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BJJ Belt System: Everything to Know

One of the most distinguished parts of martial arts is earning belts as you level up your skills. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) belt system is a unique and integral part of the martial art, serving as a visual representation of a practitioner’s technical knowledge and practical skill level. This system, which shares its roots with the judo belt-rank system, has been adapted to include some distinctive features. When you participate in BJJ with a Gi, you will earn up to 5 belts as you progress: white, blue, purple, brown, and finally black. Each colored belt represents the skills and knowledge one should have at that level. In some more traditional gyms, the belts also help determine the order people participate in drills and exercises. Certain schools will also only allow you to coach or train when you hit a certain belt level. In this guide we’ll go in depth to every belt color in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

What Order do BJJ Belts Go In?

The BJJ belts system has 5 main levels and 1 special level that only a handful of practitioners have ever achieved. The five main levels and special level belt includes:

A graphic showing the different belts in the bjj belt system for adults. White belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt
BJJ belts & stripes, white, blue, purple, brown and black

How Does the Belt System in BJJ Work?

The BJJ belt system is a merit-based system that relies on promotions handed out by coaches and masters of a gym. There is no official “test” or way to detemrine when someone should be promoted and is at the discretion of your coach. Coach’s will have varying philosophies on when they deem someone ready for the next belt.

Some professors may use a period of time to determine. For example, after 2 years a white belt may be ready for a promotion to blue belt. Other professors may use competition as a benchmark. For example, competing and doing well at your belt level may give your coach confidence you’re ready for the next belt.Most coaches will use a combination of both time and skill to determine when you are ready for your promotion.


To denote progress being made within a belt, coaches will usually hand out stripes. For the most part, there will be 4 stripes between each belt. Depending on the belt in question, the time between stripes can be a few months or even a few years. Stripes are generally handed out with the same criteria as belts, mainly time and skill level.

Promotion Criteria

In the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), the criteria for promotion can be somewhat nebulous, as there are few published guidelines or standards. Generally, the decision is left to the discretion of individual instructors or academies. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) does have a graduation system, but it primarily focuses on time-in-grade and membership standing, without specific performance or skill requirements. When it comes to evaluating a practitioner’s readiness for promotion, the most common measures are the amount of technical and conceptual knowledge they can demonstrate, and their performance in grappling within the academy or in competition. It’s not just about the number of techniques a student can perform, but also the skill level at which they can execute them in live grappling. This allows for recognition of smaller and older practitioners who may not be the strongest fighters but have a deep understanding of the sport. BJJ is a highly individualized sport, and practitioners are encouraged to adapt techniques to their body type, strategic preferences, and level of athleticism. Ultimately, the key to promotion is the successful execution of techniques, rather than strict stylistic compliance.

Role of Competition in Promotion

Competitions play a significant role in the journey of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu student, often serving as a benchmark for their progress and readiness for promotion. While the majority of academies do not make competition participation mandatory for promotion, it is widely encouraged as it provides students with invaluable experience and allows instructors to assess their abilities against a fully resisting opponent. A strong performance in a competition often paves the way for a promotion. The combination of time spent training, skill level, and competition performance often forms the basis for a coach’s decision to promote a student to the next belt level.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Blue Belt?

The blue belt is one of the most coveted belts in the BJJ belt system because it is the first belt in the promotion ladder. It signifies a white belt is no longer a novice at the sport and ready to challenge more experienced competitors. One of the most frequent questions white belts will ask though is ‘how long does it take to get their blue belt’. The answer according to this survey is 2 years and 7 months for the average white belt. In my own personal experience, I was promoted to blue belt after year and 2 months and have known most white belts to get their blue belt within 18 months.

This can depend on a lot of factors however and thus why the average is around 2 years and 7 months . Generally if a white belt can train 3-4x per week for a year to 18 months, you should be able to get your blue belt within that time frame. However if you are unable to train that much, perhaps 1-2x per week you are going to progress a lot slower. Injuries (or a global pandemic) can also impact how long it takes you to get your blue belt.

Changing schools as a white belt can also impact how long it takes to get a blue belt. When you change schools and professors, it may take a while for your new professor to assess your skills and determine when you should be promoted. Unless absolutely necessary, I would recommend staying at your school until you are promoted.

Do You Need to Compete to Get a Blue Belt?

Some schools will require you to compete to get your next belt but most won’t. Even if your gym doesn’t require it, competing in local tournaments is a great way to speed up your development as a jiu jitsu practitioner and thus speed up how long it takes for you to get stripes and belts.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Purple Belt in BJJ?

