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What Do BJJ Stripes Mean (Explained with Full Guide)

What Do Stripes Mean in Jiu Jitsu?

What do stripes mean in jiu jitsu? Stripes in Brazilian jiu jitsu denote knowledge and skill at the current belt level. Once you receive 4 stripes on your belt from your coach, you will then be promoted to the next belt level.

(Another word for stripes is degree – so someone can be a 2 stripe blue belt or a 2nd degree blue belt which both mean the same thing in bjj.)

How Long Does It Take to Get Your First Stripe in BJJ?

We have a created the below graph on when bjj practitioners received their first stripe compiled from a survey of answers from over half a dozen posts on reddit and almost 40 responses:

answers surveyed from reddit*

From these surveyed results we can see a couple things:

  • there’s a high variance which is soley depending on your gym and coaches
  • most people can expect to achieve their first stripe in 2-6 months (with consistent training of course)
  • of all the people surveyed, majority of them received their first stripe at six months

Do know that every school has their own criteria that they look at in order to give their student a stripe. Moreover, not all schools give out stripes. Below an average jiu jitsu belt progression timeline for your reference:

However, always remember that your coaches and professors are usually keenly aware of your progress.

What you have to keep in mind is that the stripes do not define you as a BJJ practitioner. Each and everyone is on their own journey. Some can get their stripes or next beltearlier than others because of how much they train. Or maybe because they have a background in a grappling sport prior to transitioning to BJJ. 

What is important though is just always strive to do your best and continue learning in order to improve as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner. 

(here is me getting my first stripe from my coach)

How Many Stripes Until the Next Belt?

Commonly, a BJJ practitioner starts with a plain belt. This goes out to all the ranks. The more you train and improve then you will level up.

From here, they will earn a stripe every time their coach or professor sees improvement in how they perform on the mats. The total number of stripes earned by a BJJ practitioner at each belt is 4. After 4 stripes, a practitioner can expect that they will be promoted to the next colored belt rank soon.

However, in some schools or gyms, they do not provide stripes and just allow their students to improve. Eventually, they will be promoted to the next rank from there. 

My current gym, which is 10th planet, is no gi focused only – so they don’t give out stripes and only give out belt promotions.

Since we don’t train in the gi, for our advanced or competition classes, we are required to wear a rash guard that denotes out belt rank (again these rules can vary widely depending on gym and affiliate).

How Do You Earn a Stripe on your BJJ Belt?

There are different criterias that are being looked out for in the mats by your superiors in order to earn a stripe. What you need to know is that at each belt, there is something expected of you. 

  • White belt – The BJJ white belts are the lowest rank in the belt system. What is expected in this rank is of course, learn all about the fundamentals and principles of the sport. Moreover, what you need to focus on is escaping to survive. 
  • Blue belt – The 2nd in the rank system is the blue belt. What is expected here is that you are familiar with the technicalities of the sport. In addition to that, you should be able to apply the principles like sweeps, take downs, guard, passes and different submissions. 
  • Purple belt – These purple belts are the middlemen in BJJ. They are not considered beginners or advanced. But what is expected of them to earn a stripe and to transition to the next rank is to be able to have a series of moves and attacks already. 
  • Brown belt – The 4th rank in the BJJ system is the brown belt. What is expected of these brown belts in order to earn their stripes is that they have a chain of attack. This means that they are very comfortable on the mats already and able to think ahead of their opponent. 
  • Black belts – The professors in BJJ are the black belts. What is expected of them is to be the embodiment of what BJJ is all about on and off the mats. They guide their students to become the best version of themselves by constantly teaching them about the sport and principles that can help them with life.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Stripe on your Belt?

As shown in the graph above, typically, you can earn your first stripe in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu between 2-6 months. 

