The Definitive BJJ Guide To Belts and Ranking

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t mess around when it comes to their ranking system and belts. BJJ is by far one of the most strict with their system than any other martial art. There are only a few belts, meaning that immense amounts of time will be spent earning each one. Sometimes, you may even question if you are working towards that next belt or staying in the same spot or even plateauing. BUT HEY! Embrace the plateau - it’s only going to make you better. The belt ranking consists of: white, blue, purple, brown, black, & red.

Brazilian jiu jitsu belts and ranking

What are BJJ belts?

BJJ belts signify someone’s ranking. It is very common for stripes to be added to the end of a colored belt to signify progress towards the next color. In order to be eligible for a new belt, you must receive four stripes in order to be considered. Eligibility usually depends on skill level, success in competition, knowledge of technique, time on the mats, and overall dedication to BJJ. Some schools require testing for a new belt and some don’t. There are different variations for how to tie a BJJ belt, but a belt is usually worn over your jacket that goes left over right. Put the belt in the middle of your stomach, wrap it behind you, and pass off the ends to the opposite hand. When you bring the belt from behind you, lay one end across your stomach and the other on top. Take the belt that is in front and loop it under.

A Brief History Of BJJ Belts

There is relatively little information written in English about the development of the color system of BJJ belts. However, it has been accepted by the official Jiu-Jitsu federation. Helio and Carlos Gracie developed the original Gracie Jiu Jitsu belt system in 1952. Black belts were used for the first time in 1967.

The Brazilian jiu jitsu belts

No matter what, remember to enjoy the process. Practice with honor and pride - but your color belt isn’t the whole process.

White Belt

A while belt is the time to frame your intentions for future learning. It’s all about learning what you don’t know. It’s the ultimate jigsaw puzzle that you need to figure out. Your white belt is your outline before filling in the center. Control your ego, feel it out, learn to stay calm and focused, choose one technique and master it. Nothing is expected of you at this point besides determining your mindset.

Blue Belt

Blue belt signifies a core competency in Jiu Jitsu and understanding. A blue belt is where many people decide to quit BJJ because of the time and effort it takes to earn the rank. You develop a strong grasp on fundamental moves, understanding the philosophy of BJJ, overall knowledge of basic techniques, and strong defense and escape skills.

Time: 2-3 years that depends on competition, mat time, or prior grappling experience.

Purple Belt

A purple belt is usually considered to be an advanced rank in BJJ and someone with a dedication toward the sport. Purple belts tend to focus more on the methodical in stringing together technique, power, and strategy. This is where filling in the outline really begins and embracing the mental / muscle memory that is required for BJJ.

Time: 4-6 years to become a purple belt.

Brown Belt

Brown belt is the final belt before black belt (yay!). A brown belt has a full understanding of jiu jitsu and has only a few adjustments to make before making that final leap to black belt. Brown belts will know how to control and defend with profound understanding of BJJ on a mental and physical level. That technical and mental game is STRONG.

Time: Usually five years. Must be a brown belt for at least one year before becoming black belt.


Black Belt

Ahhh, the belts of all belts -- the coveted black belt. A black belt is a true representative of BJJ on and off the mats, essentially an expert. Black belts also usually obtain the title professor which is similar to the way that Japanese classify teachers as sensei. While the journey has reached a momentous milestone, the learning and journey are far from over. It is very common for black belts to be considered as those who are really beginning to understand jiu-jitsu.

Time: Requires three years before going to the next black belt rank. 


Red Belt

Represents the highest level of achievement in BJJ, but honestly, it has been given to less than 100 people -- don’t worry about it.

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