According to that same survey above, the average blue belt will get promoted to purple after 3 years and 4 months. The journey from blue to purple belt tends to be a longer journey than the one from white belt to blue. A challenge when moving from blue to purple belt is the wide range of skills you will encounter along the wya. An experienced blue belt may have upwards of 4 years total experience while a new blue belt may have 2 years or less total experience. Many blue belts will also quitor st or stop coming to class when achieving their blue belt – a phenomenon call ‘blue belt blues’.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Brown Belt in BJJ?

The time from purple belt to brown belt is of similar length as the journey from blue to purple belt – around 3 years which means it takes around 8-9 years of consistent practice and jiu jitsu mat time to get your brown belt. Very few jiu jitsu practitioners will go on to achieve their brown belt. It requires a high level of commitment and dedication. Some luck to not get injuries. As well as the time to be able to find mat time and train.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in BJJ?

The ultimate goal in jiu jitsu is getting your black belt, which generally takes 12 years on average from the moment you get your white belt. The journey from borwn belt to black belt generally takes around 3 years. Becoming a black belt in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires a mix of lots of determination and skill. You should be able to point to some success in competition and a demonstrated history of high level skills.

Can You Get a Black Belt in a Few Years?

Demain Maia received his black belt after 4 years of training and is considered amongst the greatest grapplers in UFC history

It is possible (and it happens all the time) to receive a black belt in less than 10-12 years. That is considered average. Those who are highly committed to the sport and able to train 5-6 times per week could receive a black belt in 6 to 8 years.

Those with exceptional talent and can compete in high level competition (IBJJF national tournaments) can even earn a black belt in as short as 5 years. Famed and legendary UFC fighter Demian Maia received his black belt after 4 years of training. If you are reading this however, most likely you are not Damien Maia and should not expect to achieve a black belt in 3 or 4 years.

What is After Black Belt?

Many black belts will actually say their BJJ journey only began when they got their black belt. The color belts stop after getting your black ( with exception of the red belt) but the stripes a black belt earns can basically be considered belts as they take many years to achieve. A black belt can earn up to 6 stripes before they would be promoted to a red belt. Each stripe takes about 3 years of practice to earn. Each stripe gives a black belt another “degree”. So a black belt with 3 stripes is considered a 3rd degree black belt.

Red and Black Belt and Coral Belt

When it comes time to earning a 7th degree and eight degree black belt (which would take on average 30-40 years!!) you are instead promoted to a red and black belt. When you go for your 9th degree black belt you are given a corral belt aka red belt. There are only a handful of red belts in the world and they are considered “grand masters” of the sport.

Kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belts

In children’s BJJ, the belt system is slightly different. The traditional adult belt system goes white belt to blue belt promotion. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the belt ranking system for children between the ages of 4 and 15 is designed to reward progress and encourage continued learning. After starting with a white belt, young practitioners can earn a series of colored belts before they are eligible for a blue belt at age 16. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation has outlined 13 specific belts for competitors within this age range. The first group of three gray belts can be awarded to competitors aged 4 through 15. The next set of three yellow belts are for competitors aged 7 through 15. Orange belts are designated for competitors aged 10 through 15, and the final three green belts are for competitors aged 13 through 15. Upon turning 16, competitors must transition to the adult belt system, with the color of their new belt determined by their current youth belt and the decision of their instructor

Kids will only usually go through the entire spectrum of kid’s belts if they start very young (around ages 4-6). If your child starts BJJ at 14 years old for example, they will likely only progress from white belt to gray belt and then be able to skip to blue belt as soon as they turn 16 years old. A 15 year old green belt who has been practicing BJJ for 5 or so years will have around the same proficiency as an adult purple belt (minus any differences in size and maturity).

What is the Hardest Belt to Get in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

There is no such thing as the “hardest” belt to get in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Each rank comes with its own set of challenges. Some practitioners may experience an injury or a delay in their training between two belts, thus making that the hardest belt for them to achieve. A blue belt may experience the blue belt blues and may say the promotion from blue to purple belt was the hardest. It all depends on the person.

History of BJJ Belt System

The judo belt-rank system and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) belt system have similar historical roots. Kanō Jigorō, the creator of judo, replaced the conventional method of practicing in a formal kimono with the usage of belts and gis in martial arts in 1907. By bringing this method to Brazil in 1914, Mitsuyo Maeda, a disciple of Kan, helped pave the way for the ultimate creation of BJJ. The Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara developed the first official belt rating system in 1967. The first belt colors were white for beginners, light blue for instructors, and dark blue for masters. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation and Sport Jiu Jitsu International Federation eventually adopted the present belt levels and standards. The BJJ belt system is now known for its distinctive characteristics, including the distinction between children and adults, the awarding of stripes and degrees, the pronounced informality of the criteria for promotions, the emphasis on competitive skill exhibition, and conservative advancement. The Brazilian system incorporates some minor differences from Judo, such as a division between youths and adults, the issuance of stripes and degrees, and a focus on competitive demonstration of skill.

