What is a BJJ Red Belt and How do you Get It?

What is a BJJ Red Belt and How do you Get It?

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is very rare that anyone receives a red belt. It takes decades of work in BJJ to even be considered for a red belt. The politics that go into deciding if a person gets a red belt is a whole other confusing matter altogether.

For this article we’re going to break down everything about the BJJ Red Belt. Everything from the history of the BJJ Red Belt, how to get to it, and how many red belts we have thus far. 

Bjj Red belt

What is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Red Belt?

The BJJ red belt or coral belt is the highest rank that a practitioner can achieve in BJJ. It takes decades of work to even be close to being considered for it. You would have to be in Jiu Jitsu almost 50 years or more to qualify for a BJJ red belt!

The Traditional BJJ Belt System

To put in perspective how long it takes, we can take a look at how long it takes for normal belts

  • White Belt: The beginning of the BJJ Journey! At this level practitioners will be learning the fundamentals of the sport. This usually takes 1-2 years to progress to the next belt. 
  • Blue Belt: At this level, you will have become proficient with the basics and are starting to develop your game. This is one of the longer belts and where most quit! This belt takes roughly 3-4 years to progress to the next level. 
  • Purple Belt: Once you have reached this level, you have gained a love for the sport. It's at this level you really start to become deadly and start becoming very well rounded. It could take about 2-4 years to attain your brown belt. 
  • Brown Belt: You will have attained a level of proficiency that you can even start to mentor the lower belts. This is where you truly become very masterful. Your moves will have become so precise, fluid, and effortless. It takes practitioners usually 2-3 years to finally be awarded their black belt. 
  • Black Belt: Once you have attained the black belt level, you have truly gained a mastery of the art. At this level, your level of understanding has become instinctive and can easily predict movements. It can take practitioners 10-12 years to get your black belt from starting from white belt. 

Going from belt to belt is no easy task. That's why BJJ is not for the faint of heart. You really have to have the patience and a love for the sport to accelerate in the rankings and eventually get your black belt.

It takes years of practice and thousands of hours of mat practice. But getting your black belt is not the end of the journey - there's a whole other level after that! 

Advanced BJJ Belt System

After the black belt, the process for the advanced belts in BJJ. This is the beginning of a new chapter in your Jiu Jitsu journey. The process that you go through to advanced through the advanced BJJ ranks are as follows:

  • Black Belt: The first rank of the advanced belts - attained after about 10-12 years of practice
  • 1st Degree: Earned after about 3 years of practice as a black belt
  • 2nd Degree: Earned after about 3 years of practice as a 1st degree black belt
  • 3rd Degree: Earned after 3 years at 2nd degree black belt - the rank of Professor is earned
  • 4th Degree: Earned after 5 years practicing at the 3rd Degree level
  • 5th Degree: Earned after 5 years practicing at the 4th
  • 6th Degree: Earned after 5 years practicing at 5th
  • 7th Degree: This is earned after practicing for 7 years as a 6th degree black belt - a new rank as Master is earned
  • 8th Degree: Earned after 7 years after attaining the Master Rank
  • 9th Degree: This level is where you earn the first Red Belt of Coral Belt - this is attained after about 10 years of practice as an 8th degree Master
  • 10th Degree: The final level belt. You are given the title of Grand master. This belt is given to true pioneers of BJJ and can only be attained by a very select few.
Red belt bjj

What Does a BJJ Red Belt Signify

What a BJJ red belt signifies is that you gave your life to training the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You would need to spend decades teaching and perfecting your technique. This title of Grandmaster takes a lifetime of work to achieve and you most likely will never achieve it.

The Politics of Getting a BJJ Red Belt

Aside from having to train over 50 years to achieve a red belt. You will also have to deal with the politics of BJJ. 

There is not supposed to be ego in BJJ, but its certainly harder said than done sometimes - especially in the advanced ranks!

Each Master and Grandmaster has their own view on what it takes to become a red belt. On top of 50-70 years of training, you need to have done other things to expand the art of BJJ.

This process and requirements is very subjective between Grandmasters. Really because there are no exact list of requirements in the process to become a red belt. The pioneers of BJJ didn’t give any rules on the process of awarding a red belt

It takes a Grandmaster or multiple to decide if someone has earned the rank of red belt and Grandmaster. Even if someone earns the rank, there will be Masters and Grandmasters that will dispute the promotion.  

It’s all a big mess and nobody really knows what the process really is or should be.

How Many Red Belts are there in BJJ

In the history of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, there have been 41 red belts awarded. To put this in perspective since the creation of BJJ let’s say there’s been 50,000,000 that have trained. Of all of those people that trained 41 were able to achieve the rank of red belt.

You think it's tough to get the black belt?The odds are certainly quite difficult to even get to the level of black belt. The odds are astronomical to even get close to a BJJ red belt!

Who was Last Awarded their Red Belt?

The last red belt was awarded to Rickson Gracie in 2017. There was not much dispute in Rickson being awarded the rank. Many already considered Rickson the greatest ever and the best of the Gracie family.

Rickson was awarded the belt by his brother Rorion Gracie, who also holds the rank.

Another special promotion took place with red belt Grandmaster Flavio Behring. His 80th birthday marked 70 years in BJJ.

Since he cannot receive the 10th degree, he decided to promote himself back to white belt. This was to signify he completed his life cycle with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and was beginning again.

What Grandmaster Behring was showing was that Jiu Jitsu has no end and the cycle always continues.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hopefully this article helped you understand some of the history behind the BJJ red belt. It takes a lifetime of work. And only a select few practitioners will even receive the belt. There are BJJ Politics behind it and it can be a bit confusing to understand who gets it and who doesn't

But don’t be worried about receiving these advanced belts. At the end of the day, it isn't about the belt. It's the passion. It's the journey - journey with no end if you have a love for the sport. Keep on training, and enjoy the ride!