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Jiu Jitsu Belts Explained

For adults, every jiu jitsu belt in order is white, blue, purple, brown, and black. At the start of each belt, it will be clear or plain then you will be awarded degrees in the form of stripes on your belt to signify progression.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) belt system is a ranking system used to indicate the skill level and mastery of practitioners in the martial art.

Related: Why Do Most People Quit BJJ?

Key Takeaways

  • The belts in jiu jitsu are earned through training, competition and demonstration of technical proficiency and understanding of the art.
  • The BJJ belt system consists of different belt ranks, going from:

white > blue > purple > brown > black

  • Some bjj schools will also award stripes on your belt to show your progression through the belt color. Usually the gym’s head coach will award stripes and promote students to the next belt color.
  • Unlike judo, there is no national ranking system or standard for bjj, so your progression through the belts is entirely up to your gym’s coach
  • It is not uncommon for a lower belt to submit or beat a higher belt when sparring in jiu jitsu (this however, does not mean that the lower belt knows more or is better than the higher belt)
  • By mid to late blue belt, you should be confident in your ability to control any untrained individual

Related: How many black belts on bjj are there in the world?

Belt LevelTotal Avg. Years to Reach Next BeltWhat to Know
White1-2 yearsBasic techniques and movements
Blue2-3 yearsExplore more advanced techniques, strategies and tactics
Purple4-5 yearsFurther refinement of techniques, deeper understanding of body positioning and bjj systems
Brown7-8 yearsAbility to execute techniques smoothly and efficiently, understanding of game theory
Black10-12 yearsMastery of techniques and ability to innovate and adapt

The jiu jitsu belt ranks are not only used for adults, but also for kids jiu jitsu, with slight modifications in the curriculum and requirements.

The jiu jitsu belt system serves as a guide for students to track their progress and set goals for their training.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, the BJJ ranking system is an essential aspect of the Brazilian jiu jitsu experience which helps guide and motivate students as well as track their progress.

Everyone starts at white belt, and your instructor will decide when to award you degrees at that belt and eventually, promote you to the next color belt.

Adult Jiu Jitsu Belts

     Belts in jiu jitsu much like other martial arts signify your level of experience.

They are usually given by an academy’s head instructor when they feel a student has reached the skills and requirements of the next color.

Other bjj gym coaches can give degrees or promote students to the next belt level granted that they are at least one belt beyond the student they are promoting and/or have the head instructor’s approval.

Below is a bjj belt progression timeline table that dictates the belt color and the total cumulative average time it may take to obtain each one of the jiu jitsu belts:

White Belt0
Blue Belt1-3 years
Purple Belt2-6 years
Brown Belt5-8 years
Black Belt8-12 years

     While these numbers are an average there are many people who have moved through the jiu jitsu belts quite quickly (including my coach, Richie Martinez, who received his black belt at 3 years and 11 months of training) .

Additionally, within these belt rankings students can receive stripes or degrees on their belt to signify their progression within their belt color.

Generally, a student will receive four degrees or stripes on their belt before progressing to the next one.

What Should You Focus on at Each BJJ Belt?

White Belt

     White belt is the toughest belt for many, and the one which will see the highest drop out rates. It will be a true test of your ego.

The odds that you will be submitted by someone smaller than you who has more bjj experience is extremely high if not guaranteed.

You will quickly realize the massive skill gap between you and jiu jitsu trained individuals. It is a true test to continue to persevere and show up to each class knowing that you are one of the less experienced bjj gym members.

 However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After a couple weeks you will see new members come in and you will see some of the techniques you learned be very effective when sparring with them. 

Focus on:

  • Becoming accustomed to live sparring
  • Learning goals of jiu jitsu
  • Common escapes to common pins
  • Basic Submissions
  • Trying not to get wrapped up in flashy moves
  • Structuring your learning (by finding out how your learn best

At white belt since you will spend most of your time in poor positions, the first thing to focus on is becoming comfortable in those positions.

If you are new to grappling, getting used to the feeling of someone trying to physically control you with all their might while you try to do the same to them is definitely anxiety inducing.

