Jiu-Jitsu Belt System Guide (BJJ and Japanese Belts)


many belts in jiujitsu lg

Jiu-Jitsu is a Japanese martial art. But there’s also a Brazilian variation (BJJ), and that version has 1 set of belts for kids and another for adults. So how many belts are there in Jiu-Jitsu?

As a general rule, there are 8 belts in BJJ, with 4 additional ones for kids under 16. Belts in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, on the other hand, vary between 7 and 8. And both Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ belt systems are both adapted from Judo. 

In this article, we’ll explore the order of the belt systems, what they connote, and the requirements for progression.

Let the fun begin.

Are the belts different in BJJ compared to Jiu-Jitsu?

Yes. The belts are different in BJJ compared to Japanese Jiu-Jitsu. However, there are similarities too. There are 8 different belts in BJJ, while belts in Jiu-Jitsu vary between 7 and 8 depending on the school.

But of course, like most martial arts, the first belt is always white.

BJJ and Jiu-Jitsu are two separate martial arts. As such, it’s understandable that there are slight variations in BJJ belts relative to those used in Jiu-Jitsu.

Originally, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu had no belt system. 

Judo is the first Eastern martial art to adopt the use of belt color as an indication of rank. So, both BJJ and Jiu-Jitsu adopted the belt system from Judo.

But as I indicated earlier, the implementation varies.

Conceptually, they are similar but compared to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts, Jiu-Jitsu belts are more varied, with more sub-levels at the highest rank (black belt). The BJJ belt system is simpler.

Ever wondered about BJJ’s pros and cons?

That is what I got into in a recent article I published. In it, I revealed whether it ruins your body and if you can train every day. But I also revealed how long it takes to be good at it.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What order are the belts in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu?

Most schools start with a white belt, while a few start with a red belt before the student progresses to a white belt. However, in most schools, the order is a white belt, yellow belt, orange belt, green belt, blue belt, brown belt, and black belt.

There are two divisions: Kyu degrees and Dan degrees (black belt level).

Kyu degrees:

  • White belt> 6th kyu (rokkyu)
  • Yellow belt> 5th kyu (gokyu)
  • Orange belt > 4th kyu (yonku)
  • Green belt>3rd kyu (sankyu)
  • Blue belt> 2nd kyu (nikyu)
  • Brown belt> 1st kyu (ikkyu)

Dan degrees (rank of black belt):

  • 1st Dan (shodan): black with 1 white stripe
  • 2nd Dan (nidan): black with 2 white stripes
  • 3rd Dan (sandan): black with 3 white stripes
  • 4th Dan (yodan): black with 4 white stripes
  • 5th Dan (godan): black with 3 stripes (white-red-white)
  • 6th Dan (rokudan): red-white checkered belt
  • 7th Dan (shichidan): red-white checkered belt
  • 8th Dan (hachidan): red-white checkered belt
  • 9th Dan (kudan): red belt
  • 10th Dan (judan): red belt
  • 11th Dan (juichidan): red belt
  • 12th Dan (junidan): wide white belt (the highest belt)

If you’ve ever wondered if Jiu-Jitsu is offensive or defensive, you’re in luck. 

A recent article I published explored this very question. I also spoke about how BJJ differs from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, and I revealed whether it’s ideal for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What order are the belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for adults?

The order of belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for adults is white, blue, purple, brown, black, red and black, red and white, and red. There are 8 belts for adults and 4 additional ones for kids until they reach 16 years of age.

The order of belts in BJJ is:

  • White
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Red and black belt (coral belt)
  • Red and white belt (coral belt)
  • Red belt

Progressing from the beginner stage to the brown belt stage is regarded as a period of refining one’s techniques. This usually takes about 5 years.

The black belt stage denotes expertise.

Black belt holders are often addressed as “professor” or “coach” in some schools, while others reserve these designations for those at the highest black belt levels.

One must be at least 19 years of age to be eligible.

Coral belts are awarded when a BJJ practitioner reaches the 7th and the 8th degree, while the red belt is awarded to a master. It is the highest belt and naturally denotes the highest rank.

Helio Gracie (one of the founders of BJJ) remarked that they are for those whose influence and fame take them to the pinnacle of art.

They represent the 9th and 10th-degree black belts.

What order are the belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for kids?

The order of belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for kids is white, gray, yellow, orange, and green. There are sublevels within each belt color, leading to more variations relative to the adult belt system.

Let’s check out what the first two belt levels entail.

  1. White Belt

All Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students begin as new white belts. It is the first stage and has no prerequisites. If a child trains twice a week, they will probably spend just about 6 months at this level before they progress to the level of the colored belts and now qualify for a new belt.

At the white belt level, the student’s main focus is learning how to defend themselves against more experienced, advanced players. As such, how to escape from bad positions is one of the facets that’s stressed at this stage.

If they are consistent, the student will receive grades, represented by stripes on their belt, every month. This is a piece of tape wrapped around the tail end of the belt.

After the kid has earned 5 stripes, they are promoted to the next belt level.

The colored belts consist of a group of 3 belts: a belt with a white strip down the middle, a solid color belt, and a belt with a black stripe down the middle.

  1. Gray Belt

The gray belt shows that a child has reached an intermediate level, and training will now be more focused on offense. And like the white belt, if a child trains at least twice a week, they earn 5 stripes and spend 6 months at this belt level before moving on to the next.

Once the child progresses to the solid color level, belts are now worn for a longer period of time (no longer for 6 months). Belt promotions are now based more on skill and less on time.

The belts, from this point on, would now have 11 stripes, one each month, to reward punctuality.

The first 4 are indicated by white stripes wrapped on the tail of the belt. It’s followed by 4 red ones, and the last 3 are of the same color as the next level (yellow in this case).

The minimum age requirement to move to the adult belt system is 16. And unless a student had started recently, upon turning 16, they would move to a blue belt.

How are belts awarded in BJJ?

The IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) indeed maintains an extensive graduation system that takes into account the time-in-grade and membership standing.

But it is vague on the specific skill or performance requirements.

Which BJJ students qualify to move to higher ranks, and their next rank is determined by the instructor or the BJJ school a student is attending.

So BJJ schools have a lot of say in how and when their students get promoted. The instructors aren’t just checking boxes on a list.

The amount of technical and conceptual knowledge students have and their performance in randori (grappling) within the academy or outside competitions are key considerations.

  • Have they spent a long time training?
  • What is their skill level?
  • Do they have a good grasp of advanced techniques? 

These are the main factors that determine their progression through the ranks.

That said, some bodies have strict requirements for those who want to be black belt holders. But either way, know it will take years of dedicated training.

Say you’re not even sure which martial art is ideal for you. A recent article I published explores the different martial arts that are great at different ages.

In it, I considered if you could learn Taekwondo in your 20s and the best age to start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But I also revealed if you could learn Karate in your 20s.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Jiu-Jitsu BJJ Belts Explained

Conclusion

In the article, we considered whether the belts in BJJ are different than those in Jiu-Jitsu and the order of belts in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu.

We also looked at the order of belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for both adults and kids. Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at how belts are awarded in BJJ.


Photo which requires attribution:

for a bit of ribbon by Mark Bonica is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added

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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