The Ultimate Guide to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Levels

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By Luciana Oliveira

I joined the RGA Chester family in February 2023 at the age of 40 and started my exciting BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) journey. I fell head over heels in love with both the community and the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The martial arts world is vast and intriguing, but there’s something uniquely captivating about BJJ. I am profoundly fascinated by it and will share some valuable information if you are considering joining this community.

In this comprehensive guide of BJJ belts, I’ll break down the BJJ belt system, as defined by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, to help you understand how many jiu jitsu belts there are, the belt levels and what it takes to become a BJJ student.

Table of Contents

White Belt

The hardest belt! I know, sounds daft but it is true. I saw a BJJ coach make an analogy of the BJJ belts asking which one was the hardest to obtain, and all participants said the black belt, obviously right?

The coach corrected them saying the white belt was the hardest one because it takes courage to take the leap and start, and even when you do take that leap you may give up at some point.

As a brand new white belt is the starting point for all new students in the adult belt system. As this is your first belt you’ll focus on learning basic techniques and building a solid foundation.

Take your time, be patient with the process and take this opportunity to absorb as much information as you can – which is a lot and can be overwhelming at times – and remember to have fun. Things will start making sense eventually.

There are no minimum time requirements or age requirements for this belt. However, the average time most people spend at the white belt level is about a year.

At this level, you’ll learn the most common questions and answers in BJJ, such as how to maintain the guard position and some common submissions. Be inquisitive, ask questions and show up. Your white belt’s training will be geared towards giving you a solid foundation in the art of BJJ.

Blue Belt

The blue belt level is the second adult rank in BJJ. It signifies a higher level of technical knowledge and practical skill.

The minimum time required at this level varies, but it’s generally around two years. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation mandates that blue belt level practitioners must be at least 16 years of age.

Here, you’ll start learning more advanced techniques and strategies. You’ll also be expected to have a good grasp of basic techniques and be able to execute them against more experienced practitioners.

Purple Belt

The purple belt level practitioner is someone who has been around for a long time and has years of dedicated training under their belt. They are considered high-level practitioners.

The minimum time at this level is usually around 1.5 to 2 years, with the age requirement being 16 years or older.

Purple belts often have a deep understanding of advanced techniques and can hold their own against higher belts. They are also introduced to teaching lower ranks as part of their BJJ journey.

Brown Belt

The brown belt level is one of the highest levels before reaching the pinnacle of the art, the black belt. Brown belts are exceptional martial artists who have spent years of training to get to this point.

The minimum time requirement at this level is typically around one year, and practitioners must be at least 18 years of age.

Brown belts are expected to be proficient in advanced techniques and should be capable of teaching them to younger students and new students alike.

Black Belt

Efficiency and mastery. The rank of black belt is the highest rank for most BJJ students. It signifies years of hard work, dedication, sweat, tears and a deep understanding of the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

There’s no set time requirement for this level, but it often takes a decade or more of dedicated training. The age requirement is 19 years or older.

Black belts are the epitome of high-level practitioners. They are often involved in teaching and may even run their own BJJ schools.

Coral Belts and Beyond

Coral belts are for those who have reached the seventh, eighth, and ninth degrees in black belt. The 10th degree was reserved for the founding figures of BJJ, such as Helio Gracie.

These belts require a lifetime of dedication and are usually awarded in recognition of contributions to the art of BJJ.

These are the highest levels of skill, often held by individuals who have shaped the art in recent years.

The coral belt is a unique and exceptional belt awarded to practitioners who have reached the seventh and eighth degrees in the black belt level. The ninth degree is also a coral belt but with a different bjj belt color to signify its unique status.

Reaching the coral belt is a monumental achievement that signifies a lifetime of dedication to the art. It is a higher rank that few attain, often requiring decades of hard work, teaching, and contributing to the BJJ community.

The 9th and 10th Degrees

The 9th and 10th degrees are the highest ranks in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The 10th degree is reserved for the founding figures, like Helio Gracie, while the 9th degree is the pinnacle for all other practitioners.

These degrees are not just about technical skill but also about contributions to the art and community. They are the epitome of what it means to be a part of the BJJ community and are recognized by organizations like the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara.

The Significance of White Stripes

In the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system, white stripes are often added to the belts to signify progress between main belt levels. These stripes help BJJ students gauge their progress and prepare for the next belt level.

