Similar to other martial arts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an art form that is measured by series of belt level progressions. However, unlike other martial arts, achieving a black belt is no easy task. It can take a practitioner up to 10 years to get their black belt! In this article, we look at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belts and what it takes to achieve your black belt. Everything from their origins, the Jiu Jitsu belt order, what you can expect from each BJJ belt level, and a few tips. Read on below!
Although martial arts can be traced back to ancient Chinese eras, the belt system is actually a fairly recent addition to the art. The belting system of martial arts was first introduced by Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano in the late 1800’s in Japan.
Originally the belt was simply a sash to keep the kimono on during practice. During that time only a white and black sash were available – white for students and black for teachers.
This was changed in the early 1900’s when the judogi’s were introduced, expanding to additional colored belts in between white and black to better track student progression.
Other martial arts soon followed this same model of belting and has become the common tradition in most martial arts today.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belt Levels
One thing to keep in mind is that not all belt levels are created equal. In some martial art forms, you can expect to be awarded a black belt within two or three years of training, while others may take you up to ten years!
A common analogy that can be used to describe black belts is that it is simply a “bachelor’s degree” for most martial arts. You have only gained the fundamental concepts of the art, but still have many levels (dan’s or degrees) to go before being considered a master of the art. BJJ on the other hand, if you are able to achieve a black belt, you are highly considered a master of the art. That’s of course not saying that there is nothing else to learn – there’s always new techniques to learn and evolve your game!
With that being said, if you think you will be belted every few months, you are in the wrong martial art! BJJ is known to be extremely strict when it comes to belt promotions. It could take you a year or two just to get promoted from white belt to blue belt!
Some even get stuck at a belt level for three or more years! For this reason, many quit as they lose confidence and drive if they aren’t promoted.
BJJ Adult Belt Levels
So what are the belt levels and Jiu Jitsu Belt Colors? How long does it usually take to progress through them to become a black belt in BJJ?
There aren’t many belt levels in BJJ. There are only 5 adult belt levels, and the belt order in BJJ are as follows: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. Nonetheless, on average it can take up to 10 years of training before you can achieve a black belt.
BJJ uses a stripe system in which your instructors add tape to your belt to signify your progression within that belt level. There are typically 4 stripes max you can place on your belt.
Some belts may take a year and some may take three years. It varies from individual to individual. For this reason, many lose drive and confidence if they don’t feel like they aren’t progressing. BJJ is definitely not for the faint of heart – patience is a virtue!
WHITE BELT - The Empty Cup
The first of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belt Levels, the White Belt is the stage where you learn the basic fundamentals in the art of Jiu Jitsu. Often referred to as “the empty cup”, the white belt must have the beginner’s mindset. A cup is only useful when it is clean and empty. The analogy here is that if you want to be a good white belt, you should come in with an open mind, ready to learn and absorb your instructor’s teachings without judgement.
At this level you learn basic fundamental moves, submissions, and positions. This belt level has to be the most frustrating belt level there is! You constantly get smashed and destroyed on the mats! In your first few months rolling, expect to tap – a lot! This can get frustrating especially if you are extremely competitive. It’s important to remember that losing is simply a way for you to learn from your mistakes. Leave your ego at the door, tap early, train again tomorrow. Learn to survive!
BLUE BELT - The Escape and Defense Artist
Once you have attained the blue belt level, you are considered to be proficient in the basic techniques and submissions in Jiu Jitsu. This is belt level where you spruce up your basic knowledge and fundamentals in BJJ. At this level, you learn how to apply your techniques with different combinations that work for you. The blue belt level is considered to be the time you fortify your defenses. You learn to polish up techniques and really start to build the foundation to your game!
Keep in mind that Blue Belt is typically the longest belt. It can take some three or more years! Often referred to as the “blue belt blues,” at blue belt is the level that a lot of people quit. A common reason is that there seems to be a lack of progress. Unlike white belt, where you can gauge how much you are improving, at Blue Belt, your progression isn’t as visible. For this reason, many think they have reached their plateau and get discouraged.
It will definitely take some mental toughness to stick it through. It is important to remember not to chase for belts. Simply come in to train hard, improve your defenses, and continue to build your foundation. That next step will come naturally!
PURPLE BELT - Becoming Well Rounded
At purple belt, you are considered to be highly proficient in Jiu Jitsu techniques. By this time, you have mastered the groundwork on the techniques of your school and have a built up a solid foundation for your style of grappling. The time it takes to get to purple belt is often time much longer than the time it takes other martial arts to get to their black belt. It’s typically at this level that you are qualified to start teaching lower belt and youth classes.
At this point in your career, you more than likely have learned most of the techniques in your BJJ curriculum. It’s at this point that you become very well rounded in your game and start becoming a technical tactician. You will be able to transition from technique to technique much more fluidly and pretty much dominate white belts and blue belts in class.
Out of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belt levels, purple belt has to be one of the most important. It is the time where you finish laying the foundation to your entire game. You will be solid from many position, and truly start to specialize your style.
