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How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In Judo

All martial arts have a different belt ranking system. There is generally a time requirement before you can get promoted to the next belt, as well as a certain amount of techniques or a certain level of technical skill. Today, I will explain how long it takes to get a black belt in judo.

On average it takes about 10 years to get a black belt in Judo. If a person was to train judo once a week, they could expect to get their black belt in a minimum of 15 years. If a child starts when they are 5 or 6 years of age they will get their black belt at the age of 15 or 16.

To go from one belt to the next a judoka – a person who does judo – must demonstrate the set of techniques taught for that belt, as well as all previous belts. There are also some more requirements to go from brown to black that aren’t required from progressing through the other belts.

In this article, I will explain exactly what you need to do to advance from each belt to the next.


How long to get a black belt in judo

How Do You Get a Black Belt in Judo?

To be awarded a black belt in judo you need to first do all the previous belts until you reach the belt before black which is a brown belt.

At the brown belt level, you need to be awarded a certain amount of what are called points.

Points are gained through the passage of time, through performing an ippon throw-in competition, and through helping out with teaching others. You need to gain 120 points at brown belt to put your name forward to be assessed for a black belt. 

If you participate in a competition and perform an ippon throw against another brown belt or a black belt you get 10 points. For each year that passes you get 10 points.

Therefore, it can take a very long time to go from brown to black unless you demonstrate your ability in competition.

As you may know, an ippon is a ‘perfect throw’, this is where you throw your opponent in a convincing way.

Here’s a video that shows some of the best ippon throws in judo competitions so you can get an idea of what you need.

It’s not necessary to compete at the absolute highest levels like those shown in the video. After you get your brown belt you should register as soon as possible.

That way you can begin accumulating points immediately which will shorten the time it takes to get a black belt. Although there is no rush, you might as well.

For example, if you’re based in the USA you would register with the USA Judo Federation, and if you like, you can also get registered with the International Judo Federation. 

There are various different ways to get points and does depend on your specific country but most countries follow a very similar or the same system. 

Once you register you will start accumulating points based on the passage of time, and they will keep a record of your performance in competition

How a judo black belt grading is performed

Once you’ve accumulated 120 points at the brown belt level you can submit a request to be assessed for your black belt. This involves a grading at a designated dojo, or facility where mats can be set up and the skills can be assessed.

A black belt grading is typically offered twice per year. 

At the event, judges will come from different regions around the country. Typically, 6 to 8 high-ranking black belts will assess your skill level. A black belt does not have stripes on their belt. 

However, there are different degrees such as 1st degree, 2nd degree, and 3rd degree.

When you go from brown to black belt, you are officially a first-degree black belt. However, a black belt in other martial arts such as Brazilian jiu jitsu is called a black belt, and the next rank is a black belt first degree. Or a black belt with one stripe.

For the grading generally, 4 people will be graded simultaneously and involve two pairs of brown belts.

These 6 to 8 high-ranking black belts will ask you to perform random moves from the entire curriculum for all of the different belts. The entire curriculum is made of 67 individual techniques.

You will also need to perform 3 different kata, known as nage no kata.

As you may know, judo was codified and created from jiu-jitsu by Jigoro Kano. Who changed traditional jiu jitsu from its focus on war to a means of personal and spiritual development.

Jiu jitsu was previously spelled ju-jutsu, and was renamed to ju-do, but is now commonly written judo. Many people who have studied martial arts for a long time are aware of its history and why Brazilian jiu jitsu was called as such and not Brazilian judo, since virtually all of the techniques are the same. 

I go over the exact details of the history of ju-jitsu, how it became renamed to ju-do, and how Brazilian jiu jitsu came about in this article that explains whether jiu jitsu is Japanese

Judo has been spread by students of Jigoro Kano and as such there are many different judo schools around the world. Judo is very much exactly the same around the world, however, Jigoro Kano’s school is known as Kodokan judo.

As a judo student, you may be interested in getting your black belt endorsed as being a Kodokan judo black belt.

It’s possible to do this, however, if you want to do that you need to perform 5 kata rather than 3.

Once your ability has been assessed the high-ranking black belts will convene, and then let you know at the end of the day whether you have been awarded your black belt.

They will not present the black belt to you. Instead, they will notify your school and once you return to your gym your head instructor will present you with your black belt.

Two judo black belts grappling

Belts before getting a black belt in Judo and how they are awarded

There are 67 techniques in total.

Each belt has a new set of techniques, and to advance from one belt to the next you need to know the new techniques, as well as, the techniques from all of the previous belts.

The official Kodokan Judo website provides a pdf document of all the techniques here.

They also provide a list of all the techniques with a short very well-made video of each showing it being performed, available here.

It’s common for a student to know 15 individual techniques for each belt. For example, to go from white to yellow you need to know 15 techniques, and then to go from yellow to orange you need to know another 15 techniques.