Getting your mind and body used to live sparring will be the first hill to climb, and becoming comfortable in poor positions will help speed this process up.

While they might not be the funnest to learn, frequently, drilling escapes from the most common positions will pay dividends at white belt and future belts.

Having a single go to escape from each pinning position (turtle, side control, mount, rear mount) that you can effectively perform on peers of your skill level from these pins will give you confidence and be a prominent pillar of your future jiu jitsu learning. 

If you are attempting to follow along with bjj instructionals at this belt level which is recommended, a good progression recommended by John Danaher is

Pin Escapes > Submission Escapes > followed by Half Guard.

 Beyond escapes and surviving, it is good to learn one or two submissions since there are times that you will be sparring with someone around or below your skill level.

Some great submissions to learn initially are triangles, arm triangles, and kimuras. 

Blue Belt

Blue belt is often the longest belt for many, and based on research from our gym members, it is the belt with the second highest drop out rate behind white belt.

Related: How Dangerous Is a Blue Belt in BJJ?

So you’ve reached blue belt, and you’ve got some basic knowledge and skills down, now what?

Focus on:

  • Becoming proficient at a couple positions
  • Actively trying new techniques
  • Exploring other common positions, submissions, techniques
  • Structuring your learning both on and off the mat*
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During blue belt you should freely explore many techniques and positions. You will learn the majority of moves that will make up your future, overall jiu jitsu game at this belt.

You will begin to gravitate towards certain techniques and favor them.

Among blue belts that I frequently spar with, I have found that many are urgently trying to get to one of their favored positions.

While they may be somewhat proficient at a specific position or submission they will lack a larger knowledge on other positions that they do not have first hand experience in.

For this reason, it is important to explore more techniques, try out new positions on white belts or those less experienced, expand your knowledge on how one position relates to another, being to learn to chain submission attacks or sweep attempts.

You can start by working from one of your favored positions (for me it was Z guard or low knee shield) and build off of them.

See what submissions are available or what common reactions you might encounter from your opponent and work on creating systematic ways to deal with them.

Related: Often times obtaining you’re blue belt is the first goal for many jiu jitsu practitioners.

Many even focus on this goal too much and once they finally get their blue belt, they may think “okay what’s next?”. This is one of the contributing factors to “blue belt blues”.                    

By mid to end time at blue belt, you should feel confident in your abilities to control and perform successful techniques on nearly any untrained opponents.

Purple Belt

When rolling with purple belts, you will see sparks of greatness. They will feel more technical, more dangerous, and more efficient in their movements.

When versing purple belts you cannot play a lazy game, you must be aware of their options and goals from specific positions.

Purple belt means that your coach has a strong confidence in you that you can make it to black belt. For this reason, purple belt will seem like it takes longer to achieve than going from white belt to blue belt.

Focus on:

  • Chaining attacks, submissions, techniques
  • Building up weak areas
  • Grow knowledge of all common positions
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At purple belt, you will begin to fine tune your craft, have strategies for nearly every common position if not actively work towards gaining such strategies. 

You will become dangerous to everyone at every belt level. It is not entirely uncommon for a purple belt to submit a brown belt or even a black belt.

You should focus on enhancing your deeper knowledge of each technique by being acutely aware of the details required to perform a such technique successfully.

Chaining submissions and sweeps should be occurring more often and more easily.

You should also be able to control and submit nearly every blue belt regardless of their prior grappling experience.

This is the belt of fine tuning and exploring your understanding.

Related: BJJ Purple Belt Requirements

Brown Belt

     The transition from purple belt to brown belt is somewhat easier than going from blue belt to purple belt.

During purple belt students have gained a deeper understanding of the martial art and of themselves.

They will have their learning methods down to a science with experience in both adding new techniques, fine tuning techniques they are good at, and actively chipping away at their weaknesses.

This is a time to get lost in the details of a specific technique or position

Focus on:

  • Developing strong counters to most techniques
  • Commonly choose not to play your favored positions
  • Look at the larger picture of why things do or don’t work
  • Understand general hierarchy of techniques

From interviews performed at my gym, members said that brown belts should begin to be effective from nearly every position.