BROWN BELT - Refining and Mastering the Technique
At the brown belt level, you are considered to be a master of the art. At this level, you are no longer learning the techniques, you are simply refining them. This is the stage where you fine-tune your movements and submissions.
At brown belt, you truly forge your style, being able to shift from defense to offense in a split second. Your top game will be extremely deadly, passing, smashing, and simply dominating lower belt levels with ease. At this point, you will have a vast technical knowledge that you will be able to develop your own twist to your technique.
This is the belt level where you start giving back to your school. It’s expected for you to start teaching and coaching other students. Lower belt levels will have a great respect for you at this level, and highly regard you as mentor. This might be the point in your career where you begin to realize how passionate you are with Jiu Jitsu!
BLACK BELT - Professor of the Arts
Getting a black belt is no easy task. It takes years of practice and thousands of hours of rolling on the mats! Getting your black belt is like getting a PhD. In fact, some of the more traditional schools refer to their black belts as “professor.” You have truly gained a mastery of the arts.
With years of experience, black belts have a great intuition and a deeper understanding of movements during matches. You will have an instinctive feel, knowing what moves are coming next. You are typically 3 to 5 steps ahead of lower belts.
Black belts are held at a much higher standard. Students look up to you as their mentor and teacher, looking to you to guide them in their own journey. A black belt continues to stay humble and respectful, always looking to help others. They understand that achieving the belt isn’t the end of the journey, but a start of a new one.
Things You Should Know About Your Belt
You worked hard for your belt. It’s only right that you learn properly take care of it! Here are a few things you should know about your belts.
Tying Your Belt
First off, learn how to tie your belt! When you start rolling on the mats it is likely that your belt will come loose. It’s crucial that you learn how to tie your belt properly. A properly tied belt is tied belt is a sign of respect for the arts.
There are several ways you can go on about tying your belt, depending on your own personal preference. Some don’t mind it loose or even have it come off completely while others prefer it extremely snug.
A top player, for instance might prefer the belt not coming loose so that they don’t give out weapons to the bottom player who might like use your own lapel against you in a match. On the other hand, a bottom guy that prefers to use his own lapel to choke you out might prefer the looser fit.
Regardless of the method, choose the method that best suits you. Check out this article for five ways to tie Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts.
Also, check out the video below, for one of the traditional ways to tie your belt:
Keep your belts clean! One common superstition in martial arts is that you shouldn’t ever wash your belt.
There’s an old story that originated in Japan as to why belts should not be washed. According to this story, people were only granted white belts by their master. And after years of hard work and training, your belt gets darker from all the blood, sweat, and tears endured throughout the years. With this notion, your belt gets darker and darker until it eventually becomes black so that you can join the ranks of black belt. There certainly a romantic feel to this but keep in mind that it is simply old folklore.
Aside from this superstitious belief, some believe that if they wash their belts that they’ll being washing away the knowledge they gained as well. False. The only thing you’ll be washing away is years of bacteria and bad hygiene!
Seriously, wash your belts. They’re made of the same type of material as your gi. If you don’t wash them, they accumulate bacteria, fungi, and other viruses that could be transferred to yourself or others. Although there might be some sentimental value feel to not washing your belt, but it’s an old and dying one. Not to mention, its gross! Wash those smelly belts!
Enjoy the Journey
The truth is everyone wants to get their black belt as soon as possible. Especially in the earlier stages in your BJJ career. It’s human nature. We want to strive to be the best there is in what we love to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s great to have that hunger!
But let’s not forget about the most important part of getting the belt – the journey you take to get there.
As you continue your Jiu Jitsu journey, you’ll soon realize that the belt isn’t as important. At the end of the day, you started your journey for something other than the belt. Maybe you started your journey to make new friends. Maybe you started it for weight loss reasons. Or, maybe you got into Jiu Jitsu simply to try something you haven’t tried before.
Whatever your reason may be, it is important to take a step back and really focus on what really matters. It isn’t the belt. It’s the friendships and bonds you’ve made with your training partners. It’s the weight you’ve lost, the new techniques you’ve learned, and the confidence you’ve built. The character you’ve become inside and outside of the mat is much more important.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts shouldn’t be the goal. It should simply be the outcome of your own personal growth. The more you train, you’ll soon realize that it isn’t about the belt. It’s about the journey. Enjoy it!
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an extremely difficult art to master. Achieving a black belt in BJJ is no easy task. BJJ is notoriously strict when it comes to belting. It can easily take dedicated practitioners ten years before they achieve their black belt - sometimes even more!
Your journey is going to be a long and difficult one. As you progress through you Jiu Jitsu belt order, each belt level will feel like a milestone. It will feel like a hard-earned achievement to be sure. But even more important than the belts you attain is the journey itself.
Throughout your progression attaining different levels of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts, you not only gain techniques and self-confidence, you gain friendships and personal growth. So, enjoy the ride!
Thanks for reading! Train hard! Roll Safe!