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Life is a video game and each day we get the choice to level our avatar up or stay stagnant where we are. Jiu-jitsu is the best way to level yourself up in all aspects of life. So many lessons are learned on the mats that would be nearly impossible to pick up through any other sport. The progression system within the sport is an external way to validate that you are becoming a new human. In this article, we discuss the BJJ belt system in place for someone who commits to the sport.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a grappling martial art that has been used widely for thousands of years. The art form is practiced by over 3 million people and started to gain popularity due to the introduction it had to the world stage through the UFC.
Like many other martial arts, jiu-jitsu has a belt system that creates a hierarchy within the community. The hierarchy naturally creates an environment that is based on skills, commitment, and respect.
Getting to the next stage is a gradual process that will take commitment from individuals who want to climb the ranks. Belts are not given out like candy and they never will be. Even in the case that they were, you can immediately tell when someone is faking it.
Jiu-jitsu is a sport that will take at least 10 years to reach the highest level. The average person most likely will not make it to the top, to progress through this art you have to level yourself up and become an above-average human in your discipline, commitment, and skills.
There are two divisions within jiu-jitsu. The kids and the adults. It makes sense to separate the two because the strength output from these two demographics is completely different. You will stay in the kid’s division as long as you are under the age of 16.
It is important to note that every coach is going to be different in the way they promote their students. Some will progress faster than others just due to the philosophy that the coaches have around promotions. If your child trains jiu-jitsu, which is something we highly recommend, to begin with, make sure they are focused on their progress with the art rather than the belt around their waist.
You will notice that each rank has sub-categories that can be achieved. Most coaches will keep the same color belt and just stripe the belt they are currently training in. After breaking the yellow belt, a child that is training in jiu-jitsu will be most likely to receive a blue belt upon turning the age of 16.
Kids usually only get theion tor when they turn 16 no matter how high they reach within the kid’s system, in some rare instances you will see a kid get promoted to purple belt
The jiu-jitsu belt system for adults is one that most people are common with. The system consists of these five belts:
What do stripes on your Jiu-Jitsu belt signify?
Stripes represent progress toward the next belt rank. Before moving onto the next rank you have to get four stripes within the respective rank that you are currently in. In most cases people do not jump over stripes but it is possible if someone has progressed tremendously since their last promotion.
BJJ Belt System
As a BJJ white belt, you are learning the most. It is the stage where most of your major fuck-ups will happen. It’s aimed at creating a framework for the future knowledge that you will learn while taking on Brazilian jiu-jitsu. White belts learn basic techniques and do their best to just survive at this stage.
As a white belt, you should just be a sponge for knowledge. The majority of your time and effort will be spent on learning techniques and learning how to get out of bad positions you find yourself in while rolling.
Students at the Blue Belt level will have a strong idea of how they should attack. A student with the coveted blue belt can use good defensive tactics and can escape major positions with ease in most cases.
At this stage, you would still be considered a beginner in some respect but chances are you’re still making fundamental errors, but you’re keeping enough knowledge to take the right steps. As the blue belt, you realize skills are missing or crucial techniques that need cleaning up. When a blue belt is achieved, the ability to increase independence and confidence will grow.
The blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the belt that you will spend the majority of your time at. At a minimum expect 2 years as a blue belt but in some cases, the grind up to a purple belt can take an added 4 more years. Getting to the Purple belt is a serious accomplishment because by this time majority of people have given up on getting to this point.
Athletes over the age of 16 years old can receive this belt. If an athlete is under 16 they will just progress within the realm of the kids ranking system.
The purple belt is the stage at which you start to show real competence. Most people will tell you it is a sign that you are on your way to mastering this martial art. By this time, you have spent at least 6 years training and brand-new white belts will look at you for guidance.
If you make it here, your path to getting to the black belt is clear as day. You’re right around the corner from the biggest accomplishment you can get within this martial art. Do not give up and be sure to take care of your body so you do not have any major setbacks along the way.
