What Is a Red Belt in BJJ?
What is a red belt in bjj? The belt system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a practical and effective way to showcase one’s growth in the martial art. Most people believe that there are only five belt levels in jiu jitsu:
However, there are actually 3 more belt levels beyond black belt with red belt being the highest achievable belt:
- Black / Red belt (known as a Coral Belt) -after receiving 7 degrees on your black belt, you are then awarded your Coral Belt
- White / Red belt – after receiving your 8th degree you will then reach the level of white / red belt
- Red Belt – finally, the 9nth degree red belt (which is the highest rank awarded in jiu jitsu) is reached. It is only awarded to those who have a massive influece on the sport of jiu jitsu
The red belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu is the highest achievable belt. It is only awared to those who have had a massive influence on the sport of jiu jitsu as well as a life time study of the martial art.
For reference, the youngest person to ever achieve a red belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu is Carlos Antonio Rosado who received it at the age of 40 with 25 years of jiu jitsu training.
Jiu Jitsu belts signify one’s level of competency and rank and helps creates a standard for a more organized and inclusive learning method.
Related: Check out our post on all jiu jitsu belts – requirements, goals, and expectations for each
Typically, the highest rank you can receive in martial arts is the black belt. However, in BJJ, the red belt (ninth and tenth degree) is the highest one.
Yes, no one can ever know the intricacy of every technique. But, being a red belt holder means that one has dedicated their entire life to the sport and has had a massive influence on jiu jitsu.
Unfortunately, not many people are able to achieve such a rank. Thus, most BJJ practitioners, especially beginners, tend to be unaware of it.
The red belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, according to Renzo and Royler Gracie, is saved “for those whose influence and fame take them to the pinnacle of art.”
Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranks Explained
Starting out on BJJ, you basically begin on a white belt. And rightfully so, the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) requires no minimum amount of time to be a white belter.
Once you’ve put your mind to it, for about 2-3 years of basic training, you can earn yourself a blue belt. After the blue belt, you need to at least have 4-6 years of consistency and improvement to award yourself a purple belt. After a year, you may see yourself holding a brown belt.
As shown in the picture above, each belt from white to brown has four corresponding degrees. However, the time it will take for you to finish each degree varies depending on the instructor or the school you are in.
Once you’ve finished all levels from the first four belts, you are now proud and ready to wear your first black belt. Black belts have six corresponding degrees. At the 7th and 8th degree, as shown in the picture, you will earn yourself a coral belt (we’ll learn more from it below).
Finally, once you’ve finished all the prerequisites on the transitional coral belt stage, you are now ready for the 9th-degree red belt. Then, reserved for the original Gracie brothers, the 10th degree – the final belt.
Are There Any Living Red Belts?
There are two degrees to a red belt; the red belt is 9th degree and the red belt 10th degree.
The 9th-degree red belt is the highest rank granted to any currently living BJJ practitioner.
So yes, there are still living red belt holders in the world. In fact, according to the official IBJJF website, there are 22 9th-degree red belt holders, not to mention many more unregistered ones.
However, the 10th-degree red belt is a different case. There are no living 10th-degree red belts in the world as these belts are reserved for the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; the Gracie Brothers ( Carlos, Gastão, George, Oswaldo, and Helio).
How Many Red Belts Are There
For the 9th-degree red belts, as of December 14, 2022, there are 22 registered BJJ practitioners on the IBJJF website.
On the other hand, the 10th-degree red belts only consist of the original Gracie brothers; Carlos Gracie, Gastão Gracie Filho, George Gracie, Helio Grace, and Oswaldo Gracie.
In total, there are 27 registered red belt holders on the official IBJJF website. The numbers may differ if it includes unregistered red belts.
Who Is the Youngest BJJ Red Belt
The youngest to earn a BJJ 9th-degree red belt is Carlos Antonio Rosado.
He is the youngest to receive the nominal rank in martial arts and the sole recognized red belt by Master Carlson Gracie, one of the most important and influential Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners.
