The belt system: It is one of the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), and is a piece of working knowledge that everyone from absolute beginners to the most seasoned of BJJ masters should know – and ultimately, achieve through advancement.
For learners of the art (and admirers), it’s a helpful start of this article to first inform you that the belt ranking system is a method to mark and signify a student’s progress through a series of coloured belts. The ranking itself, and the acknowledgement of progression in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is rooted in the assessment of a student’s practical skill and increasing measures of technical knowledge.
Like other coloured martial arts belt ranking systems, the BJJ belt ranking system and structure was derived from the judo belt ranking system, however remains unique in a way that the BJJ belt ranking system retains its own features and unique differences. At Pollet’s Martial Arts, our BJJ Orange classes also take on this structure of grading.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for all levels
All beginner students – from children to adults – start as a white belt. As the absolute starting rank for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students, it is given to those who are brand new to the art, and it requires no prerequisites. Adding to the belt itself, the white belt student is expected to meet and demonstrate a set criteria of basic abilities and techniques learned on the mat in order to progress to the next belt ranking level. These include (but are not limited to) escapes, defensive positioning, and basic offensive moves.
For those under sixteen, there is a different ‘junior’ belt ranking system that progresses after the white belt into the gray, yellow, orange, and green belts. It is comparative to the adult belt ranking system, whereby junior students are assessed on their technical skill, inventory of moves, and mastery of technique.
Successful adult white belt students then move on to the second level status of blue belt, which they are to stay with for two years, and build upon a good skills base in order to progress to the next belt rank. The latter rule may sound very specific, however it is a shared directive laid down by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF).
As you read on, you will see more about the precise rules within BJJ that act as guidelines to keep a certain purity within the art. In the blue belt rank, the knowledge of students is taken much further. Through hundreds of hours spent on the mat in this rank, students acquire developed skills as well as execution of moves. Indeed, it is in this belt rank that students learn a vast number of techniques.
The blue belt rank is pivotal in such a way that students who hold the rank must be at least sixteen years old, and thereafter will officially enter the adult belt ranking system.
BJJ lessons in Orange: The Purple Belt Level
After the blue belt comes the purple belt. Similarly to the rules of blue belt, the IBJJF asks of purple belt students to remain in this rank for a minimum of 1 year and 6 months and be at least sixteen years of age at the time of becoming a purple belt. As it is classed as an ‘intermediate’ belt rank, purple belt students are expected to have learned and retained a vast amount of knowledge in their previous rank, and by now can be occasionally tasked with the responsibility of instructing lower-ranking students.
By the end of a student’s purple belt journey, they should be at least eighteen years of age and have spent eighteen months on the purple belt rank to achieve the status of brown belt. Here, at least five years of dedicated training are asked of students, as the brown belt rank is considered the highest in the colour belt ranking order of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and is thought of as a stage in which students spend most of their time perfecting techniques.
Post-brown belt, students who have reached an expert level of skills are awarded the black belt. Overall, while the summary of time taken for a student to achieve the black belt will vary, black belt students are expected to remain within this rank for a minimum of 31 years before progressing through to more honorable and senior black belt ranks (such as red/black, red/white, and red belts).