Belt Levels in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: BJJ System Progression


belt levels bjj lg

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, like several other martial art forms, uses a belt ranking system to rank its students’ progress. But what are the belt levels in BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has five main belts for adults —white, blue, purple, brown, and black. However, for kids under age 16, there are 13 belts. Then, when BJJ students turn 16, they move to a blue belt level in the adult belt system.

The belt ranking system is a grading system that indicates the skill level and expertise of its owner based on the color of the belt they wear around their waist.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is a regulatory body that regulates its belt system. Even schools that are not IBJJF affiliated follow some of its recommendations on the BJJ belt progression system.

If you are just starting out in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or you’re curious about this martial art form, you are in the right place.

In the rest of this article, I explain BJJ’s belt ranking system in detail and how much time it may take you to earn a black belt.

How many belts are there in BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has five main belts —white, blue, purple, brown, and Black. There are three other belt levels for adults —coral belt (red and black belt), coral belt (red and white belt), and red belt. 

The coral and red belts are for BJJ practitioners with decades of training.

The BJJ belt system is stricter than other martial arts; many start as white belts, but only a few make it to the black belt level. Years of training and dedication has to be invested in a rank level before you can progress to the next level (i.e., next belt)

BJJ also has different belts for kids under age 16.

The BJJ belts for kids are 13 in total. Although its first belt is a White belt for beginners (just like in the adult belt system), it differs considerably in color after that.

If we add up all the belts in the adult belt system and junior belts (under IBJJF standards), BJJ has a total of 21 belts.

The belt progression system is essential because by taking one glance at the color of the belt tied around the waist of a martial arts student’s uniform, you can denote their rank, skill level, and expertise and estimate how long they have persisted in that martial arts practice.

So if you see a red and black coral belt wearer, you can tell he has spent a minimum time of 41 years practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What is the typical duration between belt ranks in BJJ?

The typical duration between belt levels in BJJ is as follows:

  • A white belt: It is the first belt given to beginners and new students.
  • A blue belt: 2-3 years. It is an intermediate rank. It would take two to three years of being a white belt holder before getting promoted to a blue belt.
  • A purple belt: 3-5 more years. You would have to hold a blue belt for 3 to 5 years to be eligible for a purple belt.
  • A brown belt: 2-3 more years. It will take 2 to 3 years to progress to a brown belt. The average time for a white belt to earn a brown belt is 7 to 8 years.
  • A black belt: 3-4 more years. It can take a new student a total of 10 to 15 years to get a black belt. Most people achieve it in 12 years.
  • Red and black belt (coral belt): A total of 31+ years of training and practicing as a black belt is required to achieve this belt.
  • Red and white belt (coral belt): It takes a minimum of 38 years as a black belt to be eligible for this belt.
  • Red belt: It will take a total of 48 years or more as a black belt to achieve a red belt.

How long does it take to get a blue belt in BJJ?

It would take a new white belt 2 to 3 years before getting promoted to a blue belt.

The blue belt is the next rank after a white belt. A blue belt BJJ practitioner is skilled in many attacks, such as submissions, escapes, and sweeps. For this reason, he can easily take down an untrained opponent through various techniques.

To receive a blue belt, a student must show that they have a substantial understanding of the fundamentals of BJJ and that they are ready to focus on learning more complex techniques. It will take about two to three years to leave this rank.

Many white belts and blue belts quit BJJ before they reach the next level because they get bored with the slow progression.

BJJ belts take years to achieve.

Being a white belt takes 2 to 3 years before you are eligible for a new belt. Its slow progression can bore new students and could make them feel like they are stagnant. This is where stripes come in.

Stripes are a handy way of keeping practitioners (primarily white belts) happy and giving them a sense of progress.

Not all schools give stripes out to their students as they are not required.

Some schools only give stripes out to white belts. There is a maximum of four stripes that could be earned on each colored belt (from white belt to brown belt). So this means you can only have four stripes before progressing to the next belt level.

A white belt should expect to earn a stripe every six months. Each stripe indicates experience. So four white stripes show that the owner has more experience than a practitioner with two white stripes.

What does a 4th degree black belt mean?

A 4th-degree black belt allows Jiu-Jitsu practitioners to create their own dojos to train and progress pupils. A 4th-degree black belt is obtained after three years of practice as a 3rd-degree black belt.

Did you know that according to IBJJF standards, the minimum age requirement for a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is 19 years old?

And you can only be promoted to black belt by an instructor with a minimum of a 2nd degree black belt.

The BJJ black belt consists of eleven levels until the 10th-degree black belt. These levels are:

Level 1: black belt

Level 2: 1st-degree black belt

Level 3: 2nd-degree black belt

Level 4: 3rd-degree black belt

Level 5: 4th-degree black belt

Level 6: 5th-degree black belt

Level 7: 6th-degree black belt

Level 8: 7th-degree belt (red and black coral belt)

Level 9: 8th-degree belt (red and white belt)

Level 10: 9th-degree belt (red belt)

Level 11: 10th-degree belt (red belt)

After receiving a black belt, a practitioner may request the 1st degree after three years.

The period between a 1st degree and a 2nd degree is three years. And the period between a 2nd degree and a 3rd degree is another three years. This means a black belt must have held the belt for at least nine years to earn a 3rd-degree black belt.

From the 3rd-degree black belt to the 6th-degree black belt, an interval of over five years must pass before a new degree is awarded. This means that to earn a 6th-degree black belt, a practitioner must have owned a black belt for at least 24 years.

