Belt progressions are not universal across all different forms of Martial Arts, but thanks to the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, we have a clear layout of what to expect in regards to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) Belt Progressions.
Belt progressions for students under the age of 16 are different for the students 17 and older. Today, we will be discussing the progressions for students over the age of 16. To learn more about younger students, check out IBJJF’s website and breakdown, here.
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The original belt system was derived from Kodokan Judo and only has three simple colors: white, brown, or black.
The Gracie Siblings created an official ranking system in the year of 1952, according to BJJ Motivation. The intention of this system was only for students who eventually wanted to become instructors. The 1960s brought the invention of the black belt with stripes. Only instructors would receive a black belt with red stripes, whereas students would receive a black belt with a white stripe.
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation adopted the belt system officially in 1967 and continues to expand on its progressions.
As mentioned before, belt colors differ depending on the age of the student. It is also important to note that there are requirements of years at each stage before progressing to the next color. We break it all down below, thanks to the IBJJF website and The MMA Guru.
This color is the starting point for every student that crosses the threshold, regardless of age. This is the only belt that the IBJJF does not require a certain amount of time at this level before advancing.
The MMA Guru states that at this level, the student has a basic understanding of fundamentals and they could hold their own on the streets. There are definitely some skills that still need to be honed to go up against others on the mat. The Blue Belt is required to be held for 2 years before advancing, but can stay there for as long as 5 years.
This level is similar to the blue belt in regards to having the basic knowledge for a student to hold their own in the outside world, but there are still “gaps” in their technique that the student needs to focus on. The time requirement on this belt is 1.5 years.
At this level, the student should be able to do takedowns and have all other moves in their arsenal for their disposal. During their time as a Brown Belt, this is when they decide which techniques fit their style of fighting based on their size, weight, mobility, etc. The student may focus on those skills and perfect them before it’s time to move onto a Black Belt. Before moving onto a Black Belt, the student can anticipate being at this level 1-2 years.
This level is the pinnacle of BJJ training. This is where a student can successfully say they have come close to mastering all of the techniques that they have been taught. As importantly noted by MMA Guru, it is also to be understood that this level does not mean they know everything in the BJJ world. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is ever evolving, and a Black Belt should anticipate rolling with the punches, so to speak. The Black Belt must be held for 3 years before qualifying to become a 1st degree Black Belt.
After the Black Belt, the student may be given different degrees that indicate further dedication in the sport. A black belt can be a 1st degree up until a 10th degree black belt. Here are the time requirements for each degree. MMA Guru also states that it is highly recommended that a Black Belt moves to teaching before earning different degrees on their Black Belt.
1st Degree - must be held for 3 years before advancing
2nd Degree - must be held for 3 years before advancing
3rd -5th Degree - must be held 3-5 years before advancing
6th Degree - must be held for 7 years before advancing
7th Degree - (alternating black and coral color) - must be held for 7 years before advancing
8th Degree - (alternating black and red color) - must be held for 10 years before advancing
9th & 10th Degree - (red belt) - highest honor - generally referred to as “grandmasters”
To sum this up, you have to have heart and dedication to move up through the belt ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
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