However, this is not standard and still rely on several things like: 

  • Consistency in training – There are some people have the time to train more than others. Hence, they get to garner more skills from the lessons. Therefore, if you can be consistent in training, then do so. 
  • Technical Skills – Aside from training, there are those who study at home and research about possible moves to apply during training. So, if the coach or professor sees improvement in technical skills then one can gain their stripes. Moreover, there are those with background in other grappling sports like wrestling and judo. These people can probably gain a stripe faster than others because they are familiar with some moves in BJJ due to their other sport. 
  • Participation in Competition If you participate in competitions, know that your coach and professors acknowledge you. By joining, it just goes to show that you are confident in your skills and knowledge that is why you are ready to test it out. Win or lose, your coaches and professors can still give you a stripe. 

Note that, some may get theirs earlier than others while some later. However, this does not define you as a BJJ practitioner. Always remember that each and everyone of us has our own journey. 

History of the Belt and Stripe System

Jigoro Kano

In the early 20th century, Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo, introduced the world to the modern martial arts belt system.

This system was designed to represent a practitioner’s skills, knowledge, and rank within their martial art. The idea of using belts and stripes evolved over time and eventually found its way into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), as the Gracies, the family behind BJJ, developed their own version of the system.

The BJJ belt system includes six colors: white, blue, purple, brown, black, and red.

These belts are awarded based on a student’s progress within the sport, with instructors evaluating their knowledge, technical expertise, and dedication to the martial art.

The BJJ stripe system further breaks down each belt into four stripes, signifying a student’s progress within their current rank. Stripes, typically made of athletic tape, are wrapped around the end of the belt to indicate the practitioner’s experience at their current rank.

BJJ stripes and belts serve not only as visual cues of a student’s progress but also as motivators to improve, learn, and develop further expertise.

Again, It is important to note that belt and stripe requirements may vary depending on the BJJ school and instructor. However, the general concepts behind their use remain consistent throughout the BJJ community.

BJJ White Belt Stripe Requirements

As a newcomer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the primary goals is to advance from a white belt with no stripes to a white belt with stripes, ultimately moving on to a blue belt.

The requirements for earning stripes on a white belt typically revolve around mastering basic techniques, displaying consistent progress, and showing dedication to the sport.

To earn their first stripe, white belt practitioners must demonstrate proficiency in the essential BJJ techniques, including but not limited to

  • proper posture
  • escapes
  • fundamental submissions

This includes understanding essential positions such as guard, mount, and side control, and developing escapes from these positions. Instructors will also assess a student’s ability to implement fundamental submissions like the rear naked choke, triangle choke, and armbar.

For the second stripe, students are expected to build upon skills learned from their first stripe, enriching their understanding of the principles behind each technique. This includes refining their posture, improving escapes, and actively attempting to set up and execute submissions during live training.

With the third and fourth stripes, white belts should show increased proficiency in BJJ fundamentals, learning more advanced techniques and demonstrating a deeper understanding of underlying concepts. This involves developing efficient and effective transitions between positions, improving submission setups, and becoming a more proactive and strategic practitioner during sparring.

White Belt Explained

The white belt is the first rank in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system, symbolizing a fresh beginning and the start of a new journey. Going through the white belt rank isn’t easy, but I promise if you can tough it out for the first 6 months the world of bjj will open to you.

When a student steps onto the mat as a complete novice, their instructor bestows upon them a white belt, marking their initiation into the world of BJJ. It is during the white belt stage that a practitioner lays the groundwork for their future development in the sport.

The primary focus at this level is on self-defense, basic techniques, and learning to survive against more experienced partners.

An essential aspect of being a white belt is developing patience and building a strong foundation in the fundamentals.

  • Students should expect to spend roughly 1.5 to 2.5 years in this rank, focusing on mastering essential techniques and positions such as guard, mount, control, and submission holds.
  • Mat time, consistency, and dedication are critical during this stage, as the knowledge and experience gained serve as the basis for the rest of the BJJ journey.