The addition of white stripes can affect BJJ belt rankings. For example, a blue belt with four stripes is closer to promotion to purple belt than a blue belt with one stripe.

These stripes are a crucial part of the belt progression system and are recognized by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

The Youth Belt System: Green and Yellow Belts

While the adult belt system is well-known, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also has a system for younger students.

The green belt and yellow belt are part of this system. These belts help younger practitioners understand the art of BJJ and prepare them for the adult belt system.

Belt promotions in the youth system are similar to those in the adult system but are tailored to the skill level and physical capabilities of younger students.

The progression usually goes from yellow to green before entering the adult system at blue belt.

Different Ranking Systems

While the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation is the most recognized body for BJJ belt rankings, other organizations and fighting styles have their own ranking systems. For example, the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara has its own set of rules and colored belts.

The BJJ community is vast and diverse, with various adult practitioners and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students from all walks of life. Whether you’re following the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s guidelines or another organization’s, the essence of the art remains the same.

Whether you’re interested in the colored belts of the youth system or aiming for the black belt level and beyond, there’s never been a great time to start your BJJ journey. I started at 40 and I am loving every second of it!

With various ranking systems and a global community, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers something for everyone. So, get that new belt tied and step onto the mat; your next level awaits!

IBJJF – The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the leading governing body for the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Established to provide a standardized set of rules and regulations for competitions and belt promotions, the IBJJF has been instrumental in the global growth and recognition of BJJ.

It organizes some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, including the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, often referred to simply as “Worlds.”

The federation’s guidelines for belt promotions, age requirements, and time spent at each belt level are widely followed and serve as a benchmark for BJJ schools and academies worldwide.

By maintaining a high standard of competition and education, the IBJJF plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and ensuring its integrity as a martial art.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s role in the BJJ community is indispensable, providing a structured environment for both new and experienced practitioners to grow and excel.

The Gracie Legacy

The Gracie family is synonymous with the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Originating from Brazil, the Gracies have been instrumental in popularizing BJJ not just in their home country but around the world.

Their influence is so profound that it’s hard to discuss the history and development of BJJ without mentioning their name.

Helio Gracie, one of the most iconic figures in the Gracie family, played a pivotal role in the development of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

He adapted the techniques of traditional Jiu-Jitsu and Judo to suit his smaller physique, emphasizing leverage and technique over brute strength.

Helio’s adaptations are considered by many to be the foundation of modern BJJ. He was also one of the few individuals to be awarded the 10th-degree black belt, the highest rank in the art.

The Gracie Challenge & UFC

The Gracie family gained international fame through their open challenges, where they invited martial artists from various fighting styles to compete against them in no-holds-barred matches, meaning no rules ou ” vale tudo”, how they call it in Brazil.

This eventually led to the creation of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where Royce Gracie, Helio’s son, showcased the effectiveness of BJJ by winning three of the first four events. This was a watershed moment for BJJ, catapulting it into mainstream martial arts.

The Gracies have established numerous academies, spreading the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to all corners of the globe.

They have also produced a lineage of high-level practitioners and champions, further cementing their legacy. Their teaching methodology and curriculum have become a gold standard in BJJ education.

The Gracie family’s impact on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is immeasurable. They have not only shaped the techniques and philosophies of the art but have also been ambassadors, spreading BJJ across continents.

Their legacy is deeply embedded in the fabric of the BJJ community, and their contributions continue to guide the next generation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students.

As you progress through the BJJ belt system, you’ll likely encounter the Gracie influence, whether it’s in the techniques you learn, the philosophies you adopt, or the history you study. Their legacy is a testament to the transformative power of this incredible martial art.

Your BJJ Journey Awaits

Whether you’re a white belt level practitioner just starting out or a black belt looking to reach the next rank, there’s always something new to learn in BJJ.

The belt levels serve as milestones in your BJJ journey, each with its own set of challenges and rewards. So, when is the best time to start?

The answer is simple: the best time was yesterday, the next best time is now. Many schools even offer a free trial, so why wait?

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step—or in the case of BJJ, a single roll on the mat.

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Luciana, a proud Brazilian, blends her passion for jiu-jitsu with a deep-rooted connection to spirituality and well-being. Her dedication to the martial art reflects not just a physical discipline, but a holistic approach to life, seeking balance in mind, body, and spirit. Whether on the mats or in meditation, Luciana embodies the essence of harmony and inner strength.

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