Here’s an example of one judo school’s curriculum that breaks down the techniques you need to know to go from white belt to yellow belt.

Techniques you need to know to go from white belt to yellow belt

Throwing techniquesGround techniques
Advanced foot sweepScarf hold
Knee wheelSide for quarters hold
Propping drawing ankleShoulder hold
Floating hipUpper four quarters hold
Major outer reap
Major hip
Major inner reap
Shoulder throw (1 or 2 armed)

The same amount of techniques are required for the subsequent belts. The belt order in Judo is:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Black

Some schools also have a belt in between each of the belts. Where the belt is split down the middle with the two colors.

For example, to go between white and yellow is a white and yellow belt. And between orange and green is an orange and green belt.

It takes on average 2 years to go from one belt to the next. The total time it takes to get a black belt in 10 years. This is based on the fact that there are 5 gradings before a black belt is awarded.

Each grading prior to black belt is awarded at the school that you attend and is administered by the highest ranking belts at the school typically. Whereas, black belt is unique in that the grading is held off-site.

What Is the Highest Grade in Judo?

Most people consider a black belt to be the highest rank in martial arts. A black belt is a very advanced student in virtually all martial arts. However, it isn’t always the highest grade, here’s what the highest grade in judo is.

A red belt is the highest grade in judo. Before the red belt is a red and white paneled belt, and before that is a black belt. The black belt in judo has many degrees called Dans in Japanese. A black belt in judo does not have any distinguishing features to indicate what degree they are. 

This is different to other martial arts where usually a stripe is put on the black belt to indicate what degree they are.

Is Jiu Jitsu Better Than Judo?

Jiu jitsu and Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) in particular have become very popular in recent years. Judo is also still very popular and widely practiced and taught. Therefore, I will explain whether jiu jitsu is better than judo.

Neither judo or jiu jitsu is better. Jiu jitsu is judo because judo or ju-do is a renaming of what was called jiu-jitsu or ju-jutsu formerly in Japan. There is some confusion over these two martial arts because there are still schools that teach jiu-jitsu or Brazilian jiu-jitsu today.

The original name of the martial art is ju-jitsu or jiu-jitsu. But, its name was changed to ju-do, now called judo by Jigoro Kano. Jiu jitsu was originally the unarmed (no weapons) techniques for military forces in Japan. 

It fell out of favor among the general population who had a preference for Western culture when Japan reopened to the world in the early 1800s.

It was revived and became extremely popular due to the efforts of Jigoro Kano and many others. His work in effect rebranded jiu-jitsu to ju-do. 

A practitioner of judo traveled to Brazil and taught the judo techniques to the Gracie family who later spread it and made it extremely popular in the USA.

For whatever reason, they called it jiu jitsu rather than judo, however, both names refer to the same martial art.

Brazilian jiu jitsu improved on the techniques in judo and they have a slightly different curriculum, which also involves weapons defense which isn’t covered in the judo curriculum taught today.

Effectiveness of judo vs jiu jitsu in a real fight

Both jiu jitsu and judo are very effective for self-defense. The technical ability to throw an attacker to the ground and pin them, as well as, apply a joint lock or choke are taught in both jiu jitsu and judo.

The main thing is that these techniques are practiced against a resisting opponent. This involves sparring where the other person is trying to avoid what you’re trying to do and also do their own attacks.

The timing involved in avoiding strikes and keeping your body, face, and head out of harm’s way while throwing or applying a standing joint lock requires practice and specific drilling to become competent. 

However, an untrained opponent is generally very unskilled and has no idea what to watch out for.

And will easily be thrown and/or submitted by experienced judo or jiu-jitsu practitioner. I recently did an analysis and explanation of how good a blue belt in BJJ is against an untrained person

A blue belt is the first belt in BJJ, however, there are many factors that go into how good either judo, BJJ, or jiu jitsu practitioner would be for self-defense and largely depends on the focus and values of the specific school where you train.

What Order Do Judo Belts Go In?

Judo has a unique belt color system. There is one for children and another for youth and adults. Here’s the order that belts are awarded for both children and adults.

Adult (seniors) judo belts go white, orange, green, blue, brown, black, white, and red paneled, then red. Red belt is the highest belt a judo practitioner can reach. For children (juniors) it’s the same order except instead of a brown belt a purple belt is used. 

In some countries, the blue belt is not used for juniors. And there are also belts in between at some schools, which are two colors.

For example, in between white and orange, there is a half white and half orange belt. It’s a bit confusing because schools in different countries can be slightly different.

However, most have a very similar color system, with only one belt that is a different color.

The belts are called kyu’s, and a lower number kyu indicates a higher rank. For example, a 4th kyu is a more advanced belt than a 5th kyu.

After black belt, the next ranks are called dans. However, no stripes or any indication is put on the black belt to indicate what dan they are.