on speed and resistance abilities, as well as positional dominance over opponents. 
  • Learning advanced escapes and defensive tactics such as guard pass, side-control escape (for self-defense), and taking the back. 

Duration of Classes and Stripes

Similar to the grey belt, the yellow belt comes in the plain, white stripe and black stripe categories. Each belt comes with 4 stripes, attainable after 40 classes for every individual stripe. 

Every step of progress is possible after a practical examination of the abilities learned. 

Orange Belt

The orange belt is the continuation of the yellow belt, into more advanced stages of training. A child will need to be within the age range of 10 to 13 for the orange belt eligibility. 

The practices of course include:

  • Heading on to advanced and complicated techniques under the LCCT program. 
  • Adding in various intermediary-level move-sets such as powerful submissions, quick escapes, and taking control over the enemy through methodical grapples and joint locks. 
  • Practicing on self-defense techniques and their foundations. These include escape from full-mounts, back-mounts, joint locks, and more. 

Duration of Classes and Stripes

There are 3 orange belts, plain, white striped and black striped. Each belt is eligible for 4 stripes that come with individual 40 classes for each. 

Green Belt

The green belt signifies the final rank for a child in their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey. It encompasses the overall training, competitions, and examinations for all previous colors and stripes. 

The eligibility for the green belt is within the age range of 13 to 15 years. 

The final training includes:

  • Training on advanced techniques such as closed guard, full mounts, side control, self-defense, butterfly as well as spider guards. 
  • Utilizing positionally dominating moves to immobilize the enemy, a defense tactic that helps the fighter escape unharmed.

Duration of Classes and Stripes

3 of the green belts under training are plain, white striped and black striped. Each of these categories holds 4 stripes, attainable after 40 classes for them individually. 

A final examination for each stripe is a must. 

Rank and Grading

The ranking or grading in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the reflection of a jiu-jitsuka’s learned experience from their responsible training and practices. 

The progress to the next belt is only possible if the practitioner passes the tests under an IBJJF-affiliated instructor. 

Of course, the belt is attainable only if the practitioner holds adequate knowledge and merit on BJJ’s principle till their last belt. BJJ is a discipline of sequential move-sets, each synchronizing with every other technique present. 

When a practitioner can blend in all techniques to deliver grapples, chokeholds, mounts, and joint-locks under their belt expertise, the instructor deems them suitable for the next level. 

Now the rules for rank and grade promotion can vary from one school to another. While some instructors abide by the strict IBJJF laws of minimum belt-time, many provide the next rank through observing the practitioners. 

The latter keeps an eye on the jitsuka’s overall progress before giving out the next rank. 

The factors which help the instructor are:

  • Competitive success
  • The trainee’s skill level (according to the present belt)
  • Mat time (includes practice and training with others in school)
  • Technical knowledge on the offensive and defensive move-sets. 
  • Respect and dedication towards the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu discipline as a “gentle art.”

BJJ Belt Stripes

Various belts under the BJJ discipline come with stripes. The stripes signify a certain amount of progress within the present-belt status and level.

A striped belt has 4 stages (stripes), that the trainee must overcome before aiming for the next color. 

A student will always be eager to receive the next stripe as it is one step closer to ranking up quicker. Of course, this is a decision that a certified-instructor takes up before making the jiu-jitsuka’s final decision on belt promotion. 

How do You Progress to the Next Belt in BJJ

Progress in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu depends on the belt and its stripe status. The decision is ultimately in the hands of a certified instructor who makes the final call of ranking. 

Various IBJJF-affiliated schools do not provide the 4 stripes for belts below the black belt. Of course, the rules also change for schools that provide the stripe system for only a few belt statuses (preferably higher ones).

For impeccable evaluation, a student must:

  • Performative quality
  • Overall proficiency in Jiu-Jitsu till present belt. 
  • Frequency in training. 
  • Proficiency in technical move-sets

and more.

Conclusion


The BJJ belt system requires patience, adequate training and a complete understanding of this traditional martial art. Only then you can pass through all the stages and achieve more advanced belts.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu discipline relies on well-timed defensive tactics, utilizing the brain instead of the body. You can pass the belt stages through rigorous practice and hone your fighting skills for impeccable delivery in the competition ring.

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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