Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Colors and Ranking System
Just as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu owes its background to Judo, it does in regards to its belt colors and ranking system. In 1907, Kano Jigor, the founder of Judo introduced a form of belt color ranking system to the martial art. Jigoro had originally implemented white and black belts, without any of the other intermediate belts we know of today. White belts were intended for novices, as white represents purity and innocence, and black belts were for the elites of the discipline; black represents experience and an abundance of knowledge. When Mitsuyo Maeda had visited Brazil, inevitably inspiring Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he brought along this two belt system of white and black belts.
It is likely that Mikonosuke Kawaishi had created the other belt colors to encourage Westerners to continue their practice of the art. His reasoning was that Westerners desire more of an immediate sense of accomplishment, and his reasoning holds true today. The separate BJJ kids belt color ranking system is intended to encourage participation in BJJ, as children are promoted every one to four months. Adults progress at a much slower pace, but the idea of rewarding accomplishments in several smaller milestones is still in effect.
From White Belt to Black Belt
There is a common myth about how rank was conferred in older forms of martial arts. Many people state, and believe, that novice students were given white belts, and through years of practice would soil their white belts through practice. Belts would become yellow and green from grass stains, and brown from dirt, until finally becoming black from constant exposure. Today, many teachers do not wash their belts as they believe this story, and they also half-jokingly believe that the washing of their belt resembles a loss of knowledge.
Thankfully, this was not how ranks were denoted in the past. In older Japanese martial arts, practitioners were awarded kimonos and certificates as a form of promotion. However, this does not mean that belts are washable! The materials used to make martial arts belts are liable to contract, and even contort or break washed.
Adult BJJ Belt Colors Ranks
All adult students begin their BJJ experience with a white belt. However, a student may pass the white belt level if they were a student as a child, and will being their adult training as a blue belt. The white belt represents purity, and lack of knowledge in Jiu-Jitsu.
Students may acquire their blue belt after one to two years as a white belt, and only once they are 16 years old. It will take students several hundred hours to progress from blue to purple belt, and because of this students will gain a large knowledge of the core skills of BJJ during this level of training.
The typical time it takes to acquire the purple belt is two to three years. This belt is the intermediate belt in Jiu-Jitsu, being half way between white and black belt. Students must be at least 16 years old, and have a minimum of two years in training before they’re awarded the purple belt.
The brown belt usually achieve the brown belt after five years of training. Students who are awarded this belt are considered the lowest of Jiu-Jitsu elite. The brown belt is the second most advanced rank in the Jiu-Jitsu system. Students must be 18 years old, and have spent one and a half years as a purple belt to obtain the brown belt.
During the time spent as a black belt students are expected to know the core skills of Jiu-Jitsu, and the time as a brown belt are meant to refine these basic skills.
The black belt is the highest rank in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu system, with the exception of the unique red and black, and red belts. The estimated amount of time for a dedicated practitioner to be awarded a black belt is 10 years. Black belt level students will have invested thousands of hours into training, and their efficiency must reflect so. Unlike the lower belts, there are up to 6 degrees of black belt before a student is promoted to the next level. A student must be at least 19 years old, and have one year spent as a brown belt to obtain their black belt.
Students who have greater than six degrees may be rewarded a black and red belt. Black and red belt practioners are masters of the martial art, and have a great influence on the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The final belt color and rank of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the red belt. These students represent the best of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, have decades of experience, and change the art itself. Because of the repetition of this belt, red belts often have accumulated great amounts of fame by the time they’re awarded this belt. This belt is awarded after a student has achieved their 9th and 10th degrees. If a student begins their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training at the age of 19, they may expect to receive a red belt in their late sixties, if they have been dedicated to the art.
Kids BJJ Belt Colors Ranks
Kids belts are awarded differently than adult belts. Kids belts are often awarded for time in practice, as opposed to ability to perform. Also, kids progress much faster through ranks than do adults, and this is so that kids maintain motivation throughout their practice. Once a child reaches 16 years old, they’re eligible to enter the adult BJJ ranking.
As of 2012, the IBJJF recommends using a new system for kids BJJ belt colors and ranks. In this new system, young students progress through several degrees, and transcend belt colors once every three years. In addition to belt degrees, each color belt has been separated into three groups. Students progress from their colored belt with a white stripe, followed by the solid belt color, and finished by the belt color with a white stripe. Degrees are also associated with each of these groups. After a student has reached the black stripe group, with all degrees received, then they are ready to be promoted to the next belt color.
Kids BJJ belt colors go from grey, yellow, orange, and finally to green. This means that kid BJJ students have the potential to receive four belt colors, 12 groupings, and additional degrees. Students are recommended awards every one, three, or four months.
BJJ Belt Stripes
Between promotion of belt colors, students may be awarded stripes to their belt. The amount of stripes awarded between each belt is left to the schools discretion. The formality of these stripes may range from colored tape, to sewn articles of cloth.
The IBJJF recommends a maximum of four stripes be awarded between each belt color.
BJJ Belt Degrees
Belt stripes are not associated with black belts. Once a BJJ practioners achieves the black belt rank, then they’re awarded degrees. Each degree is a significant achievement, and a maximum of six degrees will be awarded before the student is awarded a red and black belt (red and black belts are awarded at seven degrees).
Testing For BJJ Belt Colors and Ranks
In general, most promotions are not gained through formal testing. Whether or not a student passes to the next belt is often subjectively decided by a professor. The biggest fasters that affect whether, and when, a student is promoted are how long the student has been training, how actively they’ve been training, and how effectively they can execute maneuvers. Some professors also take in the practioners character, as well as knowledge of the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, into consideration.
There are some cases were BJJ academies use formal systems to decide when to promote a student. While these systems may be more consistent, they’re still arbitrary.
Competition and BJJ Belt Colors and Ranks
Another large factor of how quickly a student is promoted is based on competition. If a student excels in competition, they’re often rewarded with a faster promotion. Some academies have been known to require their students to compete in BJJ if they desire to be promoted, but these academies are not the norm.