White belt practitioners will earn up to four stripes on their belts – awarded at the instructor’s discretion – before progressing to the next level.

to learn, a notice, information sign-897410.jpg

Again, these stripes mark a student’s progress within this beginning stage, providing motivation and satisfaction as they work hard towards earning their blue belt.

At this level, every milestone is meaningful, and the gradual accumulation of stripes is an essential symbol of progress, determination, and confidence in mastering the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Blue Belt

The blue belt is the next phase in a BJJ practitioner’s progression, representing a significant milestone on their journey.

At this stage, students have a solid understanding of fundamental techniques, guard positions, and submission holds.

Blue belts can successfully defend themselves against less-experienced opponents and have acquired the skills to be a responsible training partner.

The transition from white to blue belt demonstrates a significant level of dedication, with students typically spending 3-4 years at this stage.

During the blue belt phase, students continue to hone their skills and build an extensive catalog of techniques. The being to

  • experiment with various styles
  • identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • focusing on refining their game

Instructors often encourage blue belts to participate in competitions, as these events offer the opportunity to put their skills to the test in a competitive environment.

Confidence, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities are hallmarks of a skilled blue belt practitioner.

Throughout the blue belt phase, the idea of continuous improvement remains at the forefront, chipping away at weaknesses and improving strenghts, embodying the spirit of BJJ and propelling students towards the next milestone on their path.

Purple Belt

A purple belt in BJJ signifies a considerable amount of dedication and progress in training and overall expertise. At purple belt a Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner should feel confident in taking down, control, and submitting any untrained individual.

This belt level typically follows an intense period of practice, with most students spending anywhere between 2-4 years as a blue belt before advancing to purple.

As practitioners transition to the purple belt level, they should focus on refining their techniques, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and leverage their experience and knowledge in their game.

One advantage of reaching the purple belt level is the opportunity to delve deeper into the intricacies of BJJ techniques and strategies.

It is a stage where students begin to hone in on their unique style by focusing on moves and combinations that suit their body type and distinct rolling preferences. With an established style, purple belts can better concentrate on the details that turn effective techniques into seamless and efficient movements.

Keep in mind that at this level, instructors will expect purple belts to showcase maturity and a clear understanding of BJJ’s fundamental principles.

Brown Belt

As students progress to the brown belt level in jiu jitsu, they have made significant strides in their personal and technical development.

Achieving this rank demonstrates a high level of expertise and long-standing commitment to honing one’s skills. Brown belts are proficient in a wide range of techniques, possess a well-defined personal game, and have an extensive understanding of BJJ concepts.

Most practitioners spend anywhere from 1.5-3 years as a brown belt before advancing further.

At the brown belt stage, emphasis shifts towards polishing one’s abilities in preparation for professorship.

They likely have all the knowledge and skills of a black belt but just need more time refining them.

Students in this level must place a priority on refining their techniques even further, optimizing their strategies, and ensuring they are ready to take on the role of a BJJ professor. This process entails higher levels of self-analysis and a keen understanding of each aspect of their game, from transitions and submissions to the smooth execution of each technique in the heat of sparring.

Black Belt

A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu signifies a high level of proficiency, knowledge, and skill in the art.

It usually takes a dedicated practitioner around 8 to 12 years of consistent training to achieve this rank.

This level is an embodiment of expertise and signifies the practitioner’s ability to teach, lead, and contribute to the BJJ community. A black belt holder has an extensive understanding of techniques, positions, and strategies, along with the ability to adapt and apply these skills in various situations.

As a black belt, one’s learning journey does not end but takes on new challenges and responsibilities.

Many black belts continue to refine their technique, staying updated on the latest developments in the sport, and sharing their knowledge with others. At this level, the focus shifts from personal growth to elevating others and giving back to the martial art they have devoted countless hours.

What Are The Stripes On A BJJ Black Belt?

Stripes on a BJJ black belt, also known as degrees, represent the achievements, experience, and teaching time of the practitioner.

Degrees on a black belt showcase the years of dedication and expertise held by the wearer. Stripes are generally white and attached to the red bar, which distinguishes BJJ black belts from those of other martial arts.