Carlos Rosado is a legendary figure in BJJ and one of the true historic figures of our sport and one of the most formidable technical grapplers in history.
How Hard Is It to Get a Red Belt in BJJ?
As with any other martial art, there is no shortcut to becoming an expert and achieving the highest belt possible.
For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, getting a red belt (the highest-ranked belt) demands nearly a lifetime of practice, dedication, and exceptional skill.
In fact, being a red belt holder means that you’ve put all your years into perfecting the art. Basically, you are living with BJJ itself.
Let’s say you’ve earned the prestigious black belt in the latter of your teenage years (18-19 years old). You would have to devote at least 20 more years to earn a red belt every BJJ practitioners dream of having.
Originally, the rules only allowed bjj practitioners above the age of 40 to be granted a red belt, but the rules have since been changed since there are posibilities of achieving one at a younger age.
Yes, there is no other way to earn a red belt in BJJ unless you envelop jiu-jitsu fully into your life. Fortunately, it’s possible, though, it needs time, patience, and dedication. If you’ve put your life to it, then you can look back with satisfaction and grace.
How Common Are Red Belts in BJJ?
Rener Gracie estimates that just 10% of new BJJ students will earn a blue belt, and even more interesting is that only 1% of that 10% will acquire a black belt.
Thus, earning a red belt is a very steep climb with less than .001% ever achieving a red belt.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Red Belt in BJJ
Red belts are regarded as “Grand Masters” in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Generally, it will take you at least 50 years of consistent training/coaching to achieve the red belt.
The BJJ community will not promote anyone above a 9th-degree red belt level out of respect for the pioneers and original Gracie brothers (Carlos, Gasto, George, Oswaldo, and Hélio Gracie).
According to the IBJJF website, just 22 people have attained a BJJ red belt too far. Many of the 22 have died, and even fewer are still alive.
How Do You Earn a Red Belt in BJJ?
As mentioned, each rank in BJJ requires a certain level of effort, dedication, and enthusiasm. That is certainly more true when aiming for the red belt.
First, you have to go through 4 belts – white, blue, purple, and brown – each with four corresponding degrees and prerequisites to advance.
Then you have to endure six degrees of being a black belter and proceed to two transitional degrees of coral belts before achieving a red belt.
It takes at least half a century to be promoted to a 9th-degree red belt.
It’s not impossible! If you have what it takes to be a red belt holder, then you can devote your life to it.
What’s a BJJ Coral Belt?
The coral belts are also known as the 7th-degree and 8th-degree belts. The 8th-degree coral belt was recently added to the BJJ ranking system in 2013.
After six rigorous black belt degrees, you have to get through the transitional phase (the two coral belts) before getting a red belt.
Being in this stage means you’re one step away from becoming a Grand Master of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Coral belts are named after coral snakes due to their black and red pattern.
BJJ Red Belt vs Black Belt
To different people, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) belt system represents different things. While some practitioners are unconcerned about their belt rank, others place a significant value on it.
The significance of the black belt is something on which most people can agree. As in other martial arts, most jiu-jitsu students seek the prized black belt. Although there is a higher rank in jiu-jitsu, black belts are generally regarded as art instructors and leaders. In fact, most people believe that a black belt is the highest rank in any martial art.
When a martial artist attains the level of black belt, it usually signifies that they have trained for at least a decade or two to gain that honor. The black belt represents both the end of one’s training and the beginning of another’s.
And, while a black belt is a rare feat, there are actually higher grades in BJJ that may be attained.
As previously said, the red belt is the absolute pinnacle in BJJ. It is an honor bestowed upon people who have devoted their lives to the practice and spread of this extremely successful combat art.
While no existing BJJ practitioner may go beyond the ninth degree, the 10th degree does exist. It is, however, only for the BJJ pioneers—Carlos, Oswaldo, George, Gaston, and Helio Gracie.