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Belt Ranks in BJJ: Gracie Jiu Jitsu System

belt ranks in bjj

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The Gracie family are considered the pioneers of modern jiu-jitsu; so much so that there’s an entire system named after them – Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The primary difference between this and standard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that belt ranks in BJJ are different in the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu System. 

This piece breaks down the meanings of each belt and walks you through the Gracie System.


White Belt (1 – 2 years)

The white belt symbolizes the beginning of your journey in Jiu-jitsu. Most people will spend 1-2 years here at this belt depending on how much time and dedication they put onto the mats!

Combative Belt – First 36 Lessons of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu 

In Gracie Jiu Jitsu there is an in-between belt called the combative belt. It is symbolized by a white colored belt with a blue ring around the waist. This belt is usually given to online learners who completed the first 36 lessons of GJJ. Look at it as a halfway mark to the blue belt!

Blue Belt (2 – 5 years) 

At the blue belt in the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu system, you are considered street proficient. You can easily handle just about any white belt and have a good grasp of your techniques. Furthermore, if you’re good enough, some schools will even allow you to teach the lower belts. 

Purple Belt (3 – 5 years)

Once you receive the purple belt in the Gracie System, you are considered street ready. At this point, you have proven to those around you that you are dedicated to Jiu-Jitsu. Coaches pay more attention to you, helping you hone your skills.  

Brown Belt (2 years) 

At brown belt, you are considered a black belt in disguise. You are extremely proficient, and skilled, with a lot of dedicated time spent on the mats, and are close to mastering your craft.

Black Belt 

On average this one takes almost a decade to achieve. The black belt is the highest accomplishment that you can receive in the sport. It is a symbol of the accumulation of all your training and the time you have spent. 

There are two types of belts at this stage:

White Bar Black Belt

As a white bar black belt you are a competitor but do not teach people.

Red Bar Black Belt

As a red bar black belt you may be a competitor but the red bar symbolizes that you are an instructor.

Stripes for Red Bar Black Belts (Instructors)

Striping on a black belt symbolizes the number of years you have been teaching in the Gracie System. They show the following: 

  • 1st Degree Black Belt – 3 Years teaching
  • 2nd Degree Black Belt – 6 Years teaching
  • 3rd Degree Black Belt – 9 Years teaching
  • 4th Degree Black Belt – 14 Years teaching
  • 5th Degree Black Belt – 19 Years teaching

Some Notes on Striping Belts Within The Gracie System

  • The system normally does not stripe white belts
  • Striping is a way to show progress within your current belt color – they will always signify progress which is important to see as you go along your journey
  • It takes four stripes to max out a belt – but one can still be promoted without them

Understand How to Move Up a Belt in Jiu-Jitsu

One of the main things that the belts system does is that it motivates people to train. However, there are many who feel left out when their peers get promoted while they stay at the same level. It is a terrible feeling since jiu jitsu takes a lot out of you, physically and mentally. 

So, how do you get to that next belt then? Well, different dojos have varying philosophies in this regard. But the one thing they all want to see is you becoming more skilled. Enhancing your technical knowledge and skills is a surefire way to get you promoted in the game. 

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Be Punctual

Enhancing your skills means that you’ll need to put in the work and more importantly – get noticed. So, the first thing that you have to do is show up regularly. Make sure that the instructors know how serious you are about leveling up.

One of the things that jiu jitsu does and other martial arts do is that they instill discipline. To excel in these arts, you must ensure punctuality and this can be tough if you work a stressful job or live far away from the dojo. But you can be sure that this will benefit you a lot in the long term. 

Once you’ve made this a habit, you need to put in the work required at the dojo. Try to absorb the lectures as much as you can and clear any doubts that you may have. But more importantly, implementing what you’ve learnt is what’s going to set you apart from the rest.

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Practice More

You therefore need to do some serious rolling. Rolling is very important in any martial art as it is the closest thing to a real matchup. Your sparring partners will be trying their best to resist whatever you’re trying to do and you’ll be doing the same thing.  

The beauty of rolling is that it tells you what’s wrong and what isn’t working. It allows you to analyze your skills and take a good look at what you can and are unable to do – yet. You therefore need to fix whatever it is that you’re doing incorrectly. 

This won’t just improve your technical skills – it’ll also give you a lot of satisfaction. All those hours being put in the dojo will seem worth it when you get that difficult submission hold locked onto your opponent. Or, when you escape a hold that seemed impossible at a time. 

It will help you know that you’re better than you were yesterday. This is what a belt is also supposed to represent – that you’re a more experienced and knowledgeable practitioner than you once were. Getting better will get you that sweet belt promotion for sure. 

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Stay on the Grind

In order to do the above – be consistent and practice hard – it is imperative that you stay persistent. Jiu jitsu is rewarding but it’s not ballet. Many people get stuck on a belt for a couple of years, which is quite normal really. 

However, you cannot give up even if you see your peers getting promoted while you aren’t. Remember, some people are just naturally gifted and are fast learners – this applies to all walks of life. Still, you don’t need any such gifts to succeed in this sport. 

You only need to build up your techniques and timing while also ignoring the fact that you may be stagnant at a certain skill level. There may be times when you’re improving in the gym but are still unable to win while sparring or in a proper competition. 

The right mindset helps you get better and move up in the belt system. There are no shortcuts to success in this sport as it is all about skill. The proof of this is that even if the toughest black belt loses their coveted belt, their technical knowledge and skills are still theirs to keep.

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Gracie Barra vs Gracie University

Those wanting to train in BJJ often get confused between Gracie Barra and Gracie University. Both teach martial arts and are owned by different members of the Gracie family. Where the distinction lies is their philosophy. 

If you are more oriented towards competition, then the methods taught at Gracie Barra will suit you more. There’s more sparring and the instruction is more fluid according to those who’ve trained at both institutes. It is exciting, but some of their moves may not work in a real fight. 

In comparison, Gracie U is more oriented towards self-defense and combatives training. As the lectures go on, you’ll also learn about the techniques that are taught in regular BJJ gyms, including Gracie Barra. However, you could find the method of instruction a bit slow.  


What makes Gracie Jiu Jitsu different?

It is different thanks to its belt system which is a bit different from the colors standardized by the IBJJF. There are different colors awarded to junior practitioners. It places emphasis on teaching a lot more, instead of just practicing. 

Why is jiu-jitsu called Gracie jiu jitsu?

It gets this name from the legendary Gracie family, whose patriarchs Helio Gracie and Carlos Gracie Sr. are credited with the founding of modern jiu-jitsu. Helio’s oldest son Rorion is one of the people who introduced jiu jitsu to the US and is one of the founders of the UFC.

Is BJJ and Gracie Jiu Jitsu the same?

They are very similar as they were both founded by the Gracie family. The major differences lie in the belt systems. 

What is the hardest belt to get in BJJ?

While there are levels above this, the black belt is considered the top of the mountain in BJJ. It can take more than a decade for a serious practitioner to get one. 

How many belts are there in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?

There are ten belts in the youth system and five major belts in the adult system. Each belt gains stripes as the holder progresses in the art. 

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