The youngest you can be to possess this belt is 18 years old.
Currently, the IBJJF requires practitioners to spend twelve months with a purple belt before they can get promoted to a brown belt. You can check the timeline for the belt system on their website (source). The youngest you can be to possess this belt is 18 years old.
Competing with a brown belt can be intimidating because this position is one in which IBFJJF allows movements such as hooks, reaps, or knee bars.
The black belt is the last stage of the Jiu-jitsu ranking system. At this stage you are considered a master of your craft in many ways but may not feel like it at times. Even when you reach this stage there are still many things to look forward to.
Chances are, if you make it here, you have shown to those around you the type of person you are. We have spoken to many black belts and they tell us the world opened up to them when they got this rank. They pass on wisdom to lower belts (like ourselves) saying things like belts do not matter, what matters is that you proved that you could show up for yourself and completely change who you are as a human.
What lies beyond black belt?
After receiving the black belt there are degrees that a black belt will receive. The Red and Coral belts are real, and IBJJF recognizes them. This class is called “grandmaster”, there are currently only 19 IBJAJF red belts and most belong to the Gracie family. Yvonne Duarte made history and received the coveted red belt at the start of August 2021 (source).
Here is How Black Belt Degrees Work
First Degree Black Belt – Earned after 3 years of proven activity in Black Belt
Second Degree Black Belt – Earned after 3 years in the First Degree stage or spending 6 years as a black belt
Third Degree Black Belt – Earned after 3 years in the Second Degree stage or 9 years as a black belt
Fourth Degree Black Belt – Earned after 5 years in the Third Degree stage or 14 years as a black belt
Fifth Degree Black Belt – Earned after 5 years in the Fourth Degree stage or 19 years as a black belt
Sixth Degree Black Belt – Earned after 5 years in the Fifth Degree stage or 24 years as a black belt
As a black belt, the last degree you can get is the 6th degree. When you reach this stage you will be presented a whole new belt known as the coral belt or red belt. Getting to a BJJ black belt is enough of an accomplishment already, the number of people that will make it to this stage is so few and far between. As a red belt, you are still considered a black belt. The highest-ranking color belt you can receive is the tenth-degree black belt (signified as a red belt).
Keep Showing Up
That’s 80% of life and is a good place to practice this is within the martial art of Jiu Jitsu. This is just one of the reasons why we firmly believe that jiu-jitsu is a powerful tool for self-improvement. The progression through the system engrains principles in your life that will mold you into a leader amongst your peers.
Keep showing up and putting in the work. Whatever you want in life is going to take a massive amount of time and effort to accomplish anyways. One step at a time, you become the best version of yourself through this martial art. If you can continue to find a way to show up and get 1% better in martial arts we do not doubt in our mind that you will be able to apply the same skill in your daily life.
Don’t worry so much about the belt ranks
What is most important is your actual progression. Belts are a great way to show that you have put blood sweat and sometimes tears into something. It is a manifestation of your work. At times it feels really good to get the validation that comes with belt promotions and there is nothing wrong with embracing that feeling. Do not get addicted to it though, that’s how you fall into the trap of finding yourself in stages of the blues.
How do you progress to the next rank in BJJ
Each belt represents the amount of time, effort, and skill someone has showcased to those around them. Jiu-jitsu is a lifelong journey and getting to the highest level will require serious levels of commitment on your part. BJJ belt progression is a gradual process that requires you to stay consistent over long periods. Brazilian jiu-jitsu belts are not given out to those that are not worthy of it or even to those who just “show up”, you must earn each promotion.
At the Grapplers Graveyard, we are focused on providing you with the insights and tools to make it to the end of the journey.
It is important to establish your why when you first start. Allow jiu-jitsu to do its job in morphing you into a new human, it is a beautiful process if you allow it to fully take place!
This article broke down the belt systems for adults and children who train in BJJ. We hope you found value in this. Be sure to check out this article on the essential items you will need to have when training jiu-jitsu!