The blue belt is the first most exciting stage in a BJJ fighter’s journey. It’s the passage from complete novice to more experienced novice. You are no longer the rookie of the class. What every white belt aspires to know however when they being their jiu jitsu journey is ‘how long does it take to get my blue belt’? For many white belts, it is the driving motivation for all the abuse and hard ache they get from training in their early days. So it is a reasonable thing to know. In this guide, we’ll discuss the length of time it takes to get your blue belt, recount some personal experience and what you should look forward to as a blue belt.
What is the Average Time to Get a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
In my experience, the typical BJJ fighter will get a blue belt within 1 to 2 years of starting BJJ. This can vary based on a variety of factors we’ll discuss below, but the vast majority of white belts (who stick with it) can expect to get their blue belt in that time frame. It is certainly possible to get your blue belt even earlier than 1 year but it will require extraordinary dedication, commitment and growth in you skills. In my experience, if you are training 3 days a week, dedicated to learning and don’t have any extended absences from the mats, you should be able to get a blue belt in 18 months.
|Example||Probable time to get blue belt|
|White belt who trains 5+ times a week, competes or has wrestling background and learns outside the mats||9 to 12 months|
|White belt who trains 3 times a week with a wrestling background and/or wants to compete||9 to 16 months|
|White belt who trains 3 times a week with no grappling background and learns outside the mats||12 to 18 months|
|White belt who trains 2-3 times a week with no grappling background, doesn’t have time to learn outside the mats||16 to 24 months|
|White belt who trains 1-2 times a week with no grappling background, doesn’t have time to learn outside the mats||24+ months|
What Influences Getting Your Blue Belt in BJJ?
How quickly you can obtain your blue belt will depend on a few important variables. These consist of:
- Commitment to training
- Staying healthy and reducing injuries
- Natural athletic ability
- Where you train/your professor
This one can’t be emphasized enough. To keep your learning momentum, you should be practicing BJJ at least three times a week if your goal is to get your blue belt. There are too many skills and nuanced aspects of the sport to be able to practice it once a week and see significant improvement. The first six months of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just trying to figure out how everything works together. If you are not dedicating at least 3 times a week to doing that, it’s going to take significantly longer to get your blue belt. You can also speed up your learning by spending time outside of the gym watching videos, browsing YouTube, taking notes, and keeping a blog. Additionally, if you want to learn more quickly, you might take individual sessions from professors or instructors.
What to Do If You Can’t Train 3+ Times a Week?
The majority of BJJ practitioners do it as a hobby rather than as a career. Training three + days a week as a result can be quite challenging, especially for those with demanding jobs and/or families. If you fall into that bucket, my best advice is to put less emphasis on your belt and simply enjoy the sport. You might not be able to devote that much time to training, but you still like going when you can and still reap the benefits of keeping your body active and living a healthy life. You may have to understand that getting your blue belt might take longer than what is typical and that is totally alright. Some white belts remain white belts for years. As long as you are having fun, then that’s all that matters.
Staying Healthy and Reducing Injuries
This is a big problem that, unfortunately, is partly out of our control and partly not. Mat time equals development, and if an injury or illness keeps you away from the mat, then you are not going to develop. Many injuries are unavoidable. Some are pre-existing. It’s best not to get frustrated when and if something like that happens. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help reduce the chances of missing mat time due to injury.
For starters, avoiding overtraining in BJJ is the greatest approach to maintain good health. Many white belts overtrain as they develop an addiction to the sport. They will train five to six times each week in order to become adept as quickly as feasible. That may work if you’re in teens or early twenties. But even then, without enough rest and recuperation, our bodies aren’t designed to withstand that much stress. You are more likely to sustain an injury if you don’t give your body enough time to relax. In their first few years of training, some white belts will burn out and not even have the strength to earn their blue belt.
Furthermore, if you are injured, try your best not to train on that injury. The more you train while injured, the longer it will take for that injury to recover. Six months at half strength is far worse than 1 month off the mats.
