When you are just starting in BJJ, the belt ranking system might seem intimidating and confusing at first. But, don’t worry, we are here to explain everything, and after reading this article, the belt ranking system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will be much clearer.
The belt ranking system is a way to determine the skill of a BJJ practitioner. For starters, you should know that there are 5 primary colors of belts in BJJ: white, blue, purple, brown, and black.
You can also see coral (red/white and red/black), and red belts, which are reserved for BJJ Master and Grandmasters.
Like in many other martial arts that use belt ranking systems, a white belt is the first one in BJJ. The beginner’s belt is an essential belt in your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey, as while having a white belt, you are going to learn a lot of information.
The white belt represents the first steps of learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A white belt focuses more on defense than on offense. Learning various escapes, such as escapes from side and back control, learning half-guard, and learning the basic offense moves, such as armbar, omoplata, and rear-naked choke, is crucial for further progress.
Being a white belt means you will get tapped a lot, and you will fail many times, which is why it’s no surprise that most people quit BJJ as a white belt. Don’t get discouraged, be patient and work on your game!
After a year or two, depending on the speed of improvement, a white belt becomes a blue belt. Getting a blue belt means that the defense is getting a lot better, and as a blue belt, you will start to learn combinations and be much more confident in your BJJ skills.
A blue belt improves on techniques such as leg locks, collar chokes, and half guard sweeps. As a blue belt, you must have a guard that is hard to pass, control the opponent from the mount, know various side control variations, etc.
It is very important to learn that the blue belt takes 3-5 years to master, so usually, there is a big difference between a “beginner” blue belt and an advanced one. IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) requires from a person to be a blue belt for at least 2 years and be at least 16 years of age.
The blue belt has improved a lot at this point, and he is ready to advance to the next level. That next level is the purple belt, where a person reaches an “intermediate” level of BJJ skills.
A purple belt means that your game has become much “smoother” and you have learned how to adapt your game to different situations. Knowing a lot of transitions, different submissions, escapes is a must for a purple belt.
This is a belt where you work on the details of your moves and having better efficiency. A purple belt has a lot of experience, but needs to work on many aspects of his game.
A brown belt is the last belt before the black belt. A person who has a brown belt in BJJ has reached a top level, and is improving and refining all aspects of his game.
Being a brown belt means that you have enough knowledge to teach others in your gym that have ranks below yours. IBJJF states that you must be a brown belt for at least a year before moving on to the final belt, the black belt.
Black belt is the pinnacle in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and being a black belt states that you have fantastic skill in all areas of BJJ. Your game is now polished and effective, and there is a sizeable gap seen between the black and brown belts.
To become a black belt, a person must be at least 19 years old, as required by IBJJF.
What Comes After the Black Belt in BJJ?
While the black belt is the highest common belt that you can get, there are three belts that are ranked higher than the black belt: red and black coral, red and white colar, and red belt.
These belts are quite rare and are held by many Gracie family members and other BJJ masters like Carlos Machado, Fabio Santos, and Cassio Cardoso.
Red/Black Coral Belt
The first belt that can be awarded after the black belt is the red and black coral belt. For a person to deserve this belt, they must be a 6th degree black belt and awarded the first degree black belt at least 31 years earlier.
The red/black coral belt is considered as a 7th degree black belt in BJJ, and to proceed to the next belt, you must spend at least 7 years as a red/black coral belt.
Red/White Coral Belt
The 8th degree black belt in BJJ requires you to train BJJ for at least 37 years. This is the final belt that comes before the famous red belt.
The highest possible belt a practitioner can achieve in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the red belt (9th and 10th-degree black belt). A red belt in BJJ is referred to as a “Grandmaster”, a person who largely influenced martial art.
The only people that have ever earned a 10th-degree red belt in BJJ are Carlos Gracie Sr, Helio Gracie, Jorge Gracie, Gastao Gracie, Oswaldo Gracie, and Luiz França Filho.