Like all martial arts in the world, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uses a belt system to rank students, starting from a White Belt and going all the way to a Black Belt and beyond. The gentle art demands dedication and patience, which is why only a handful of people manage to get to the top of the food chain.
The most common question is, how long does it take to get a Black Belt in BJJ?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule to answer the question. Progress depends on a number of different factors which will be discussed in detail in this article. However, the important thing is to enjoy your BJJ journey without thinking too much about belts. If you have to pin me down on an exact answer, here it is:
To get a black belt in BJJ takes, on average, 10 years.
There is a ton of variance from student to student, and from gym to gym though!
How long does it take to get each belt in BJJ?
To know the ideal time frame required to earn a Black Belt in BJJ, we must first take a look at the different belt levels in BJJ. There are five ranks or levels:
- White Belt
- Blue Belt
- Purple Belt
- Brown Belt
- Black Belt
Unless you’re someone as ridiculously talented as BJ Penn or someone from the mighty Gracie family, expect to hit the mats for at least ten years before you get your Black Belt. Progression is proportional to focus in most cases. To master BJJ faster, you must train regularly and put your heart and soul into training Jiu-Jitsu.
All BJJ enthusiasts start their journey with a White Belt. At this rank, most people have zero or very basic knowledge of BJJ. As a White Belt, your main objective should be to strengthen your foundations and absorb as much technical and spiritual knowledge as you can. Focus is key. Ideally, students spend around one to two years at this level before progressing to the next one.
Additionally, all belts, including the White one, come with a total of four stripes, which are used to distinguish students within the same belt rank. For instance, a White Belt with four stripes is generally considered better than one with three stripes or less.
As a Blue Belt, students should be able to defend themselves against stronger adversaries and be comfortable both in top and bottom positions. They must have foundational know-how of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves such as, escapes, guard passes, and the most common submission techniques.
On average, BJJ students spend around two to three years at the Blue Belt rank.
At the Purple Belt rank, students are expected to be better skill-wise than their White and Blue Belt counterparts. Purple Belts should be able to dominate and submit their lesser-qualified gym mates on a regular basis. In addition to that, they should start specializing in specific areas of the sport.
Students normally spend two to three years at this level to earn the next belt.
At this level, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu aficionados are expected to be extremely good at what they do, with the reason being experience courtesy of consistent training sessions. Naturally, when you have spent somewhere around five to seven years practicing something over and over again, you ought to be very good at it.
Brown Belts have a strong knowledge of BJJ techniques, and are normally given the go-ahead to take part in competitions to pursue their dream of getting a Black Belt. Brown belt is a great time to work on your fitness and diet, so you can make sure you’re competing at the weight class that is best for you. Spending two to three years at this level is recommended.
How long does it take to go from Brown to Black Belt in BJJ?
It usually takes seven to ten years for most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students to get a Brown Belt, although it’s not the case across the board. Some students are more gifted or spend more time sharpening their skills than others.
Take former UFC lightweight champion, BJ Penn, for example. He earned his BJJ Black Belt in only three years, whereas Judo Olympian Travis Stevens earned it in only 18 months under the tutelage of BJJ legend, John Danaher.
There are a number of variables that impact progress in Jiu-Jitsu. For example, it depends on the school, the instructor, the frequency of weekly BJJ training sessions, and a student’s natural aptitude for the sport.
Exceptional cases exist in every martial art, but on average, it takes somewhere around three to five years to go from Brown to Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
How Does a Black Belt Work in No-Gi?
No-gi schools like 10th Planet typically still give out belts – even if their students never wear them. As you work your way up the belts, you can wear ranked rash guards to help your opponents know where you stand. At IBJJF tournaments for example, you’ll see all athletes wearing a rash guard showing off at least 15% of their rank color:
You can definitely earn a black belt without ever training in the Gi. In my opinion, No-Gi black belts are just as tough if not tougher most of the time.
What are the requirements to get a BJJ Black Belt?
Earning a BJJ Black Belt isn’t child’s play. Brown Belts are required to fulfill a long list of requirements before they can have that honor. The following are some of the traits you need to master to get a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt.
Movement: Movement or positioning is everything in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If practitioners know how to position themselves to stay one step ahead of their opponents and/or if they can mirror their opponent’s moves to counter, they are good to go.
