BJJ Belt Ranking System Explained – White to Black


Brown belt

Advancing through the belt system—can be a solid goal and purpose for many BJJ trainees. It can fuel someone’s desire to continue on one’s training, and that’s why the belt system exists.

Before 1967, there were only two colored belts, blue and white. White was all the trainees and the instructors—while the blue remained for the professors. Later in this article, we’ll see when you get the prestigious rank of the professor.

BJJ’s belt system is created in such a way that the trainee can see concrete, evident progression in the martial art. First, the trainees start with the basic belt, white. Then, once the trainee advances to the following belts, one can see oneself truly having progressed, which is an effective way in fueling one’s willpower and motivation.

Imagine training for 20 years and still being a white belt. If you’re not a big fan of the art of ground grappling, you wouldn’t be as inclined to continue on with your training. If, however, you can see yourself progressing more and more, your motivation resources are sure to fuel up.

Eventually, without the belt system, people would remain stuck at the same spot. As a result, they would not be as inclined to continue their training. That’s why all martial arts include such system.

BJJ Belt Ranking System

Now, let’s begin with the first color, the white.

White

When you first roll (no pun intended) your new BJJ gym, you’ll get a white-colored belt to pair with your Gi. Some BJJ schools go as far as giving the white belt, even to trainees who do no-Gi BJJ. That is, so they keep themselves humble, even when winning against more advanced trainees.

white belt

The color white represents a fresh beginning. Almost all martial arts have the white belt included in their belt system. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is no different.

Typically, you remain a white belt for about a year into training. Once you have learned the foundation, however, you can progress to the next belt.

The white belt is also called the foundation (basic) belt. You’re going to see a wide variety of white belts, some novices and some already familiar with the basics of the art of ground grappling.

BJJ masters believe it to be the most important belt, as it’s when you begin your training. Without it, there wouldn’t be any fresh starts. Martial arts experts refer to it as the reborn phase of the trainee. While going through it, the trainee will understand the importance of Jiu-Jitsu and will drastically change.

Blue

Next up, we have the blue belt. Once you have learned the basic BJJ moves and became comfortable with them—you can advance to the next color.

The blue belt is where, more often than not, the BJJ trainee learns most of the techniques one will ever learn. A minimum of 2 years in the blue belt is required before progressing to the following color. Honestly, it is when most trainees quit, as the process now becomes longer than what most expect.

blue belt
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Unlike the white rank, the blue belt includes 4 degrees, or stripes. These stripes differentiate between the many trainees who are on their way to progress to the next belt. That is a fantastic method of ensuring your trainees are kept motivated and hungry for progression.

Additionally, you must be 16 years of age before progressing through the white belt into the blue. So, yea, children have a different belt system, which we’ll go over later in the article.

Regardless of the stripes you can attain while being in the blue belt, some BJJ schools include another belt in between this and the one following it. As a result, practitioners are less likely to quit in that stage, as they have another purpose, which seems close-by.

Nevertheless, let’s skip to the next color in line.

Purple

Now that you have mastered the basics and learned most of the moves you’ll ever learn, it’s time for you to progress to the next color: the purple.

The purple belt is the 3rd color in line and is considered as the longest one in BJJ’s system. While official guidelines recommend trainees spend at least 18 months in it, some trainees don’t progress up until they’ve spent 5 years in it. Yes, 3-5 years is what most trainees spend before progressing to the next color.

Purple Flowers
Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

It, like the blue belt, has 4 stripes. Again, it lets the trainees know some progression is close-by. Thus, it’s much easier to remain consistent with the martial art. That stage is where trainees are less likely to quit, as it’s already a habit deeply ingrained in them.

To progress from the blue to the purple belt, you must be at least 16 years of age. We’ll go over the youth’s BJJ belt system later in the article.

If you’re a purple belt, you know how to fight, and do so aggressively. When you’re a blue belt, you’re less likely to be competent of using what you learned perfectly. When you’re a purple belt, however, you can instruct white and blue belts, which is a fantastic improvement from when you just started.

If you have successfully been consistent and dedicated with training, you’re now ready to progress to the next belt. Spoiler alert, it’s the one before black!

Brown

Now that you’re in this stage, you know how to fight fiercely. You have become proficient at the basic and advanced techniques. Likewise, you’re capable of instructing the new trainees, which is, indeed, a respectful feat.

On average, it takes around 8 years to reach the brown from the white belt. More often than not, the trainees quit before achieving that feat. If you’re one of the few who have reached it, congratulations; you’re one of the few people who have reached such a feat.

I truly mean it; I don’t have the numbers. But, I do know that the majority of Jiu-Jitsu trainees quit before giving it them all. As a result, you should be proud of yourself if you have gotten thus far.

Officials recommend you spend at least a single year before attaining the prestigious black belt. As a result, you’ll have enough time to learn and prepare for the final test.

The time you spend in the brown belt is time for refining techniques. Once you attain the black belt, you should already have perfected your basic and advanced capabilities. Of course, you won’t master all the techniques, but some.

Before progressing to the brown belt, you must be at least 18 years of age. Yet again, if you’re not, we’ll discuss what that means for you later in the article.

