Belts are a unique aspect of many martial arts. They serve to demonstrate the ability of a student as well as their dedication to the art itself. Belts vary from sport to sport and different aspects are required of each. In BJJ, there are essentially 5 belts for adult competitors (16+) with a 6th (Red Belt) reserved for the very highest level practitioners in the world. There are different methods to promotion in BJJ. Some gyms test their students before promotion, others will promote based on the thoughts of the instructor. Some academies promote a stripe system on every belt. Stripes represent smaller increments of progression before receiving your next belt. The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) have determined a set amount of time that should be spent at each level before progressing.
BJJ Belt System
White belt is the starting point for almost every martial art. White belts are true beginners of the sport. The goal of this level is to gain a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Bjj. This includes positions such as the mount, side control, closed guard and controlling the back. A set of submissions is taught from all of these positions. Basic sweeps and an understanding of guard passing is required to progress to the next level. An advanced white belt will have a core understanding of the sport and should be able to hold their own against new students. There is no time limit required to progress to blue belt by the IBJJF.
Blue belts are essentially advanced beginners. Throughout progression, blue belts should be developing strong defenses to attacks from higher levels. The goal of blue belt is to expand your understanding of Bjj in both attack and defense. Your escapes from bad positions should develop to a strongly competent level whilst your attacks against lower level belts should begin to develop and strengthen. Blue belts should focus on developing one solid open guard which will focus their attention whilst progressing through the ranks. The IBJJF recommend at least two years training before progressing to Purple belt.
Purple belts are often referred to as experts of defence. Purple belts should be able to negate threats from those ranked below them as well as understand the attacks from those ranked above them. Purple belts should have at least one very strong guard from which they can launch attacks and advance their positions. Purple belt is also generally where students begin to approach more advanced techniques like the berimblo and other inverted techniques. The IBJJF recommend 1.5 years of training at Purple belt before progressing to Brown.
Conversely to Purple belts, Brown belts are often considered experts of attack. Brown belts are generally an inexperienced black belt. Their guard should be close to impenetrable to lower levels. They should possess an excellent passing game and should be challenging those at their own level and even above. With regard to previous levels, brown belts should be very competent in each of the requirements at each level. The ‘beginner black belt’ tag is reflected in the IBJJF recommendation of 1 year training at brown before promotion.
Black belts are experts of the sport. Given their deep understanding, they often train with others based on instinct as opposed to a set game plan. Black belts are highly knowledgeable at both attack and defense. They are almost always able to negate the attack or penetrate the defense of a lower belt. Although true experts of the martial art, black belts will often meet their match against other black belts or even those of superior grading. The IBJJF requires at least 3 years of training before advancing further.
Often referred to as coral belts, the red belts are reserved for true masters of Bjj. These students understand the fundamentals of the sports beyond expert level. Their technique is so precise that they rarely break a sweat when rolling with others. Strength becomes an afterthought because of their deep understanding of the fundamental aspects of the sport.