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The Jiu Jitsu Belt System

jiu jitsu belt system

Table of Contents

The Jiu-Jitsu belt system is the best in place among all martial arts for one sole reason; the difficulty it takes to move up the ranks. No other martial art is as strict when it comes to ranking up students as the sport of jiu-jitsu. In This article, we break down what to expect along your journey to getting to a black belt in Mexican ground karate.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt System

White Belt (Year 0 – Year 2)

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 are putting onto the mats!

What should be your main focus during the White Belt?

The white belt in BJJ symbolizes the beginning of a long but very fruitful journey within the martial art of jiu-jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that will humble you, build you up, and teach you hundreds of lifelong lessons as you progress and spend more time on the mats.

You are a beginner and it is time to put your student hat on. This martial art is chalked full of things to learn so if you enjoy learning new things you made the right choice for exercises.

Here are things you should focus on as a white belt-level practitioner:

  1. Staying Consistent with your Training

  2. Learning Technical and Practical Skill

  3. Less Memorization – Take notes and really learn the material

  4. Build Strong Relationships with those around you

white belt to blue belt

Blue Belt (Year 2 – Year 4)

Getting your blue belt is the first big accomplishment you will make in your journey through jiu-jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that is extremely strict in its promotional process so rising in the ranks is something that everyone should be proud of.

The facts are that 90% of people that start in jiu-jitsu as a white belt will drop out before they reach the blue belt. The next stage you’ll get to is the purple belt and only 5% of blue belts stick around long enough to make it to this point!

What should be your main focus during the Blue Belt?

Here is what you should focus on as a blue belt level practitioner:

  • Find 1 or 2 Positions to develop a high level of offensive strength

  • Do not neglect your defense. Defend and escapes from various positions

  • Get good at wrestling

  • Learn all basic submissions and build systems to chain them together

intermediate adult ranking - adult rank blue belt

Purple Belt (Year 4 – Year 5)

Once you receive the purple belt in jiu-jitsu, you show the first signs of expertise. At this point, you have proven to those around you that you are dedicated to Jiu-Jitsu and your growth within the sport. Coaches start to pay particular attention to you, helping you work and hone your skills. Most people spend 3 – 5 years at this stage.

If you decide to compete at this level the competition gets very steep.

Brown Belt (Year 5 – Year 7)

At this stage in the game, you are effectively a master at your craft. There are probably very few things you need to work on in your game and you have been at it for years on end. Most gyms would consider a brown belt to be a “black belt in disguise”. You can effectively teach people techniques, coach your classes, or start to run your gym at this stage in your career.

Most people will spend about 1-2 years at this stage. Again, competitions at this level are very steep especially if you are still competing in divisions at the age of under 30.

Black Belt (Year 7 – Year 10)

On average it takes 10 years to get. This belt is the biggest accomplishment one 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.

black belts - jiu jitsu belt system


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).

White bar Black Belt

You are a competitor but do not teach people. Once you start to teach you will receive a red bar black belt.

Red Bar Black Belt

You may be a competitor but the red bar symbolizes that you are an active instructor in an academy.

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).

jiu jitsu belt system

The Journey from White Belt to Black Belt and Beyond

The journey is the most important component of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I think at times we want to rush through the process so fast because of a combination of our competitive nature and impatience but it truly is an amazing thing to have discovered this martial art at the time we did.

To make it to the “end” (whatever that means) you have to fall in love with the process. Jiu-jitsu is something that no one will ever master, there is always something new to learn along the way. This journey is here to change the fabric of who you are as an individual and that process in itself will take a lifetime.

When you ask black belts if the learning stops when they reach the peak of the martial art what they will tell you may shock you. You’re learning in this art form will never stop, jiu-jitsu will always have something to teach you in the moment.

brazilian jiu jitsu students

“Don’t Worry so Much About the Belt Ranks”

We kind of hate this term in all honesty but it does hold some truth. While we believe that relying on the external validation that comes with belt promotions is not something you should entirely focus on, we are competitive and want to push to rank up. We believe that it makes you a bit lackadaisical when you just think that you should not worry about them.

They matter. They matter a lot. They showcase the hard work and skill you have developed.

It is important for the longevity of your training to feel as though you are progressing in some way shape or form.

jiu jitsu belt system - other martial arts

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to attain a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Typically this is a feat that takes about 10 years to accomplish.

Are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranks standardized?

Yes and no. There is not a committee that promotes you, your coaches who are on the ground with you will be the ones to do that. IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Foundation) does have a guideline that almost every BJJ instructor follows for the time you will spend at each belt.

How do you progress to the next rank in BJJ?

This depends on really one thing, your effort. Studying, taking notes, training a lot, and caring for your body go a long way. People will notice when promotion time starts to roll around.

Do you have to pay for belts or promotions?

No. If you do you are a poser and will be exposed. Not a great idea.

Does your belt rank matter?

Yes and no. It matters for seniority purposes but at the same time we are all one team with one goal in mind, to get better at jiu-jitsu. We are all wanting to improve and become better people on and off the mats, whether you are a black belt or white belt we share that in common. DO not get it twisted though, all upper belts deserve the respect they have earned.

Final Thoughts

Jiu Jitsu is by far the most challenging martial art to rank up in. The community has made it a part of its culture to make getting to a higher level harder to create order, respect, and a strong hierarchy. Without this honor, to the belts that are received, we do not think jiu jitsu would hold its weight as the best martial art to train. If you are looking for a challenge and want to push yourself to get into the best shape mentally, physically, and emotionally, jiu-jitsu is the best way to do so!

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