BJJ Belt Ranks System

BJJ Belt Ranks System

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ranking system awards a practitioner different colored belts to signify increasing levels of technical knowledge and practical skill. Different than the Judo ranking system, the BJJ belt ranks system has a the division between youth and adult belts and the stripe/degree system.

BJJ Ranking System History

In 1907, Kanō Jigorō, the founder of Judo and the individual who would later dispatch Mitsuyo Maeda on the trip to Brazil that resulted in the development of BJJ, introduced the first use of belts (obi) and gi (judogi) within the art of Judo, replacing the practice of training in formal kimonos.

BJJ Ranking System History Kanō Jigorō Judo and Mitsuyo Maeda BJJ

Originally, there were only the use of two colors: white and black belts. With white representing the beginner, as a color of purity and simplicity, and black being the opposite, representing one who is filled up with knowledge.

The adoption of colored belts came only 10 years after Carlos Gracie opened his academy in Brazil. Since then, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and many other martial arts have adopted the use of colored belts as a way to denote a student’s increasing progress.

bjj belt ranks system: Belt Colors

bjj belt ranks system - white belt - marcio cruz bjj - tampa

White Belt

White belt is the beginning rank for all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students. White belt is the lowest ranking belt within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is the rank held by any practitioner new to the art and has no prerequisite. Some instructors and other high-level practitioners feel that white belt is the rank where most of the student’s training emphasis should be placed on escaping and defensive positioning, as it can be argued that a white belt will do much of his or her fighting from inferior positions.

Blue belt

A general estimate of the time required to obtain a blue belt in most academies is 1 to 2 years. Blue belt is the second lowest adult rank within the most commonly accepted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grading system, bridging the way between the beginner rank of white belt and the intermediate rank of purple belt. The IBJJF requires that a practitioner be at least 16 years old to receive a blue belt (thereby officially entering into the adult belt system)

bjj belt system blue belt brazilian jiu jitsu

bjj belt system purple belt marcio cruz bjj

Purple belt

A general estimate of the time required to progress from blue belt to purple belt in most academies is 2 to 3 years. It is often considered one of the longer held ranks, and typically takes at least 3 years of dedicated training to achieve. The purple belt level practitioner holds a formidable amount of knowledge, and purple belts are generally considered qualified to instruct lower belts. In other martial arts, students with a similar amount of time and effort invested would often be ranked as a black (instructor) level belt.

Brown belt

Brown belt is arguably the beginning of the elite ranks in and of itself, typically taking at least 5 years of dedicated training to achieve. As a transitional rank, it is often thought of as a time for refining rather than accumulation, where a practitioner has already acquired technical and practical skills until they reach a black belt level.

bjj belt system brown belt ranking system bjj

bjj belt system ranking black belt marcio cruz

Black Belt

The black belt is the highest common belt within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, denoting an expert level of technical and practical skill. Estimates vary on the time required to achieve the rank, with 10 years total (or more) an often heard estimate.

Black and red belt

Current IBJJF regulations places the time it takes to progress from a 6th degree black belt to 7th degree black-and-red belt at 7 years. When a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt reaches the 7th and 8th degree, the practitioner is awarded an alternating red-and-black belt (similar to the alternating red and white belt earned at the 6th degree in Judo).

Carlos Gracie Tampa Marcio Cruz

BJJ Belt Ranking: Red belt

helio gracie red belt bjj belt ranking system
It takes 10 years to progress from a 8th degree red-and-black belt to 9th degree red belt. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the red belt is reserved “for those whose influence and fame takes them to the pinnacle of the art”. Examples of 9th Degree Red Belt holders include the late Carlson Gracie, Oswaldo Fadda and Geny Rebello. The 10th degree red belt is permanently reserved to the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Carlos, Oswaldo, Jorge, Gastão and Hélio Gracie.

IBJJF Graduation System

IBJJF – International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation offers a graduation Poster as a suggestion to be displayed at BJJ schools.


The belts ranking system is not about a race to the black belt, it is about the journey. A black belt is about falling in love with being a constant white belt. You can start your progression today. Learn more about our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. Schedule your free trial class today!