Bottom Game: Self-defense is the key aspect of BJJ and knowing how to defend one’s self is an essential requirement to earn a BJJ Black Belt. A student should know how to retain guard, sweep and go for submissions. Strong knowledge of closed, open, and half guards is essential to earn a Black Belt.
Top Game: Knowing how to attack is equally as important as knowing how to defend. It is an important part of training. If you want to earn a Black Belt, you MUST know how to be heavy on top and crush your opponents with relentless pressure.
If you have expert knowledge of side control, mounts, back control, turtle attacks, and guard passing, you’re ready to earn your BJJ Black Belt.
Standing Attacks: As a Brown Belt, you should be able to attack while standing. For instance, you should be able to throw people down by dragging or tripping them. A strong understanding of grip placement and posture is key to taking people down and submitting them.
Submissions: This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting here isn’t easy, however. Knowing where to position yourself, when to advance positions, and how to time your attacks is the most important aspect of submission grappling.
If you are aiming for the Black Belt, your timing has to be impeccable, otherwise you won’t be able to secure submissions and win contests and tournaments.
Can you get a Black Belt in BJJ in 3 years?
If you think you are as good as Penn or Travis Stevens, then you absolutely can get a Black Belt in three years. However, you’ll have to put your heart and soul into it, and literally eat, sleep, and breathe the martial art.
The most important thing when pursuing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or any other martial art for that matter is that you set realistic goals and focus on training to take your skills to the next level. To give you a better idea of how to achieve a BJJ Black Belt in three years, let’s take a look at how Penn did it.
For a start, Penn comes from a wealthy family, so he didn’t have to work to earn money. He literally slept on a pallet in the back room of Ralph Gracie’s gym. He trained for more than ten hours a day, so it’s surprising that he achieved his goal in three years. Getting a BJJ Black Belt in three years, therefore, requires an INSANE amount of dedication.
How rare is a BJJ Black Belt?
BJJ Black Belts are indeed a rare breed. According to Rener Gracie, only 10 percent of new students improve to Blue Belt, and out of those 10 percent Blue Belts, only one percent manage to secure Black Belts.
As of November 2022, there are a total of 7447 BJJ Black Belts registered with the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). According to rough estimates, there are as many as 200,000 BJJ Black Belts in the world. Considering there are eight billion people in the world, there is a one-in-forty-thousand chance that you’ll meet a BJJ Black Belt. So, it’s pretty rare.
Who gives out Jiu-Jitsu Black Belts?
Typically, a Black Belt is awarded by the coach. According to the IBJJF’s latest rules, a coach should be a second-degree Black Belt to award the Brown Belt, and a third-degree Black Belt to award a Black Belt.
However, the IBJJF isn’t a world body, so in most cases, coaches do their own thing when it comes to awarding belts. Like all martial arts, belt progressions differ from gym to gym, coach to coach, and organization to organization.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often should you train to get a Black Belt as fast as possible?
Two classes per week is the bare minimum and three to four classes a week is the ideal frequency when it comes to Jiu-Jitsu training. If you are willing to make quick improvements, you should aim for anything higher than four classes per week, but there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
BJJ is tough on the body, especially for beginners, so there is a significantly greater risk of injuries if you train too hard. The idea should be to keep things slow and steady to begin with and gradually make progress.
What can make getting your BJJ Black Belt take longer?
Compared to other martial arts, BJJ requires more dedication and training. A few minutes of grappling could literally leave you gasping for air if you’re a beginner. Even some more experienced students find it hard to train for longer periods of time, which is why it’s advised to keep things at a manageable pace.
Moreover, progress is never linear. Some students are naturally better at processing the data. Learning the plethora of BJJ techniques is easier for some, while it’s a lot harder for others. Additionally, some people practice BJJ as a hobby, so they aren’t as dedicated as a competitor per se.
What is the average time frame to get a BJJ Black Belt?
On average, a BJJ Black Belt is achieved in ten years. Some exceptionally talented grapplers manage to earn it in seven years, while slow learners tend to go over ten years.
Is training BJJ 3 times a week enough?
Three classes per week are more than enough for the first few years in BJJ. Ideally, two classes per week are recommended to maintain your skills, while three classes are recommended to learn new techniques and grow as a martial artist.
Anything above that means you’re committed to being the next big thing in the sport.