They should have an answer to almost all techniques.

They should have a general knowledge of all positions and be extremely proficient at many. Their jiu jitsu game should be well rounded with no blaring holes in their understanding or technique.

Related: How Dangerous Is a Brown Belt in BJJ?

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Achieving a black belt to many is nearly a rebirth or new beginning in the sport. You will have a deep understanding of the fundamentals and mechanics of jiu jitsu.

Focus on:

  • Improvement upon all attributes that effect your jiu jitsu including technique, strength, flexibility
  • Deepen understanding of mechanics and leverages
  • Ability to completely structure your own learning

From interviews of black belts and instructors at my gym, they said that “you have pretty much encountered almost every submission and position and should have a detailed answered for all.”

You will notice that black belts seems to move with ease almost flowing from position to position. Their movements will be so precise that they may seem effortless. This is the goal of jiu jitsu.

Red Belt

Beyond black belt there are actually three other higher belts culminating at jiu jitsu’s highest belt: red belt.

After black belt the belts are broken down into the below:

  • 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

Related: Click here for our full guide on red belts in bjj

Belt Progression – How to Get a Black Belt in BJJ?

     The average time it takes most people to get a black belt in brazilian jiu jitsu is ~8-12 years.

While the time it takes to get a black belt in jiu jitsu may seem quite a bit longer than other martial arts, jiu jitsu involves a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the numerous take downs, positions, counters, and submissions.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to someone’s progression throughout the jiu jitsu belts.

It involves countless hours on the mat, a deep positional understanding, and years of trial and error through live sparring.

Quite simply, you get a black belt by consistent training over the years, developing a deep understanding of jiu jitsu techniques, and ability to practically apply such techniques when sparring.

What Should a Black Belt Know – Black Belt Requirements

Having a masterful understanding of the conceptual basics of Brazilian jiu jitsu is the first requirement for all black belts.

  • A black belt should have a masterful understanding of self-defense
  • A black belt should be a teacher, someone who represents the martial art well and sets a good example for new students
  • A black belt should have a variety of attacking techniques that they can chain together based on their opponents reactions
  • A black belt should be able to control and submit brown belts and other lower belts
  • A black belt should not have any weaknesses in the
  • A black belt should constantly be learning and even though they have achieved mastery they should still maintain a student mentality

How are BJJ Students Evaluated?

While this will vary gym to gym, the head bjj coach of a gym is usually the one who awards students their next belt level.

The below factors are often considered when deciding if a student should be awarded their next belt:

  • consistency of training
  • technical understanding
  • performance during sparring or in competitions
  • overall time spent training
  • grappling experience
  • how well rounded the student is

What Is Belt Integrity in Jiu Jitsu?

Belt integrity refers to how accurately somone’s belt rank reflects their experience, knowledge, and skills expected of that belt.

Since unlike Judo, there is no national or international standard requirements of each belt ranking, being promoted to the next belt rank is done solely based on the discretion of your gym’s head coach.

This is why we see wildly differences across individuals of the same belt rank.

We may see a blue belt who reaches the podium at international level competitions or we may see an older hobbyist black belt who gets frequently submitted by blue belts.

Belt ranking wil come down to your coach’s discretion and evaluation of your skills and mat performance based on your goals in jiu jitsu.

That is why you may see a gym hold back a student who performs at a higher belt level since they have competition aspirations and would not like to compete at higher belt rank just yet.

IBJJF belt requirements

     IBJJF belt requirements are specialized and designed to fit within their organization.

IBJJF stands for International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. They provide a standardized model and guideline for those who wish to be a member of the federation and compete in their organized events.

Below is a minimum of how many years a student must spend before moving to the next belt within their model:

White BeltN/A
Blue Belt2 years
Purple Belt1 and 1/2 years
Brown Belt1 year

While IBJJF is one of the largest bjj organizations, there are many others that host frequent BJJ competitions for all ages.

