Brazilian Jiu Jitsu came to be through an interesting mix of eastern martial arts and immigration. During the turn of the 20th century, new industrial and political advances in japan led to a treaty with Brazil, which opened up immigration and led to a rush of rural, poverty-stricken Japanese to settle in South America.
As more Japanese immigrants came into the country, they brought unique aspects of their culture as well… including the art of Jiu Jitsu.
Over time, and through many teachers, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu evolved into something unique from its original form. This martial art now stands as one of the most effective and influential forms of self-defense in the world. However, it still carries much of its history with it, including forms of identification like color-coded belts. These belts signify the level of experience and mastery a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner has.
Here, we’ll cover the different levels of Jiu Jitsu mastery and the corresponding belts.
The White belt in Jiu Jitsu is the beginner’s belt. When you first begin to practice in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, this is the belt you get. It requires no skill or experience at all. At this level, many teachers will instruct students in the basic of BJJ. This includes techniques for fighting and escaping from vulnerable grappling position as well as how to use basic offensive moves and grapples as well as guard passes.
Once a teacher decides that the student has demonstrated skill and talent, they are promoted to blue belt. This belt signifies that the student knows the basics and is currently undergoing the rigorous technical training required by BJJ. This includes hundreds of hours of grappling and mat training to learn a broad range of offensive and defensive maneuvers.
A student at the level of blue belt is required to train for a minimum of two years, as outlined by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation.
Once a student meets all the training and time commitments of the blue belt, they are awarded their purple belt. This is the middle ground for BJJ practitioners, as anyone at this level should be knowledgeable of most of the basic techniques, skills, and combat techniques of BJJ. They will also have significant experience in one-on-one sparring and grappling at this point and may be qualified to teach lower-level BJJ students themselves.
Transitioning from blue to purple belt can be very difficult. Not only does the IBJJF require a minimum of 1.5 years of training at the purple belt stage (and a minimum age of 16 years), but it also requires a level of skill mastery that goes beyond technical knowledge. Gaining a purple belt is less about learning techniques as it is better understanding those techniques on real-life situations. It is also the place where BJJ students must expand their skills and become expert fighters.
Brown belts are, for all intents and purposes, masters of BJJ who are still ironing out their identities as fighters. At the brown belt level, practitioners are learning about what their signature moves are, what kind of strategies they use against different opponents, and how to take advantage of any opening. These practitioners are essentially putting in the work to perfect their style of grappling while becoming natural experts with the fundamentals of BJJ.
The IBJJF requires that brown belt holders be no younger than 18 years old, and that they stay at the level of brown belt for a minimum of 1 year.
Black belts are the pinnacle of Jiu Jitsu. These practitioners no longer worry about technique and skills as such. Instead, these BJJ experts work on freeing themselves of stiff guidelines and techniques to understand BJJ as intuitive and natural. After thousands of hours of training, these experts embody BJJ as a lifestyle, extending respect, confidence, and a deep understanding of the field in all aspects of their lives.
At the level of black belt, there are several incremental levels of mastery up to the 9th level.
Coral and Red Belt Ranks
Once black belt level is achieved, a practitioner can continue to increase rank by level based on time practicing. Different ranks represent a number of years of teaching, practicing, and competing.
At the 7th level, practitioners what is called a “Coral” belt of red and black. At the eighth, they get another coral belt of red and white. Finally, at the 9th level, they are awarded their red belt. This is the highest belt rank in BJJ reserved for grandmasters and takes decades. For example, if a student received their black belt at 19 (the earliest age they can get it) they can earn a red belt at age 67.