How much do you know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts apart from the fact that nobody likes to be a white belt? There’s a reason why there is a certain number of belts in Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a reason behind the colors at every belt level. A bunch of other aspects of BJJ also have to do with belts, from promotions to minimum age requirements for getting a belt, the kids’ unique ranking system, stripes, tying belts, washing them, and picking out the best Jiu-Jitsu belts for you. Everything of the above, and then some, is explained in great detail in this article.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belts System
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system is not a complicated one. There are different colors of belts signifying different levels of knowledge, dedication, and experience of students. There are also belts for instructors and professors, as well as those reserved only for certain people in the sport.
The most obvious thing about belts has to do with Jiu-Jitsu belt colors. On that subject, everyone walking in through the door is a white belt, regretless of previous experience in other martial arts. The belt that comes next is blue, which is the most sought after belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Why? Because nobody likes to be a white belt. Following suit is the unique purple belt that marks a period in the BJJ journey that usually has people transition from flirting with BJJ into a serious relationship with the Gentle Art.
Similar to most other martial arts, the brown belt serves as the predecessor to the black belt. It follows the purple belt and is usually a sign of grappling maturity. After the black belt, there are three more options, albeit under very specific circumstances. The first is the black and red coral belt, followed by the white and red belt. Finally, the red belt marks the end of the journey, at least in terms of Jiu-Jitsu belts.
Time Required to Get Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
An interesting aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that there are certain requirements in terms of Jiu-Jitsu belt levels. For example, you can’t get certain belts unless you are of a certain age. What is even more interesting, you can’t get some of the more advanced belts (those coming after black belt) unless you spend a certain amount of years at each stripe of your black belt. Let me elaborate.
The white belt is the simplest. There’s no minimum age requirement, as anyone walking into a BJJ gym is a white belt. This is the same for both adults and kids. Moreover, white belts in Jiu-Jitsu have no time requirement, and one can be at that level for a few months and up to several years, depending on a host of circumstances. The usual time people spent at this belt level is between 6 months and two years.
The most sought after of all Jiu-Jitsu belts is the first one that comes with an age requirement. Unless you’re 16 years of age, there’s no way to earn a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt. Or, at least, not according to the rules. Moreover, there’s a requirement at a blue belt in terms of time spent, although it is not as strict as the minimum age. In most cases, 2 years are required for students at the blue belt level, but there are plenty of variations to this. Practically speaking, it takes between a year and a half to three years for most people at the blue belt level. It is often deemed the most important of learning belts, and thus the students spend the most time at.
The purple belt is the most fun one of all Jiu-jitsu belt ranks. It is the time when you know enough to really have fun and start discovering, but you still have a lot more fundamental stuff to process and learn. There’s a minimum age of 16 years yet again, which is somewhat confusing given that it is the same one for the blue belt. I’ll explain more when talking about the goals of every belt level and the kids’ ranking system. Time-wise, a year and a half is the “official’ timestamp for purple, but most people do spend an excess of 2 years at that level.
The minimum required age for the brown belt is 18. There’s a logic behind this because this belt carries a lot of weight and brings about plenty of responsibilities. Despite brown belts being very close to black belt level, they still have a lot of stuff to let sink in, so the one-year requirement is usually longer, nearer to two or more years. Brown belt is not a period when people rush things, so in most cases, they won’t mind staying at that level for a few months or even years longer.
Throughout their BJJ journey, people look at the black belt as the top of the mountain in terms of Jiu-Jitsu belts. While it does signify mastery of the art, up to a certain point, to doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to learn, or that there are no other belts to follow. The minimum age for receiving a BJJ black belt is 19, while the time spent at this belt level is non-negotiable, at least 31 years before you can be eligible for the next belt. Yeah, you read that right, it says 31 years.
Following those 31 years at black belt, and the nearly 10 years that lead up to it, you can get promoted to the next realm of Jiu-Jitsu belts, since the level is into a big enough word. The next belt is the red and black coral belt, which does carry a minimum age requirement of 50, and at least 7 years of time spent at that level before the next one is available.
Speaking of the next BJJ belt, the red and white coral belt is only an option if you’re 57 and above. Moreover, you’ll need to spend the next decade at that level, if you want to go for the final piece of the Jiu-Jitsu belt collection – the red belt. The red belt only has a minimum age requirement, and that is 67. For a kid starting to train at the age of 6 or 7, this might be an achievable goal after a lifetime spent in the art. The maximal grading you can achieve at a red belt is 9th degree. Only the founders of the art have the right to a 10th is only reserved for.
