BJJ Belt Ranking System: All You Need to Know

BJJ Belt Ranking System: All You Need to Know

Title belts used in Boxing, MMA, Professional Wrestling hold a great significance to the practitioner. It highlights the efforts, skill and knowledge of the athlete. The belt mimics the value of a trophy given to a champion in other sports.

The ranking system of BJJ belts is significant in competitions, as grapplers that hold the same belt compete amongst each other. The color of ranks are referred to in the order of white, blue, purple, brown, and black. 

Furthermore, belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are a prime part of its culture and their importance is denoted according to their colors which are further explained in this article.

Historical Importance

Kodokan Judo or simply known as Judo seems to have an influence on the origin of the BJJ belt ranking system. Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, introduced a belt ranking system from white to black. He got this idea from high school swimmers since the advanced swimmers used to wear black ribbon around their waist. Similarly, in Judo, white belts are classified to the beginners and black belts to the ones having mastered fundamental techniques.

In 1952, a belt system was brought by Helio and Carlos. This belt system was based on instructorship; it was given to those who wanted to become instructors. An instructor diploma was awarded along with a light blue belt. Darker blue belts were given to those who became professors. 

Eventually, in 1967, black belts were introduced in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu along with a bar system to distinguish it from other sports. Instructors would wear black belts with a red bar and non-instructors were assigned to wear black belts with a white bar. The first official belt rankings were created in 1967 by a group called the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara, which then added the remaining colors that we have today.

Traditionally, White, yellow, orange, and green belts would be worn by children. However, different academies now use different belt systems.

Ranks and Grading System

Essentially, belts represent a person’s rank. Along with belts, stripes are added at the end of the belt to show the progression to the next rank, or next belt for that matter. The participant receives his rank based upon his skill level, teaching ability, and contribution to the art. However, these are some of the most common requirements which may vary from school to school. In some cases, if the instructor is satisfied with your performance, he would give out the rank. While others may follow a strict criteria to retrieve their belts.


Adults Ranking Order and Colors

Belt colors from lowest to highest rank are as follows.

Rank orders for Adults:

  • White
  •       Blue
  •       Purple
  •       Brown
  •       Black
  •       Coral 
  •       Red

Time Progression of the Belts

Belts are awarded based on an athlete's skill & competency, with little influence of the time they’ve invested to acquire such. Having said that, there is a typical timeframe that is seen between progression of ranks. 


The white belt is for beginners.


To achieve blue belt, one spends about  2-3 training years.


After 4-5 years of training, one usually ends up with a purple belt.


Brown belts are typically achieved by having 7-8 years of training.


After going through 10-11 years of training, a person reaches  black belt.

BJJ Belt Requirements

White Belt

White belt is the beginning rank for BJJ students and has no prerequisites. Some instructors consider training of white belt students to be limited within escapes and defensive positioning. It might be frustrating for some students as it’s an inferior position especially while training with someone more experienced.

Those new to combat sports are unaware of when to admit defeat. The focus of white belt is on survival which involves knowing when to continue fighting and when to tap out. Due to their lack of knowledge and skill in the art of BBJ, the white belt students are considered as the rookies that everyone makes jokes about. 

Blue Belt

Blue belt is the second belt rank which a person acquires after a white belt. It is the stage where a person learns strong fundamental movements along with some technical knowledge. A student must spend hundreds of hours on the mat to learn where, how and when to use these moves effectively. According to the IBJJF, a practitioner must be at a minimum of 16 years of age to receive a blue belt. It roughly takes 2-3 years for a person to achieve blue belts depending upon his skills and abilities and hours spent in practice.

Purple Belt

Purple belt is a belt which is often hard to obtain and is considered as an advance rank in Jiu Jitsu. A person who obtains this rank is considered of having pure interest in this sport. The IBJJF requires a practitioner to stay a purple belt for not less than 18 months. The holder of purple belt has already attained a lot of knowledge and they may also get to train lower ranks as well.

The IBJJF requires students to be at least 16 years old and recommends they spend a minimum of two years ranked as a blue belt to be eligible for a purple belt. Purple belts should not only train juniors but also train themselves with new techniques. Purple belt is a time when a person should focus on their weaknesses and work on them in order to outrank this belt.

Brown Belt

Brown belt is considered as one of the highest-ranking color belts. It is the final belt before the practitioner can receive a black belt. A brown belt fully understands everything about this sport and improves themselves further while on the journey towards the black belt. Typically, brown belt requires a minimum of 5 years of training to obtain what is called a period of refining techniques.

It is mandated by The IBJJF for students to be at least 18 years of age. They also recommend them to spend a minimum of 18 months as a purple belt to be allowed a brown belt. A brown belt should be a source of guidance and a role model for his junior ranks.

Black Belt

Black belt denotes the expert level of technical and practical skills and it is extremely hard to obtain this rank. The holders of black belts are bestowed with the title of “professor” which refers to their status as instructors or teachers. Although black belt is considered as the highest rank, the journey is still not over after receiving it. But people often stop training further at this stage.

