Belt System in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting techniques. One of the distinguishing features of its belt system in BJJ, which serves as a representation of a practitioner’s skill level and progression within the art. In this article, we will delve into the belt system in BJJ, its significance, and the criteria for promotion, providing a comprehensive understanding of how it operates.

Origins of the Belt System

The belt system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be traced back to its roots in Kodokan Judo, a martial art developed by Jigoro Kano in Japan. Kano introduced the use of coloured belts to indicate a student’s proficiency and progress in learning Judo. When Mitsuyo Maeda, a judoka, brought Judo to Brazil in the early 20th century, it eventually evolved into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the guidance of the Gracie family. The Gracies adopted the belt system from Judo and adapted it to fit the unique aspects of BJJ.

Belt Colors and Ranks

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the belt colours and ranks typically follow the order: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. Each belt signifies a specific level of proficiency and understanding of the art, with black belt being the highest achievable rank. However, some schools may also include intermediate belts such as grey, yellow, and orange between white and blue belts.

  • White Belt: The white belt is the starting point for all BJJ practitioners. It represents a beginner level and signifies an individual’s initiation into the art. White belts focus on learning the fundamental techniques and concepts of BJJ.
  • Blue Belt: The blue belt indicates a significant milestone in a practitioner’s journey. At this stage, students start to develop a deeper understanding of BJJ and begin to apply techniques in a more practical and strategic manner.
  • Purple Belt: The purple belt represents a more advanced level of proficiency. Students at this rank possess a broad knowledge base and demonstrate technical expertise in various aspects of BJJ. Purple belts are known for their ability to anticipate and react to their opponent’s moves effectively.

Progression and Belt Promotion

Advancement through the belt ranks in BJJ is not solely based on the passage of time but rather on a combination of skill, knowledge, and character development. Promotion is typically determined by the instructor, who assesses the student’s technical proficiency, understanding of BJJ principles, ability to apply techniques in live sparring, and overall dedication to the art. The criteria for belt promotion may vary slightly between different academies and associations, but the underlying principles remain consistent.

Significance and Philosophy

The belt system in BJJ extends beyond a mere indicator of technical skill. It embodies a philosophy of personal growth, perseverance, and humility. The progression from one belt to the next represents the evolution of an individual’s journey in BJJ, both on and off the mats. Each belt rank brings new challenges, opportunities for growth, and a deepening of one’s understanding of the art.

Their Significance

BJJ employs a specific sequence of belt colours to denote the level of expertise. The common order of belt colours, starting from the beginner level, includes white, blue, purple, brown, and black. Each belt represents distinct knowledge, skills, and experience acquired by the practitioner. While the white belt symbolises a beginner’s stage, the black belt signifies the pinnacle of mastery in BJJ. It is important to note that belt colours can vary slightly between different academies, but the underlying progression remains consistent.

Understanding Belt Stripes and their Meaning

In addition to belt colours, stripes are often used as a means of recognizing progress within each belt rank. Stripes can be awarded by instructors at various intervals, indicating a student’s incremental advancement towards the next belt promotion. While the specific criteria for earning stripes may vary, they generally signify a well-rounded development in areas such as technical proficiency, sparring ability, and knowledge of BJJ concepts.


The belt system in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a fundamental aspect of the art, symbolising an individual’s progression and expertise. Understanding the origins, structure, significance, promotion criteria, and etiquette associated with the belt system is crucial for every practitioner. It provides a framework for goal setting, motivates continual growth, and fosters a sense of community within the BJJ community. As practitioners climb the ranks, they not only gain technical proficiency but also develop character traits that extend beyond the mat.

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