In most martial arts, the brown color symbolizes a mountain; a climb. Thus far, you started from the bottom and have grown to a respectable level. You’re like a mountain, that rises far above the ground. Be proud of yourself, as what comes next is one of the best feats in the world of martial arts.

Mountain
Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

Black

Now, let’s examine what many BJJ practitioners consider as their final goal; that is—the black belt. The trainees who ensured their spot in such place—are the ones who dedicated a portion of their lives to the art of ground grappling.

They’re the ones that when things got difficult—rose above everyone else that gave up and remained consistent. Such a feat—is one of the most desirable in the entire world of martial arts.

black belt
Image by Mihai Paraschiv from Pixabay

Honestly, if you were able to attain the BJJ black belt, you know how to fight, effectively. Throughout a couple of solid years, you have been able to grasp all the knowledge and values from all your previous lessons—and become an entirely different person.

You have also gotten plenty of mental and physical benefits, such as increased confidence and higher self-esteem. As a result, you’re a different person that can also disable an opponent in seconds, literally.

On average, it takes 10 years to attain the black belt from when you first rolled (again, no pun intended), into your BJJ gym.

As we’ll see later, the black belt has a few styles, such as a red bar and a clean belt. Most BJJ schools, who grant the black belt, do so with a red bar.

Black belt – Professor

Alright, you may be confused. Is the term professor really used in martial arts? Well, it’s not what you may think. The term professor is teacher in Portuguese, who speak Brazilian. As a result, it’s not as fancy as you may think.

And still, the trainees who attain the black belt—are called professors rather than other terms you may have heard of, such as Sensei or Coach.

Of course, you can call your BJJ instructor however one prefers. For example, I’ve seen a brown belt instructing a class once. And, the trainees can’t call him professor. Rather, they use names such as coach or Mr. (last name).

BJJ coach
Photo by Richard Bustos on Unsplash

So, yea, once you attain the black belt—trainees refer to you as professor. But, you can choose whichever name comfortable for you!

Coral

Now that you’re a professor, you can keep on training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Now, however, your progression rate through the different colors—will be much slower.

The coral belt is name after the coral snake. What’s unique about it is that it rarely bites. However, once the coral snake bites you, your chances of surviving—are slim.

Now that you have progressed through the six degrees of the black belt, you can call yourself a proud owner of the coral belt. It’s likely that you’ll spend more than double what you spend thus far to progress through the six black belt degrees.

Red leaf
Photo by Olena Shmahalo on Unsplash

Few are the people who have reached the coral belt rank in BJJ. If you did, you’re an extremely influential person—who impacted the lives of many of your trainees.

After you received your coral belt, you’ll train for approximately ten more years. Now, let’s see what you’ll get to.

Grandmaster

The number of people who have reached the grandmaster rank in BJJ—are slimmer than what you may think. According to Gracie University, you must train, teach, and learn the art of ground grappling for about 50 years before attaining the almost impossible rank.

So, you can imagine how many people have invested their lifetimes into the art of ground grappling. Truly, it’s one of the most amazing feats in the entire world of martial arts.

The number of people who are black belts in Jiu-Jitsu—are slim. Compared to the number of trainees who have attained the GM rank, however, the number is huge.

Grandmasters wear a red belt, a sign of huge achievement. They have, indeed, dedicated their entire lifetimes to the art of ground grappling. They’ve trained and taught the art of BJJ for about 50 years before even being considered to such a feat.

BJJ Youth Belt Ranking System

As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, to progress through the belt system, you must be at least 16 years of age. However, many classes are specifically designed for the youth, and thus, their belt system will also be different.

The following list is the order of the BJJ youth belt ranking system:

  • White
  • Gray
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green

Of course, each martial art gym has its nuances. For example, some BJJ gyms include a striped white and gray colored belt after the first one. As a result, the children will feel as if there’s more to achieve, as there will be more to pursue.

Final words

To end this article, I want to show my dear appreciation for BJJ, as the amount of positive impact it had and still has on its trainees—is uncountable. I’ve been able to see people change their mindsets toward life and their way of living—simply by doing BJJ consistently.

People have dedicated their lifetimes to the art of ground grappling. You know it’s the real deal when you see people stopping their previous pursuits to act on their purpose and passion of martial arts.

You can improve both your mental and physical selves—by dedicating yourself to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You’ll become, for example, much for flexible and in a much better shape.

Likewise, you’ll slowly but surely get mentally tougher. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see BJJ trainees reporting higher self-esteem and improved confidence. That’s why so many trainees keep themselves in this wonderful martial art.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you’ll also enjoy reading about the pros and cons of BJJ. Knowing them—will help you remain more consistent and dedicated in your training.

Final words

To end this article, I want to show my appreciation to the belt ranking system in all martial arts. Back when they didn’t have belts, it was much harder to remain consistent without a solid purpose.

Now, BJJ trainees can treat training like a game. Their goal is to progress, and that’ll be their purpose. Of course, if you can have another external reasoning for you doing martial arts—you’ll be even better.

If you want to reach your color goal, it’ll be best if you choose a purpose and let it fuel you every time you’re feeling low. For example, many trainees decide to pursuit of learning self-defense. As a result, they have another external motivation source, making them more consistent and dedicated to training.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to progress faster through the belt system, follow the link to read about the best tips to progress faster in your BJJ journey.

Levi

I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

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