Goals to Achieve At All Jiu-Jitsu Belt Levels
There is a great reason why people spend so much time at each and every one of the Jiu-Jitsu belts. It takes quite a lot to master different aspects of the art, and they all come at different checkpoints throughout your BJJ journey. The goals might not be the same for everyone they start, but there are common threads that appear at every belt level associated with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
White Belt: Survive
At white belt, there’s just one thing you should be focusing on – survival. And it is not figurative. You will literally need to survive the onslaught of feeling like you know nothing, the feeling that you’re not learning anything, as well as being the rest round for most people in the gym, including fellow white belts that have more experience (and stripes) than you. That said, it is one of the most exciting and crucial times in Jiu-Jitsu, as it will develop the mindset you absolutely need to carry on forward. At white belt, you’re nothing more than a BJJ baby trying to mutter its first words.
Blue Belt: Light At The End Of The Tunnel
When you manage to get that blue belt tied around your waist, it will seem like you’re on top of the world – you’re not a beginner anymore! As you progress, your priorities shift as well. Now, it is not just time to try and fend off attacks, knowing you’ll fail most of them. It is a time when stuff starts working for you, and you manage to figure out not just how to catch a person or two, but also escape some of the higher belts’ attacks. Trust me, at blue belt, escaping brown belt will seem like much more of a victory than tapping out a white belt. This is when you become a grappling “toddler” figuring out that you can crawl/walk in the BJJ world.
Purple Belt: Get Behind The Steering Wheel
The purple belt is truly a special time. It is one of the most fun times in Jiu-Jitsu, all belt levels considered. This is when you start to develop your own style of Jiu-Jitsu, mostly through researching the different types of guards. It is a period when you will need to address your ego as well because all different types of ego rear their ugly heads at this time. Apart from begin one of the most fun, it is also one of the hardest Jiu-Jitsu belts and the one that will most likely determine the direction you take during the following belt levels. You’re now a kid starting school and discovering that you have to take a stance and form an opinion about things around you.
Brown Belt: Thrive
Brown belt is a transitionary belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Although most people start to dabble in teaching at purple belt, they truly mature into coaches/instructors of the art when they reach brown. At this time, two things happen. First, you develop teaching skills and you give back to the sport by trying to steer new students in the right direction.
The second thing is that you start to re-discover the fundamentals you were so eager to skip as a blue and purple belt and understand their value. Moreover, even though you’re just a step away from a black belt, you are kind of hoping you can spend just a bit more time being anything but a black belt. I can’t explain it, but it is something every brown belt feels before their black belt promotion. You’re in high school now, and wild things start to happen that will help you shape your lifestyle.
Black Belt: Enjoy The Ride
When you’ve finally reached black belt, you can actually start to enjoy Jiu-Jitsu. It is not that you wouldn’t enjoy it up until that point, but when you get the black belt, you’ll at least take a break from the mental aspect of promotions, chasing the next belt and stuff like that. Instead, you’re now in the shark tank (from a competitive standpoint) and you need to focus on cleaning up your style and giving back to the sport. Achieving it means teaching, figuring out how and when to promote others, as well as developing your game, and maybe perhaps stumbling upon something that will change the landscape of BJJ forever. In any case, apart from stripes, spaced a few years apart, all other goals here are their personal ones or academy development ones. Or both.
I have no idea what the goals of coral belts, or red belts, for that matter might be. Perhaps just making it through a roll injury-free, and staying in the art for as long as possible. I haven’t met one, and I am certainly not one. Still, I guess that their goals are much simpler compared to the goals and aspirations of all other Jiu-Jitsu belts.
Kids Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranking System
Before moving on to the interesting aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts, let’s talk about the kids’ BJJ belt system and their unique ranking. For kids, it would be counterproductive to have them wait a couple of years for a belt. It may as well be an eternity for them. Following that logic, the official count of kids’ belts is 13, and they get a bunch of stripes in between so that they get encouraged by a “real” feel for their progress more often.
Kids start off with a white belt, similarly to adults. While there is a debate about which is the earliest a kid can start training Jiu-Jitsu, out of a personal experience I’ve seen them come and be able to follow a special class as early as four years old. However, five would be the optimal age for starting. Conversely, the white belt has no minimum age requirement, as it is the starting belts for both kids and adults alike.