Many schools also recommend competing to increase their learning throughout each belt level in jiu jitsu. When you compete you are split up into different weight classes for bjj events. So you would compete against some of the same sex, weight classes, age, and skill level.

What Is Jiu Jitsu Highest Belt?

     Jiu jitsu’s highest belt is red belt.

Beyond black belt there are actually three more colors which few people will ever achieve.

Once a student receives their black belt and continues to train in the martial art they can eventually receive their Black / Red Belt also known as a coral belt, followed by a White / Red belt, and then ultimately a Red Belt.

So What Do the Jiu Jitsu Belts Actually Mean? – Conclusion

     Belts in jiu jitsu can be used as a tool for both guiding and motivating a student throughout their bjj journey.

To reiterate, for adults, every jiu jitsu belt in order is white, blue, purple, brown, and black. At the start of each belt, it will be clear or plain then you will be awarded degrees in the form of stripes on your belt to signify progression.

While jiu jitsu belts are important and can help practitioners be aware of bjj belt requirements and what to focus on, many will say that progression, ultimately, comes down to one’s own learning, discipline, and love of the martial art.

“..Belts do absolutely nothing to enhance the one thing we should be interested in as we study Jiu Jitsu – our performance level..”

John Danaher

Performance on the mat should be the main guiding factor when measuring your growth in the martial art. Jiu jitsu belts are helpful in providing a general idea of someone’s knowledge and experience, but they are by no means an absolute declaration of someone’s skill.

So keep grinding and see you on the mats! – Zack

Related: How long does it take to learn BJJ

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the order of belts in jiu-jitsu?

The order of belts in jiu jitsu is white, blue, purple, brown, and black.

What Is the Hardest Belt to Get in BJJ?

In BJJ, many have said that the hardest belt o get is a purple belt.

Many coaches, include Firas Zahibi, believe that a purple belt already has all the necessary skills and motivation to reach black belt, but they just need more time.

So a coach may not promote a student to purple belt unless they fully trust that they are committed to Brazilian jiu jitsu and can one day reach black belt.

How many belt levels are there in jiu-jitsu?

There are 5 belt levels in jiu jitsu that most dedicated practitioners will be able to obtain. They are white, blue, purple, brown, and black.

What Belt is 3 years of Jiu-jitsu

At 3 years of jiu jitsu, a practitioner can be expected to be a decent blue belt or maybe even a new purple belt if they are athletically gifted or if they have prior grappling experience.

What belt is 4 years of bjj?

While belts are given based solely on the opinion of your head coach which is usually based upon your skill and experience level, on average 4 years of bjj is likely an experienced blue belt or a somewhat new purple belt.

What belt is Joe Rogan in BJJ?

Joe Rogan is a black belt in BJJ. He holds a black belt in the gi from Jean Jacques Machado and a black belt in no gi from Eddie Bravo under the 10th Planet System.

What belt is Conor McGregor in BJJ?

Connor McGregor is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He was awarded his brown belt from his coach John Kavanagh back in 2014 after his win over Dustin Poirier.

What are the Japanese Jiu Jitsu belts?

In modern times, Brazilian jiu jitsu and Japanese jiu jitsu are almost entirely different martials arts although Brazilian jiu jitsu was likely strongly influenced by aspects of Japanese JJ.

Japaense jiu jitsu belts have more colors included in their belt system and are generally followed as: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, and black However, unlike bjj, there is no standard of Japanese jiu jitsu belts so these belts may vary depending on the Japanese jiu jitsu gym.

What’s the highest belt in jiu-jitsu?

The highest blet in jiu jitsu is a red belt. This belt level is extremely rare and is only awarded to those that have had a massive impact on the sport of jiu jitsu. Most practitioners will only reach the level of black belt. Bear in mind to reach the level of black belt requires extreme dedication to training and learning the martial art and is usually achieved between 10-14 years of consistent training.

What is a jiu jitsu yellow belt?

A jiu jitsu yellow belt is a youth belt and usually given to kids between the ages of 7-15 years. They are considered to be at the intermediate level of the kids belts.