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Not just black and white: BJJ belts explained

Like many martial arts systems, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu has a grading system.

This grading system goes by the colour of your belt, starting at white for beginners and moving up to black for masters (dans).

BJJ belts aren’t as simple as “once you can do this technique you move up a belt”. Each belt is a different challenge and to reach black should take at least a decade of hard work. Beware any gym which “guarantees a black belt in a year” as it’s complete bullshit.

The time between belts also varies. You might spend a year at white belt, and then 3 years at blue, then 2 years at purple… there are too many variables to predict how fast you’ll move up through the ranks.

How often you train, your natural athletic ability, whether you enter competitions – all these things affect your BJJ career and which belt you wear.

In BJJ the different belt colours generally equate with the student’s ability, but not always. Grading comes down to the coach, so not everyone will be at exactly the same level just because they have the same colour of belt.

Now, because each gym is different, the following guidelines are just that – guidelines. Nothing is set in stone, and this is a general overview of what each belt entails.

BJJ Belts

White Belt

White is for beginners, and for many is the most exciting belt in the BJJ journey.

Everything is new for a white belt, so a movement, technique, or concept is something they’re hearing for the first time.

All this new knowledge (not to mention getting fitter) can make people fall in love with BJJ and dive in head first.

White belts are introduced to the BJJ fundamentals that the system is based on, so learning the drills and learning them well is the key to moving on to the next level.

Blue Belt

Blue belts are out of the toddler phase and are now walking on their own two feet.

By this point, blue belts will have a natural understanding of the basics along with a good level of fitness, as well as a few submission techniques, but there’s still a LOT to learn.

Blue belts have a reputation as arrogant because they’ve gained a belt and can tie beginners in knots, but a few minutes on the mats with a purple belt will soon knock that out of them.

Purple Belt

Purple belt is when things start to get real.

Anyone at purple belt should have a solid knowledge of escapes, basic submissions, and proper defensive postures.

It’s around this time also that people often begin to develop their own personal styles of jiu-jitsu which compliments their body type, athletic ability, age, and other personal attributes. 

Brown Belt

At this point, anyone who is awarded their brown belt has spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours on the mats.

They’ll be experts in the fundamentals, have their own style, and a deep understanding of the sport.

Rather than using physical overpowering to submit an opponent, brown belts should be thinking more in the abstract sense, planning submissions ahead of time and setting traps for their opponent.

It’s at this stage students should be weeding out any weakness in their own game in order to move onto black belt.

Black Belt

Being awarded a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a remarkable achievement.

It takes literally years of practice, hard-work, and commitment to reach this level, which is why so few people do.

Perhaps it’s that level of mental toughness which means black belts almost transcend the physical side of the sport, and instead focus on the spiritual side.

Techniques have been mastered, submissions escaped from, and opponents defeated, but the journey isn’t over, rather it’s just beginning.

There is always room for improvement, no matter how good you are, and black belts can fine-tune moves which they learnt at white belt.

The road to black belt in itself makes you a better person, and this comes through in your everyday life.

Red Belt

Just keep walking, this doesn’t concern you.

Reserved for those that have been a Black Belt for 48 Years, very few ever get the privilege to wear the Red belt in BJJ.

BJJ Belts

Start collecting your BJJ belts today!

BJJ belts are a great way to measure your progress, but they’re not the end goal itself.

There is no final objective in Brazilian Jiu jitsu, but rather a way to live your life with confidence, discipline, and respect, both for others and yourself.

No matter what belt you’re on, as long as you’re having fun, keeping fit, and making friends, then you’re on the right path.

If starting off as a white belt is something you’d be interested in, then we have the perfect beginners’ course for you.

Contact us today to start your BJJ journey with a 14-day free trial and let’s see if you’ve got what it takes to move up the belts.