The IBJJF requires that a pupil be a minimum of 19 years of age and they recommend that these students spend at least a year ranked as a brown belt to be allowed a black belt.

Are there any belts after Black Belt?

Many BJJ practitioners agree that there are more ranks after black belt. They say that it's just the beginning of the journey.

Coral Belt and Red Belt

The coral belt is one of the highest degree belts that can be achieved after years of training and hard work by masters and grandmasters in this sport. The seventh- and eight-degree black belts are referred to as the coral belts.  Coral belts are further classified into two categories:

  • Red and Black: The BJJ red and black belt denotes a seventh-degree black belt. IBJJF made it compulsory for students to train and teach at this rank for at least seven years before obtaining a higher rank. 
  • Red and White: The BJJ red and white belt represents an eighth-degree black belt. It is mandatory for students at this rank to train and teach a minimum of ten years to obtain a higher rank. 

    That brings us to the red belt, which is considered as a “GrandMaster” in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It is the final belt in BJJ, and as a 9th degree belt it is rarely given to practitioners, while the 10th degree ones have been entirely reserved to the original Gracie Brothers.

    BJJ Belt Stripes

    Stripes are used to indicate a student’s level within a given belt rank. It signifies one’s progress and achievement at their particular belt level. The stripes are important usually at white belts and lower ranks because it depicts that a student is learning and progressing. But as always, you get more stripes when your instructor is satisfied with your training.


    Childrens Belts

    The belt system for children is different from that of adults. Children can be promoted to the next rank in a relatively lesser amount of time than the adults. However, the kids belt system consists of more belts than the adult rank system. Therefore, it still takes a considerable amount of time to reach the final belt; the green belt. The colors of the belts are also different from the adult belt colors aside from white. The children rank system is applied to anyone under the age of 16.

    Rank orders for Children is as follows:

    • White
    • Grey/white, solid grey and grey/black
    • Yellow/white, solid yellow and yellow/black
    • Orange/white, solid orange and orange/black,
    • Green/white, solid green and green/black 

    Belt Testing

    BJJ has both formal and informal approaches for the promotion of belt ranks. While informal, it totally depends upon the satisfaction of the instructor. Whereas in formal testing, a criteria and process are presented. The criteria may vary from school to school or even instructor to instructor.

    BJJ Belt Stripes

    Stripes are used to indicate a student’s level within a given belt rank. It signifies one’s progress and achievement at their particular belt level. The stripes are important usually at white belts and lower ranks because it depicts that a student is learning and progressing. But as always, you get more stripes when your instructor is satisfied with your training.

    Belt Promotion Ceremony

    Belt promotion is the fundamental aspect of BJJ progress. The promotion ceremony may differ depending upon the academy. Most commonly, once a person has received the belt, there is a traditional way of honoring a new belt. Often, those attending the ceremony will congratulate their colleagues by performing a takedown on them or hitting them on their backs with their own belts.

    At a  minimum, you must be a second-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu to promote students to the black belt. Whilst a black belt with less than two-degrees can only promote students to brown belt. 

    A brown belt also has the ability to promote up to a purple, and a purple can promote someone up to blue; however, this practice is mostly for remote towns or areas where access to a black belt is limited. According to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) regulations, purple or brown belts promotions only occur when there’s a lack of black belts in an area and the athlete has to be registered as an instructor.

    Gi and No Gi BJJ

    Gi and No Gi are the two forms of BJJ. The difference between them is grappling. Gi Jiu-Jitsu allows the competitor to grab the opponent by his clothes. As for the duration of training, No-Gi is much faster than Gi BJJ. It’s harder to adapt to Gi training, if you initially started from No-Gi. In Gi BJJ, one wears a traditional Gi suit. Whereas in No Gi, one normally wears a rash guard, shorts, and usually spats underneath his shorts. It is recommended that the beginners should start with the Gi Jiu-Jitsu to build their fundamentals.

    In both Gi BJJ and No Gi BJJ, the belt ranking system is the same as discussed, with the white belt being for a beginner and the red belt being the final belt. However, the practitioners of No Gi BJJ never wear their belts. These belts are only presented during the promotion of the practitioner. Instead of wearing a colored belt to identify what rank they are, the color of their shirt determines their rank. According to IBJJF, 10% of the rank color should be present in the shirts the No Gi BJJ practitioner wears. 


    Although having the belt system is not mandatory for learning BJJ, it still greatly affects its practitioner’s passion for the sport. In every sport, ranking systems push you to reach your goals. Similar is the case for the BJJ belt ranking system. It boosts your confidence, increases your understanding of the sport, and even helps develop respect from your peers. Knowing where you stand and how far you must go to achieve perfection in the sport is made clear due to the well-constructed belt ranking system.

    The belts represent the sheer determination and commitment of a BJJ practitioner. To be promoted to a higher rank, they must undergo intense training. The belts also show how much time has been invested into the sport. The development of knowledge and skill only occurs when the practitioner invests their time and effort into this sport.