In just about every martial art belts are used to indicate the level of skill and experience a person has. White often represents a beginner while black represents a master. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts are no different but unlike many others Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ doesn’t have so many colors.
In general there are only five colors (six if you count the red belt for grandmasters). There are some transitional belts such as a blue belt with purple stripes or a green belt given before a person reaches blue. However, these are only used in some schools. The traditional standard counts to five belts.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belts and Ranking System
History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belts
The use of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts ties in closely with the history of modern Judo (traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu), which was popularized by Jigoro Kano. Kano introduced the use of colored belts in 1907, the year he officially began the art of Judo.
Back then there were only two colors. White was the belt that represented the beginner who lacked knowledge and skill. Black was the opposite, its color representing a person filled with experience in the art of Jiu Jitsu.
The exact origin of the numerous colors used today is somewhat vague but many sources point out to the Jiu Jitsu schools in Paris. The story is that Judo instructor Mikonosuke Kawaishi introduced more colored belts to help Western students feel a sense of reward as they gained more experience and skill.
This system was then adapted into the Judo school of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu progenitor, Carlos Gracie. Afterwards, the concept of multicolored belts became popular and now just about every other martial art, from Karate to Tae Kwon Do, uses colored belts to indicate rank, skill, and years of experience.
The Ranks and Colors of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Belts
The White Belt
The white belt is the most basic belt. White belt holders often have to focus on escapes, defenses, and the mastery of common grapples, submissions, and guard passes.
The Blue Belt
The second belt requires the student to learn a vast number of techniques. The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) requires all blue belt holders to be 16 years old, which is why some schools introduce other colors such as orange or green as placeholders until a student is old enough to wear the blue belt.
It is also important to note that a person is required to be a blue belt student for at least 2 years before they qualify to move on to the next belt.
The Purple Belt
Purple belts begin to establish the foundations of their fighting style. They no longer focus on learning techniques but instead work on refining their skill and develop a certain style that will become the pillars of how they fight in competitions.
Some purple belt holders are good enough to help their masters instruct the lower ranking students. To move on to the next belt, a person has to wear the purple belt for at least one and a half years.
The Brown Belt
Brown belts are near the very top of their game. They are also qualified to begin teaching their own students or to help their instructors teach theirs. Many brown belt holders begin focusing on powerful counterattacks and proper weight distribution.
Very few people can defeat a well-trained brown belt. Still, there are ranks above it. To move on a person must wear the brown belt for a minimum of one year.
The Black Belt
For the most part, this is the highest ranking possible in terms of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts. It signifies the rank of a professor and this belt also signifies a person with in-depth skill, knowledge, and experience in the art.
It is required by the IBJJF for a student to be at least 19 years old before they can wear the black belt. To reach the ranks higher than this it is required to wear the black belt for at least thirty-one years.
The coral belt is a black and red belt. After thirty-one years as a black belt holder a professor will be given the title of master. These are the practitioners who have contributed most of their life to the advancement of the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
There is also a transitional belt which is white and red. This is given after a person has worn the coral belt for 7 years. If they continue to pursue their career then they have to wear the transitional white and red coral belt for 10 years before they achieve the final belt.
The Red Belt
The red belt is the final degree in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and very few have ever worn this belt, the belt of the grandmaster. If a person achieved their black belt at the age of 19 then the earliest possible age they could attain the red belt is at the age of 67.