  • The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) awards the first six stripes on a black belt at three-year intervals.
  • These degrees signify recognition for the individual’s contribution, teaching, and commitment to the sport.
  • An instructor must have three stripes on their black belt (a minimum of 9 years of professorship experience) before they can promote students to the black belt level.

The journey doesn’t stop at the six-degree black belt, as dedicated practitioners can aspire to earn the highly respected red and black (coral) belts, and ultimately, the red belt, representing Grand Master status.

These prestigious ranks entail decades of unwavering commitment to BJJ and signify true mastery and devotion to the art. However, it’s essential to remember that titles and ranks do not solely define an individual’s skills or character; it is their continuous pursuit of knowledge, humility, and determination to grow that truly embodies the spirit of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Belt System

The Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Belt System, in reality, is just a another term for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belt system.

While Gracie jiu jitsu does may have different focuses within bjj – it is still bjj.

Some of the differents between Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs modern Brazilian jiu jitsu may be:

  • stronger focus on self defense jiu jitsu techniques
  • less focus on sport jiu jitsu techniques
  • may possible include training with strikes or weapons for added realism
  • a large focu on gi training

So keep in mind that the Gracie jiu jitsu belt system is the same as the Brazilian jiu jitsu belt system with five colored belts (white, blue, purple, brown, and black) and the utilizing of stripes to denote progress at each belt.

Kids Belts and Stripes Explained

Like the adult ranking system, BJJ has a separate ranking system for children, including belts and stripes.

Most BJJ schools follow the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) guidelines for kids’ belts, progressing from white, grey (with subdivisions into grey/white, solid grey, and grey/black), yellow, orange, and green.

The age of the child is typically the main factor in determining their rank, with a new belt introduced approximately every 2 years.

Stripes are also essential in the kids’ ranking system as they serve as a visual indicator of their progress within a belt. They help motivate kids by providing a sense of achievement and recognition for their hard work. In most BJJ schools, children can receive up to four stripes as well before being eligible for the next belt.

The awarding of stripes is usually based on a combination of aspects such as attendance, behavior, effort, and skill level. Depending on the school, children might receive stripes every 3-6 months.

Are Stripes Important?

Jiu-jitsu stripes often spark debates among practitioners. Some believe that strips serve as an essential incentive, while others argue that the focus should be on continuous growth and personal development.

Yes, stripes, for many, act as markers of progress and achievement within a martial art but they may seem unnecessary to others. I, for one, don’t mind stripes being given. If anything I think they are essential at the white belt level, but likely can be avoided during the other colored belts.

Stripes can enable instructors to evaluate a student’s growth more accurately. They can help to track the progress of individual students and motivate them as they traverse through the ranks.

Just like belts, while it is necessary to understand the significance of stripes in BJJ, the focus shouldn’t solely be on earning them. The primary goal of learning martial arts should be to embrace the challenges, enjoy the journey, and develop sound techniques and knowledge.

Why Stripes Are Important for White Belts (But May Not Be for Other Belts)

Stripes on a BJJ white belt canplay an essential role in a student’s development for two important reasons:

  • going through the white belt rank can be tought so why not give them motivation and acknowledgement along the way
  • there’s a big different between a no stripe white belt and a 3 stripe white belt (in terms of skills, understanding, and experience)

For white belts, receiving a stripe means they are acknowledged by their instructors for their hard work, dedication, and achievements in the martial art. They serve as a way to boost students’ confidence and help them set goals as they strive to improve.

For upper belts, however, stripes may not carry the same levels of importance. Higher-ranked students usually have a deeper understanding of the overall journey in BJJ and the significance of personal growth and knowledge over external markers. Stripes at the higher belts usually do not denote much difference in skills and knowledge and may seem redundant or unnecessary for some.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get your First Stripe in BJJ?