Natural Athletic Ability/Past Experience
Another factor out of our control is our natural athletic ability. Some people you start your BJJ journey with may have an athletic edge over you. Maybe you spent most of your life dedicated to hobbies outside sports while your training partner grew up playing multiple sports or even another martial art. Jiu jitsu may be your first foray into a physical hobby at all. Naturally, that training partner is going to pick up concepts and the physicality of the sport faster than you may. It is best to not be discouraged. You can’t keep track of what everyone’s natural talent or athletic background is. It is best to focus on yourself and ensure you are getting a little better with each class.
Watch Out for Wrestlers
White belts often take the form of former wrestlers. It may be discouraging when you go up against someone who seemingly has the same experience as you and they completely dominate you. While wrestling isn’t the same as BJJ, many of the skills such as scrambling, maintaining your base and an overall understanding of how to control the body will carry over. A wrestler is going to learn BJJ faster than someone who has never grappled before and as a result, get their blue belt faster. In fact, when former college wrestlers enter tournaments, they are often told they need to enter as blue belts, even if they are technically white belts!
Where You Train and Your Professor
One of the biggest factors that determines when you get your next belt is the person handing them out – your instructor or professor. A professor at one school may have a completely different philosophy than another when it comes to promoting students. Some instructors only promote when you are already well beyond the skills necessary for the next belt. Some promote right when you hit the skill level. Some have even quirkier rules and only promote after you partake in a competition. Whatever it may be, just because your friend at one school got their blue belt in 12 months doesn’t mean you will get yours in 12 months at your school.
Another related factor is if you move schools. Professors keep track their student’s progression and have a sense of how long they are away from promotion. If you were to start training as a white belt at one school, accumulate two stripes, but then move to another school, you may end up slowing your progress. It will take at least some time for your new professor to assess your skills and where they think you are promotion wise. As we mention above, your new professor may have a different philosophy than your old one about promotions as well.
Is Getting a Blue Belt Important?
As a blue belt myself, I would say yes, it is important. It’s the culmination of many months of hard work – much of that being the rag doll of the more experienced students. There are healthy ways and not healthy ways however when it comes to thinking about your blue belt. For example, it’s ok to use your next belt as the motivation you need to go to class when you’re tired. It’s ok to work toward that goal. It is important however to make sure its not your only goal. A belt is just a belt. You are practicing Jiu Jitsu for reasons beyond the belt. – whether its to learn a new skill, learn self defense, learn MMA, make friends, etc. You can lose sight of those more important things if you are too fixated on getting your belt. Focus on the important things and your belts will come. Fixating too much on your blue belt can lead to something called the blue belt blues.
What Happens After Your Blue Belt
There is a running joke in BJJ that most people quit BJJ either after their first class or after getting their blue belt. That may sound odd, after all, you just dedicated likely a year and a half of your life to getting your blue belt – why would you quit? It happens quite often however. The issue stems from fixating too much on the belt itself.
The Blue Belt Blues
As we mention above, this phenomenon is often called the blue belt blues. When you are hyperfixated on an end destination and you finally reach that destination, you may find yourself lacking motivation and meaning. It’s the “well, what next?” feeling. For those who just wanted their blue belt, that question may be harder to answer. You may find the motivation to get your purple belt isn’t as fierce. Burnout is also common, which also reduces motivation. That is why it is important to make sure you are enjoying learning BJJ because you find the sport itself enjoyable. If you find BJJ itself enjoyable, it won’t matter what belt you have.
Another aspect of blue belt blues is the awkward feeling of not being quite a beginner but also still not being an expert. Blue belts can reliably beat up on white belts, but still lose handily to purples, browns and black belts. For many that can lead to frustration that may have not been present as a white belt. As a white belt, everyone knows you’re a beginner. Your mistakes mean less, your screw ups are funny and everyone knows you’re still just learning. It’s like a toddler trying to walk. When you become a blue belt however, even though you are still a beginner, you may beat yourself up more for mistakes or screw ups. That extra pressure may take some of the fun out of the sport. It is definitely important to remember its ok to make mistakes (at any belt really) and you are most definitely still the learner as a blue belt.