The first belt or trio of belts are the grey belts, which come in three varieties – grey with white, fully grey, and grey with black. The minimum age for a grey belt is 4, the maximum being 15. In fact, 15 is the upper belt limit for all kid’s belts, as they’re eligible for an adult blue belt if they’re 16 anyway.
Yellow belts (again with a white and a black horizontal stripe on each side of a full yellow belt, come next, with kids eligible for them from age 7 onwards. Kids of 10 can earn an orange and white belt, with the next two orange belts following the same pattern as before. Finally, 13-year-olds can be at most a green belt with a horizontal black stripe, after going through the horizontal white and full green version before. Given that promotions of kids are more frequent than with adults, there’s no minimum time that a kid should spend at any of the kids’ Jiu-Jitsu belts.
The Origins Of The Colored Belt System in Jiu-Jitsu
Now that the Jiu-Jitsu belt colors are clear, and we know the age and time requirements for all Jiu-Jitsu belts, let’s take a look at why we use the belts in the first place. In the original days of training Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo, people only wore white and then black belts. Only later did Jigoro Kano invent the colors, to distinguish people more easily in class. When Eastern martial arts spread to the west, the need for instant gratification just solidified the belt system further.
The five belts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu serve the same purpose as in other arts today – they demonstrate the level of experience a student has in the sport/art. In Jigoro Kano’s (the founder of Judo) original belt system there was a blue belt signifying the absolute beginners, followed by a white belt. Those were the student or “kuy” ranks, and eventually, a black one for “dan” degrees. Higher graded “dan” practitioners also wore red and white belts, while the highest graded ones wore solid red belts. You can see the similarities to the Jiu-Jitsu belt ranks we still use today.
Belt Promotions In BJJ
Earning any of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts is no easy feat. Ann obvious exception is the white belt that you walk into your first class with. From there on, you’ll be promoted several times, mostly by getting stripes, and notably, by getting the next belt.
In terms of Jiu-Jitsu belts promotions, there are several things you should know. First of all, only a belt higher than you can promote you to the next belt level. However, even then, they can only give you the belt that is below their rank. For example, a brown belt can only promote people to blue and purple belts. Furthermore, only a second-degree black belt can give out black belts. Sometimes, people spend very little time at a certain, or rarely, at all belt levels on their way to a black belt. That is down to their talent, hard work, and that X-factor that some people simply have in them. In such cases, professors decide to promote people much sooner than requirements, and they have every right to do so.
That brings us to the requirements for getting the next BJJ belt. Apart from achieving the goals most people usually discover at every Jiu-Jitsu belt level, instructors also have certain criteria. Of course, technical knowledge, along with tactics, and possibly competition performances all play a large part in it. However, at different Jiu-Jitsu belts, different things spring into focus. How you act overall in the gym is a big one from the start, but for people at purple belt and above there’s also how they behave towards lower-ranked people, and their performance when teaching if they take part in classes from that perspective.
Finally, there’s a controversial Jiu-Jitsu belts promotion ceremony that includes people being whipped with belts or other violent hazing-type stuff that not everyone in the BJJ world necessarily approves of.
What Do Stripes Mean?
This is one of the small things in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that mean a lot to people. Even though I’ve tried to encourage people not to give too much attention to stripes in my academy, they do play a role. The idea behind stripes is that with every adult belt, you need to achieve four stripes on the belt before you’re ready to move on to the next belt. However, this is really the case, as most people get the next belt with just three, or even two stripes on. Also, they could get two or three, and I’ve even seen four stripes in one promotion. So while they do have a role to play, they’re far from something people should take too seriously.
In terms of kids’ stripes, things can seem really complex. Apart from the four stripes at the white belt, which is the same as in adults, at every other belt, kids get up to 12 stripes. At each of the three grey, three yellow, three orange, and three green belts, kids get four white stripes, followed by four red stripes, followed by four black stripes. This allows for lots of promotions, and more importantly, frequent ones, that keep kids on their toes, and give them a sense of progress.
Belt Level In Competitions
In tournaments, Jiu-Jitsu belts are a huge part of the complete competition experience. Along with your age, weight, and sex, belts decide which division you’ll compete in. In fact, it is probably the most important factor in making this distinction. However, there are exceptions to this, depending on the tournament and the ruleset.
