Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Progression Guide

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Advancing up the belt system in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a challenging and lengthy journey. A journey well worth its cost, however. If the instant high-regard of your peers is not enough, consider the immeasurable health advantages and practical ability it affords.

BJJ has a strict belt system that demands proven ability, both technical and practical, before advancement. The quest to achieve the black belt grade can take upwards of a decade of dedicated training, sparring, and study, to reach successfully.

The belt encompassing a warrior's waste is not always a truly objective measure of skill nor ability in the martial arts. It is vital that all fighters consider this before accepting challenges in the ring. They correlate with a fighter's experience and knowledge, but, they do not define it.

Fighters in BJJ often reach a metaphorical ‘plateau’ where they grapple for months or even years to obtain the ensuing belt grade. It is crucial not to be disheartened by this. The color of one’s belt should not be the goal, but a milestone on the timeless journey to the powerful application of learned martial art techniques.

A common concern of new and young fighters is how to assess adequate skill for advancement. This guide compiles the major belt-grades and presents an idea for when to approach your dojo’s sensei for promotion.


White Belt (Basics)

As a white belt, competitors are new to the martial arts and need to prove their dedication to progress. Following familiarization with basic positions and in-depth technical ability, a white belt should be proficient in the identification and performance of poses like the guard position.

It is critical at this stage to loosen up, drop the inflated ego, and form a close, intimate relationship with your body and its movements. Once accomplished, and techniques like the one guard pass and one-sweep are mastered, novices should consult their sensei about advancement.

Blue Belt (Defense)

As a blue belt, fighters have proved their dedication and ability to learn basic defensive techniques. Practice always makes perfect, and this stage requires plenty. At this stage, pupils should develop a solid rapport with all basic defensive techniques.

When a candidate has solid roots in at least two escape techniques (i.e., the mount, back mount, or side mount) and can masterfully perform at least three passing guard techniques, they are ready to move up. The final key at this stage is to attend and take part in at least one formal martial arts competition.

Purple Belt (Overall Performance)

At this stage, the first goal is to balance out learned fighting techniques and form a unique and personal fighting style that accommodates body type and learned skills thus far. Foundational techniques must face proficiency, and immense focus be spent on developing any flaws or gaps left-over from prior-taught techniques.

Progression is attainable only after mastering the execution of at least three combination attacks from the guard position and three submissions from mounts. Finally, intimacy with using and passing variants of the guard position (i.e., De la Riva, deep-half, etc.) will set you up for success towards earning a brown belt.

Brown Belt (Mastery)

Brown belts are often rare in community dojos. There is high-regard for all martial artists at this level. After a well-deserved pat on the back, fighters should perfect the rapid and smooth shift from attack to defense and vice-versa. Furthermore, an array of technical knowledge and submission forms is essential for further learning.

Brown belts know they are ready to take a shot at the black belt when they are comfortable with teaching BJJ to lower-ranking comrades in the dojo. Minute details like authoritative weight distribution and balance are critical. With at least two three-phase attack sequences mastered, you are finally ready to take a shot at the black belt. The journey does not end here, however. After the black belt is the red belt a discussion for another article.

Check out our other article - Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ranking System

Thomas Grylka

Thomas is a recent college graduate and a content writer for the Jiu-Jitsu Times. He earned his brown belt in Wa Shin Ryu Jujutsu under Gregory M. Kane during his time as a student at UConn.

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