BJJ Belt System vs Other Systems

The BJJ colors and order are unique to the sport. Tae Kwon Do and Judo are also two martial arts that have belt systems. Tae Kwon Do however has more colors. Judo is similar to Jiu Jitsu but the color order is different and there is a greater emphasis on the degrees or Dans after getting a black belt which is more equivalent to a purple or brown belt in BJJ.

BJJ vs. Judo Belt Systems

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Judo are both derived from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, and as such, they share some similarities in their belt ranking systems. In BJJ, the adult belt sequence typically goes: white, blue, purple, brown, black, and then into the coral and red belts for the highest echelons of mastery. In Judo, adults progress from white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and then various degrees of black. While both systems use colored belts to denote progression, the journey to black belt is often quicker in Judo, where achieving a black belt might take around 4-5 years for dedicated practitioners. In BJJ, however, achieving a black belt is a longer journey, typically taking anywhere from 8 to 12 years. The philosophy behind the two systems also varies: in Judo, once you achieve black belt, it is said that your true learning begins, while in BJJ, each belt represents a distinct level of proficiency and expertise.

BJJ vs Karate

Karate has evolved differently from Jiu-Jitsu-based disciplines despite sharing old techniques with other traditional martial arts. In several Karate schools, students go from white to yellow to orange to green to blue to purple to brown to different levels of black belts. The time it takes to get a black belt in karate can vary greatly depending on the particular school and the practitioner’s devotion, but it’s not unusual for trainees to reach this rank in 4-6 years. The importance and significance of the belts is one obvious distinction between BJJ and karate. Traditional Karate frequently stresses kata (forms), kihon (basic techniques), and occasionally point sparring, but BJJ focuses a substantial amount of emphasis on live sparring and practical application to improve in belt rank. Karate frequently requires demonstrations of specific forms and techniques, but BJJ evaluations are centered on ability to spar and apply techniques under duress. As a result, the testing criteria for the two might be very different.

BJJ vs Tae Kwon Do

A famous Korean martial art known as Tae Kwon Do (TKD) is recognized for its formal patterns called “poomsae” and high-flying kicks. White is frequently the first belt in the TKD system, followed by yellow, green, blue, red, and finally black, with numerous dan (degree) levels of black belts. To indicate progression between the primary belt colors, some schools additionally use intermediate stripes or hues. First-degree black belts may normally be attained by TKD trainees in three to five years, however this varies across schools and people. A further difference between TKD and BJJ is that TKD often has formal examinations for each belt rank that involve demonstrations of poomsae, board breaking, and sparring. In contrast, BJJ belt promotions are frequently spontaneous and lack standardized testing.

Tradition of “Passar no Corredor”

Running the gauntlet, also known as “passar no corredor,” is a special BJJ custom that is frequently carried out just after a promotion. The newly promoted student is either thrown by every teacher and occasionally by every student of equal or higher degree in the school during this rite, or they are struck on the back with belts by other practitioners as they walk or run by them. Advocates of this practice claim that it encourages classmate bonding and acts as a sort of team building. This custom is a part of Brazilian jiu-informal jitsu’s system of belt promotions, which allows instructors to arbitrarily choose whether a pupil is qualified for the subsequent level. Nonetheless, some academies have begun to use a more structured, formal testing technique, particularly for pupils who are rated lower.

Debate on the Importance of Belt Color in BJJ

The relevance of belt color is still up for dispute. While the belt system is a long-standing custom in martial arts that signifies a student’s advancement and degree of proficiency, some contend that performance on the mat is what matters most. They claim that your ability to demonstrate your knowledge and talents in practice is more crucial than the color of your belt. Respected individuals like John Danaher, who emphasizes the value of performance above the color of a belt below black, support this viewpoint. He believed that the technical ability, performance in competition or sparring, overall character, and commitment to training should be used to gauge a student’s improvement. This strategy encourages pupils to concentrate more on raising their performance level and less on the flimsy issue of how long it takes to acquire a new belt color. The actual test of a martial artist is their performance on the mat; ultimately, the color of their belt is merely a symbol.


How Many Belts are There in BJJ?

There are 5 belts (white, blue, purple, brown, black) in adult BJJ and 5 belts (white, gray, yellow, orange, green) in kids BJJ

What Belt is Joe Rogan?

Joe Rogan is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

What Order Do BJJ Belts Go In?

White, blue, purple, brown and black

How Long Does it Take to Get a Belt in BJJ

The average time is 2-3 years between belts depending on your school and level of training

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