In most Gi tournaments that follow IBJJF / AJP rules, it is rare that propel of different Jiu-Jitsu belt levels end up in the same division. It is possible though when there are not enough competitors of certain belt colors. For example, if there are only a few white and blue belts of a certain weight or all divisions, they might be asked to form a “special” division just for the purposes of the tournament. It happens often with the ladies, where sometimes the lack of competitors and divisions means different belt colors are put together. The usual combinations are white with blue belts, purple with brown, or brown with black.
Within the modern Jiu-Jitsu professional tournaments, as well as some competitions like ADCC, there are often options for lower belts, i.e. blue and purple belts to face off against black belts. At these types of tournaments, belt level doesn’t play as big of a role, as it does in the IBJJF circuit. Basically, how much Jiu-Jitsu belts impact tournaments is determined by the presence or absence of belt divisions.
No-Gi Belt Rankings
How do people get their belts when they train without a BJJ Gi? As funny as this may sound to seasoned grapplers, it is a question new students often ask. In No-Gi, the Jiu-Jitsu belts work the same, just without an actual belt. There aren’t many exclusively No-Gi gyms around the world, but those that are, Like 10th Planet, sometimes use ranked rash guards or don’t bother at all displaying their belt level. Apart from such organizations, kids’ classes don’t usually take part in a No-Gi setting, so there’s no need to even mention it.
In terms of the No-Gi competition, once again, ranked rashguards help distinguish people in tournaments that have belt divisions. Some gyms also require students to wear ranked rashguards when attending No-Gi classes, but that is not a rule.
How To Tie Jiu-Jitsu Belt?
One of the biggest challenges in relation to Jiu-Jitsu belts is how to tie them. The first thing to know is that they will always keep on coming undone, so there’ no point in thinking there’s one way to secure it once and for all.
One way of tying the belt is the “traditional” method most people use. It involves you finding the halfway point and placing it at your navel. Wrap the two ends behind you, so that they cross one over the other behind you. Continue bringing the two ends forward, and you’re just left with the knot. The simplest way is to layer one end of the belt over the part you already have around your waist and the final one over them both. The top one then goes underneath them all, and all you’re left with is one more loop to finish the knot.
Another option is the “professional” type of tying, where you place one end of the belt to the side of your hip, and continue to wrap the belt around, until you’re left with the other end in front. Then you thread the loose end underneath all layers and tie the knot again.
The knot itself also opens up different possibilities. Sometimes, Helio only tied the two ends with each other, not going underneath all layers. Another method I see often is to use the “competitor” method. In it, you thread one end underneath all layers, from the bottom up. You then thread it in between the layers, leaving a loop. the other end goes through this loop, and in between all layers as well before you tighten it up.
Washing Your BJJ Belt
If I could only finish this paragraph by writing “just wash it” I would love that However, there’s a dumb train of thought that if you wash your BJJ belt, your “knowledge” will “wash off’. I’m even ashamed that I’m writing this, but apparently, it still laws to be said even in the 21st century. WASH YOUR JIU-JITSU BELTS!!!
The question of how is not a difficult one – just throw them in the washer along with your Gi. BJJ belts are all machine washable and are fairly quick to dry, so you won’t be forced to attend class without your Jiu-Jitsu belt. Or, if you’re still not sure if all your knowledge of grappling will stay put, wash it by hand, very, very carefully.
Picking The Best Brazilian Jiu-Јitsu Belts
Finally, now that everything is all cleаr, let’s talk about choosing your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt. If yоu know your Gi size, then you know your belt size as well. You might want to look for a bigger sized belt only in the circumstances when you’re really endowed around the midsection. Otherwise, the same size as your Gi will do just fine.
In terms of choosing a belt brand, it all comes down to personal preference. However, there are plenty of criteria when it comes to figuring out which belts will give you the best quality in return for your money. That’s why we have the most comprehensive BJJ belt guide ever put together so that you can check out reviews and buying options for all the best Jiu-Jitsu belts available!
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts are not something that seems complex at first, but as you can see, there’s a lot of intricacies tied into them. The main thing to remember is that you have goals to reach every belt level, you should expect to spend anywhere between a year and a half and two years at each, and you need to know that getting a black belt is just the beginning. Buying, washing, tying your belt, the kids’ belts system, and all other aspects of BJJ belts have been covered above in great detail. However, if any belt related question lingers, do not hesitate to write to us!