After seven years, the black belt may apply for the seventh degree, and he is then awarded a red and black (coral belt). Another seven years must pass before the practitioner can apply for the 8th-degree (the red and white belt).

A red belt starts from the 9th degree.

And it takes ten years of owning a red and white belt before you can apply for the 9th degree. This means a practitioner must have first achieved their black belt 48 years before applying for a red belt.

All the highest-ranking living Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are 9th-degree red belts. There is no living 10th-degree red belt which is the highest level.

Are there more than 5 BJJ belts for kids?

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) provides 13 BJJ belts for junior practitioners below 16 years of age. The BJJ belt system for kids is different from that of adults because it recognizes that a child, no matter how well-skilled, would not have the same abilities as adult martial artists.

The belt progression levels for kids are:

  • White belt: everyone new to BJJ starts with this belt color.
  • Grey with white bar belt
  • Grey belt
  • Grey with black bar belt
  • Yellow with a white bar belt
  • Yellow belt
  • Yellow with a black bar belt
  • Orange with a white bar belt
  • Orange belt
  • Orange with a black bar belt
  • Green with a white bar belt
  • Green belt
  • Green with a black bar belt

The initial promotion from a White belt to a Grey with a white bar belt takes roughly six months.

Subsequently, IBJJF recommends eight months for each belt. Children’s belts are handed out more frequently because it keeps kids enthusiastic and motivated to practice and attend the academy.

When BJJ students turn 16, they move to a blue belt level in the adult belt system (that is, of course, if they were already above a white belt). However, if the child has been a green belt for at least two years before turning 16, they would move to a purple belt in the adult belt system.

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ranking system, created by Carlos and Hélio Gracie, has a different ranking system for junior belt ranks. It has ten junior belts in total.

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ranking system for kids is:

  • White belt
  • White-Yellow belt 
  • Yellow belt
  • White-Orange belt
  • Yellow-Orange belt
  • Orange belt
  • White-Green belt
  • Yellow-Green belt
  • Orange-Green belt
  • Green belt

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ranking system is not widely adopted, as many schools prefer the IBJJF ranking system.

A child can start BJJ training as early as age 4, although most people enroll their kids at ages 7 to 10. It is crucial that the child has self-awareness and can follow directions before being enrolled.

BJJ is great for children because it teaches them essential self-defense techniques and helps create a sense of discipline.

In a recent article, I wrote about why BJJ is better for self-defense than Aikido. So if you are interested, you can read it on my website.

How long does it take to get a purple belt in BJJ?

To get a purple belt in BJJ, you must be well versed with the curriculum, and you need to have been a blue belt for a long time. It takes a blue belt two to three years to achieve a purple belt.

To get a purple belt in BJJ, you must be well versed with the curriculum, and you need to have been a blue belt for a specific time. It takes a blue belt two to three years to achieve a purple belt.

A purple belt is the first advanced belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

It is a transitional period from beginner to expert. It is in this period that most practitioners master very complex techniques and develop a strong Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu strategy.

A purple belt is the middle of the journey towards achieving a black belt. 

A purple belt is celebrated because many people give up before reaching this stage. You must have been having three or more training sessions in a week for 4-6 years to achieve a purple belt.

A purple belt can instruct lower-ranking students like white belts and blue belts and help with the progress of their martial art. A purple belt can also expertly takedown and defend against an untrained fighter.

BJJ is a practical self-defense martial art based on grappling.

In a recent article, I compared BJJ with Judo to see which is more practical for self-defense. Although they both have their own style and roots in traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, I highlight what makes them different.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What is the highest rank of BJJ?

A red belt is technically the highest rank in BJJ. It is IBJJF recognized. A red belt is gotten in the 9th degree.

A red belt in BJJ indicates that the owner is a master of the art of Jiu-Jitsu.

It comes with the title of “Grandmaster”. A red belt wearer is revered because it shows that he has dedicated his life to the arts. There are only 19 recognized IBJJF red belts currently. The first woman to receive a red belt was Yvonne Duarte in August 2021.

After getting a black belt, two more belts must be acquired before being eligible for a red belt. These belts are:

  • Red and Black belt or Coral belt (7 stripes): The red and black coral belt represents a 7th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This belt rank takes up to 35 years and more of coaching and practicing in BJJ.
  • Red and White belt or Coral belt (8th stripe): This belt color represents an 8th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and takes up to 42 years of coaching and practice to achieve.

The black belt is popularly regarded as the hardest to acquire.

Many people that start out as white belts give up before moving to a higher rank or becoming black belts. The BJJ belt system is much stricter than other martial arts. It can take ten to fifteen years to get a black belt. Most people achieve it in 12 years.

Getting a red belt is even harder, as it takes decades of coaching and training.

How long does it take to get BJJ Black Belt (FORMULA)

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system has five main belts for adults (white, blue, purple, brown, and black) and three other advanced belt levels after getting a black belt (a red and black belt, a red and white belt, and a red belt).

There are also belt systems for junior practitioners in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. IBJJF belt ranking system has thirteen junior belts, while the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ranking system has ten. These BJJ junior belts are for kids under the age of 16.

Once a BJJ student turns 16, he automatically becomes a blue belt practitioner in the adult belts (that is, of course, if they were already above a white belt).

However, if the child has achieved a green belt for at least two years before turning 16, they would move to a purple belt in the adult belt system.


Image by Taco Fleur from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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