While earning a rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is harder than any other martial art, understanding its belt system can be a little daunting for the newcomers. Unlike other martial arts like Taekwondo and Karate that award belts more on a subjective basis, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) belt system follows a structured and standardized belt progression system.
When it is about belt promotions, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) has decreed a rule set that is followed by a majority of accredited BJJ academies throughout the world. Although some practitioners aren’t much concerned about the belt rank, others consider it one of the fundamental ways of measuring their progress in this art. Still, one thing most people have a consensus on is the importance of a black belt in any martial art. But not many know that BJJ actually consists of even higher ranks than the black belt. The absolute pinnacle of this martial art is the red belt. But before we go into the detail of this highest belt, let’s review the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system completely.
IBJJF Belt Graduation System
As with other martial arts, Jiu-Jitsu marks the progress of its students with a series of colored belts based on their skill and the duration of time the student has been training. From lowest to highest ranked, the Jiu-Jitsu belts are ordered as:
- White Belt
- Blue Belt
- Purple Belt
- Brown Belt
- Black Belt
- Red and Black Belt (Coral Belt)
- Red and White Belt (Coral Belt)
- Red Belt
According to IBJJF established guidelines, a practitioner has to remain at a particular belt for a certain duration before they’re eligible for a promotion for the next belt. For example, a blue belt practitioner has to be at this rank for at least two years before he can get a purple belt. From this rank, one has to retain a purple belt for a minimum of one and half years before they can progress to a brown belt, and similarly so on.
Apart from experience requirements, the IBJJF has set age requirements to progress from one BJJ belt to another. For instance, the white belt doesn’t have any age limit. The age requirement for blue and purple belts is at least 16 years, and for brown belts, it’s a minimum of 18 years. While for black belts, the age requirement is at least 19.
The belt ranking for children under the age of 16 is different. There are, in fact, more belts for the children for giving them a quicker sense of progress. The belt progression for children from the lowest to the highest rank is White, Yellow, Orange, and Green, with each having 4 stripes. All these belts are given till the age of 16. Once the participant turns 16, they get awarded a belt in the adult Jiu-Jitsu belt system on the basis of their children’s belt rank and the opinion of their instructor. A children’s white belt is awarded an adult white belt. Yellow and orange belts can be awarded a blue or white belt based on the opinion of the instructor. Similarly, a green belt practitioner can be awarded a white, blue, or purple belt as per the decision of the instructor.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is known for its conservatism and informality in terms of promoting students to a higher rank. This is mainly because of the kind of martial art it is and the style it employs for teaching. There are certain specific rules regarding what a participant should know before they can be promoted to a higher belt, and it’s generally on the instructor to decide if the participant is ready for progression.
The individual’s skill level and performance are essential foundations of Jiu-Jitsu belt grading. This makes Jiu-Jitsu a martial art that places less emphasis on theory and more on performance when applying this martial art, and participants are graded as such.
It is a known rule to never promote a participant to a higher rank unless they’re of a skill level higher than or equal to the level of their competitor. This assures that participants are promoted conservatively, and they represent the sport as finest as possible. This policy of conservatism serves an essential aspect in rendering Jiu-Jitsu an effective martial art in sporting and real-life applications.
Jiu-Jitsu Belt Levels
So we’ve gone through the order of the Jiu-Jitsu belts, and the general idea of the requirements the belt grading system requires before progressing to a higher rank. Now we shall discuss the adult bank ranking in Jiu-Jitsu in detail.
The white belt is the first belt for all BJJ practitioners. This rank is awarded to all new students of the art and involves no prerequisites. Instructors mostly emphasize defense, basic submissions, and fundamental movements at this level. White belt is the rank at which the participants start developing a basic understanding of this martial art.
Blue belt earns the position of the second rank in BJJ. As mentioned earlier, the IBJJF requires a practitioner to remain at this level for at least 2 years before they can move up in rank. At this level, students gain a wide range of technical knowledge such as escapes, submissions, sweeps, and guard passes and undertake several hours of mat-time for learning the ways to implement those moves efficiently. As per IBJJF, a student has to be at least 16 years to be eligible for a blue belt, thereby making them officially enter the adult belt system.
The purple belt is the third rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The student has to remain at the purple belt for at least 18 months before they can move up in rank as per IBJJF. This rank is the intermediate adult belt in BJJ. At this level, the practitioner has gained plenty of knowledge and is usually considered proficient in instructing lower-ranked participants.
The brown belt is the fourth rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and according to IBJJF, the student has to be at least 18 years and should spend at least 18 months with the purple belt before they can attain the brown belt. A student generally takes at least five years of dedicated training to progress from white belt to brown belt. This rank is often considered as the time where students refine their current techniques to prepare for black belts. The IBJJF requires training of at least 1 year before a student can ascend to the black belt.
As mentioned previously, many people think that the black belt is the highest belt in Jiu-Jitsu. And if we exclude the red belt, this is actually true. This rank denotes an expert level of practical and technical grappling skills. The estimated time required to achieve this rank may vary, but all rank holders possess thousands of hours of experience at this level. Generally, those who attain BJJ black belts become instructors. The IBJJF requires that a practitioner should be at least 19 years of age and must be at least 1 year at the brown belt to move up to this level. The black belt comprises six degrees of expertise that can be attained. In addition, the IBJJF requires the participant to teach and practice for at least 3 years at the black belt before they can progress to the next level.
Red and Black Belt (Coral Belt)
When a BJJ black belt attains the seventh degree, they are awarded an alternating red and black belt, which is also known as the coral belt. At this rank, the practitioners are highly experienced and skillful, with most of them being successful in making a great influence on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and are often addressed by the title of ‘master’ within the art. As per the IBJJF, the practitioner should remain at the red and black belt level for at least 7 years before they can become eligible for the next rank.
Red and White Belt (Coral Belt)
An eighth-degree black belt, the red and white belt, is also known as the coral belt. Similar to the red and black belt, this level of BJJ is extremely rare and represents a true master of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The IBJJF requires the practitioner to remain at this level for at least 10 years before they can ascend to the red belt.
Technically a ninth-degree black belt, the red belt is the highest possible belt that a living participant of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can attain. It is the absolute pinnacle of the art. If a practitioner earns a black belt at 19 years, the earliest expectation for them to receive a red belt can be the age of 67. BJJ red belt holders are often addressed by the title of ‘grandmaster’ within the art. And while no living practitioner of BJJ can progress further than this ninth-degree black belt, the 10th degree does exist as well. But it is solely reserved for the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the Gracie brothers: Gaston, Oswaldo, Carlos, Helio, and George.