How do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Promotions Work?

So there are 5 belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Adults: White, Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black. Children under age 16 can also receive Yellow, Orange, and Green Belts which are intermediate belts between White and Blue.

BJJ Belts


Not surprisingly, most students quit at the White Belt and Blue Belt level.

Some academies use stripes to represent the intermediate stages between belts (4 stripes per belt rank).  Recently, some BJJ schools have also started using colored belts for Adults to represent the different stages of White Belt (I’ve always toyed with this idea but never implemented it).

Some academies have an attendance requirement or skill test in order to promote.  If a student shows up for X amount of classes, he is awarded a new belt.  The skill test is another method and involves the student demonstrating techniques to an instructor along with some live training.

At Crazy 88, we grade students holistically or the “old school” way.  Factors we take into account are: Effectiveness, knowledge, skill, mindset, and individual goals.

Effectiveness is measured by a student’s ability to outgrapple their opponent.  Age, strength, flexibility, and other physical traits factor into this equation.  A 40-year old woman will not be judged by the same criteria as a 19-year old male.

Skill is a trained ability, an expression of knowledge through one’s body.    This is applied technique!  We want to see good Jiu-Jitsu here.  We know that a Judo Olympian or All-American wrestler, will out-judo or out-wrestle a White Belt but will they out-Jiu-Jitsu the same White Belt?

Knowledge and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu.   This is different than skill or effectiveness.

Mindset & Attitude.  This is the most important factor.  Because we are trying to build a team atmosphere, it is absolutely vital that the team always be reinforced with strong upper belts.  If you are dangerous to train with, selfish, or deceptive, it is better for the team for you not to move to the next belt where you would be a ‘role-model’.

Finally, individual goals are taken into account when considering belt promotions (see the following section for a more thorough explanation).


Do You Need to Compete in Order to Be Promoted?


Competitors have different goals than non-competitors.  When Tim Spriggs was first year Purple Belt, he won the Pan-American and took double Bronze at the World Championship – a rare accomplishment.  However, because his goal was to be a World Champion, he was NOT promoted but rather did another year at Purple Belt.

Competitors actually are more likely to be ‘held back’ rather than being promoted more quickly.  This is because team scoring criteria at the International level tournaments award points only to the Top 3 place-winners.  Therefore, if a competitor is not a real threat at placing, there is no incentive to promote them.

There is a misconception that competitors are promoted more quickly than non-competitors.  This is false.  Competitors experience faster skill acquisition due to higher training volume and higher training intensity.  In other words, competitors generally invest more time and energy into learning Jiu-Jitsu than a non-competitor so they get better faster.

If I Train for a Certain Amount of Time, Will I Be Promoted?


Everyone starts with different backgrounds and experience levels and therefore will reach the same milestones at different rates.  However, the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) has mandated MINIMUM time requirements which are the following:

White Belt: No Minimum

Blue Belt: 2 Years

Purple Belt: 1.5 Years

Brown Belt: 1 Year


The Most Important Thing to Remember About Belt Promotions is This…

Don’t worry about it too much.  Focus on improving your actual abilities and the belts will come.

About Julius Park

Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. I've produced World Champions from Blue Belt up to Brown Belt. My next goal is to get a student to the Black Belt World Champion level and into the UFC. I have an English Bulldog, Ghostface, who has so far resisted all training methods.

One Comment

  • Raffi says:

    Great article – thanks ! We are doing belt promos in the school i am in at the end of the week and am caught between let the Professor decided and my own feeling (i dont think i am ready for the next stripe up in my white belt). I love the sport but seem to beaten quiet handily by the other students in the class. I do have good days and think I am improving and even though my professors seem happy with my progress i dont feel quiet there yet. Anyway, again thanks for the super cool article :)

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