What's the deal with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belts?
In bjj, especially in the gi, we use belts to signify rank and experience. The higher someone's rank is, the more experienced and the better he is at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in theory at least.
What's the order of the belts in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
For adults, the basic progression of the belts is white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red. Red belts aren't very common, as they're more of a way to show how long someone has been a black belt, rather than signifying a specific increase in skill. It takes about 36 years of being a black belt before you get the red belt.
Minimum Duration (years)
Red & Black
Red & White
How long does it take to get a black belt in bjj?
Compared to other martial arts, it takes a lot longer on average to get your blackbelt in BJJ. In fact, it's not uncommon for people to spend 2-3 years as a white belt.
Most people take 10-15 years to get their black belt. There are some notable outliers, like Caio Terra, who got his in 3, but expect it to take about 10 years of consistent dedicated practice.
Why does it take so long to get the black belt in BJJ
In contrast to other Martial arts, bjj usually doesn't have a set curriculum and no belt tests. This means you don't get promoted for memorizing a few techniques but for your actual skill on the mat.
At Stark Ghent, we have a structured and well-thought-out curriculum and lesson plan. We we still promote people based on skill and merrit rather than belt tests.
In most bjj gyms, people either get promoted at the end of random classes or during a specific promotion training.
How do instructors choose when to promote you to the next belt.
This depends on the gym, but also on your aspirations, dedication, skills, and competition performance.
The coaching team will usually try to assess your skill level by training with you, or looking at you train with others while taking into account the stuff above.
Someone starting BJJ late in life will be judged differently than a young buck aiming to win a major competition at their current belt level.
To make this progression more transparent and to help you get a gauge on how you’re progressing, Stark Ghent created a simple framework for you to assess yourself, and for the coaches to give you feedback.
Are higher belts always better than lower belts?
No. While belts in general, give you a sense of someone’s skill level, it's not perfect, because everybody gets promoted based on their own situation. We aim to use the belts to track your progress based on your own relative potential.
Recently we saw notable blue, and purple belts like Nick Rodriguez and Cole Abate destroy seasoned black belts in competition.
How should you treat a higher / lower belt?
Like a regular person. Old school gyms had very strict hierarchies, with lots of crazy rules. We decided to move away from that because it feels toxic.
Everyone deserves to be treated equally, no matter how much time they’ve spent on the mat.
The only exception is when two pairs of partners are rolling close to each other and are at risk of colliding. In such a situation, we ask the pair with the lowest rank to move out out of the way of the other pair.
Not because they are somehow worth more, but because it's an easy rule of thumb to follow, that helps us avoid injuries.
What about kids belts in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu?
Kids have a couple of belts that adults don't have, namely gray, yellow, orange, and green. And people under the age of 16 can't get a blue or purple belt. While you need to be 18 to get a brown or black belt.
Minimum Time (years)
Are BJJ belts important?
Any group of people (or any animal, including lobsters) like to organize themselves in terms of competence. This is a very deep human urge. Because of that, people tend to put a lot of importance on their belt level. This often leads to a lot of undue frustration and often misdirects the focus. People start to think “how can I get the next belt” instead of “how can I improve my BJJ”. Or they think “why does jimmy have a higher belt than me, even tho I kick his ass”, comparing themselves to others instead of focusing on their own progress. At Stark Ghent, we try to help people direct their focus and energy towards productive thought and action; as such we try not to make too big of a deal of the belts.
While they are a handy tool to easily estimate someone's experience in the gym and a way for people to understand their own progress, it’s still a very limited tool.
So try to focus on your actual improvement in the gym rather than your progress through the belts.