Most people can expect to achieve their first stripe in 2-6 months (with consistent training of course).
Some ways to get your first stripe faster in bjj is with frequent and consistent training, supplementing in class training with studying or learning from bjj instructionals, or competiting in bjj tournaments.

What Do BJJ Stripes Mean?

Stripes in Brazilian jiu jitsu denote knowledge and skill at the current belt level. Once you receive 4 stripes on your belt from your coach, you will then be promoted to the next belt level.

How Many Stripes on a White Belt Before Blue?

In order to level up to become a blue belt, you must earn 4 stripes by continuously training and learning about the sport. Moreover, you should be able to grasp what the fundamentals of BJJ is. In addition to that, one must be able to find and try to escape different positions. 

How Long to Get a Blue Belt in BJJ?

The ones who give stripes are the coaches and professors in BJJ. The coaches are the brown belts while the professors are black. 

The reason behind this is that they are highly experienced and are able to assess your performance on the mats. Moreover, they have been with you so that they see your progress each and every time you train.

When Do They Give Stripes in BJJ?

The stripes are usually made of athletic tape or finger tapes. However, there are some BJJ practitioners who get their belts customized and have the stripe embroidered.
The reason behind that is to avoid the stripe from being removed or falling off. 

Who Can Award Stripes in Jiu Jitsu?

Typically, it is the head instructor or professor of a BJJ school who has the responsibility of evaluating students and awarding stripes based on their skill, consistency, and overall performance. It is important to note that these instructors are usually black belts with years of experience, bearing the qualification to assess and promote students.

In some schools, higher-ranked students may be granted the permission to award stripes under the guidance and supervision of the head instructor. The higher-ranked students entrusted with this responsibility hold black or brown belts and have considerable experience in the sport.

The criteria for awarding stripes still remain consistent and unbiased, honoring the hard work and dedication displayed by the practitioners.

What if a Stripe Falls Off Your Belt?

If your stripe is made out of athletic or finger tapes then there will come a time that it will fall off. But do not worry about that, you can easily place it back again if you have the tape available. 

On the other hand, if you are the type to get annoyed or inconvenienced by the stripe falling off then you have another option. Well, you can get it embroidered so that it will constantly be part of your belt already.

Do All Gyms Use Stripes?

Although the stripe system is common, not all jiu jitsu gyms use stripes to track students’ progress.

Some instructors prefer to focus solely on belt promotions. The choice of whether to use stripes or not varies among gyms, as they may have different philosophies and teaching approaches.

Does Judo Have Stripes? (Halt-belts Explained)

Judo, considered a precursor to BJJ, follows a different ranking system than BJJ, though there are some similarities.

While BJJ includes stripes within each belt rank, Judo traditionally does not have stripes. Instead, it introduces an intermediate rank known as a “halt-belt” that signifies progress between two primary belt colors.

Halt-belts, also called split ranks, are characterized by the combination of the colors of two adjacent belt ranks. Thus, they offer students a visual representation of progression within their current rank, akin to the BJJ’s stripe system.

An example of a halt-belt in Judo would be the orange/green belt, which denotes progress from an orange belt towards a green belt. This system allows students to display their achievements, set goals, and remain motivated.

Side note: Some Judo schools might also use stripes; however, this is not traditional. The halt-belt system can provide judokas with a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue their training. Just like the stripes in BJJ, halt-belts serve as an important recognition of progress and dedication in a martial art that requires years of investment, practice, and determination.

Should You Wash your BJJ Belt

Do know that BJJ is a contact sport that involves your being on the mats and constantly being close to your opponent. There will be a lot of sweating in this sport. Trust me, when I say it is not only yours that you will have on your body during training. 

Therefore, it is 100 percent recommended that you wash your belt. Even though your belt is a tiny part of your uniform it is essential and vital to be hygienic and wash it along with your gi immediately after class. Moreover, this is a way to protect yourself and your teammates from possible infections if contact is made. 

Hope this has been a great read! See you next time! – Chris