How Long Does It Take To Get A Red Belt In BJJ? (Solved!)


I’ve been training in BJJ for eighteen months now, and I’ve come to understand how unique the belt system is.

In this article, I’m going to focus on how long it takes to get a red belt.

It takes 40 to 54.5 years to get a red belt in BJJ. It varies based on whether it’s awarded to you by an instructor from the Helio Gracie lineage (40 to 46 years) or from the Carlos Gracie lineage using the IBJJF ranking system (53.5 to 54.5 years).

This is also a minimum time requirement based on if you consistently train, and under the Helio Gracie grading system a person can only advance beyond black belt if they are an instructor with their own students. 

In this article I will explain the nuances of getting a red belt in BJJ, as well as explain how many red belts there are currently, how hard it is to get a red belt in BJJ, and how long it takes to go from one belt to the next under the two main belt ranking systems in BJJ.

Is a Red Belt Higher Than a Black Belt in BJJ

A red belt in BJJ is higher than a black belt in BJJ.

There are 8 belt ranks between being a black belt and getting awarded a red belt. There are each of the stripes on the black belt, of which there are 6. Then there are two more degrees after than before a red belt is awarded.

An easy way to think about it is that a red belt is a black belt with 9 stripes.

But there are one or two colored belts in between a black belt and a red belt. It depends on what grading system. There are two major belt ranking systems in BJJ. One is administered and passed on black belts that were awarded by Helio Gracie. 

The other are those administered under the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). This is considered to be under Carlos Gracie who is the brother of Helio Gracie. As the person who looks after the affairs is Carlos Gracie Jnr. a son of Carlos Gracie.

Both Carlos Gracie and Helio Gracie are the founders of Brazilian jiu jitsu, and it’s origins are from jiu jitsu – also called judo – taught to them by Mitsuyo Maeda.

He was a Japanese native who travelled to Brazil.

The oldest son of Helio Gracie is Rorion Gracie. Here’s a video of Rorion awarding his younger brother Rickson with a red belt:

As you can tell from the speech that Rickson gave there is a bit of ambiguity in terms of how long it takes exactly to get awarded each belt and each degree.

But, there are some general guidelines for how long it takes most people and when each degree should be awarded.

Here’s a table that shows how long it takes if you were to be awarded it from a person who learned from one of Helio Gracie’s blackbelts or from one of Helio Gracie’s sons.

Helio Gracie belt ranking system timeframes

Belt colorTime at this belt on averageCumulative time until next belt
White1 to 2 years1 to 2 years
Blue2 to 4 years3 to 6 years
Purple3 to 5 years6 to 11 years
Brown2 to 3 years8 to 14 years
Black (1 to 6 stripes)12 years20 to 26 years
Coral belt (7 stripes)10 years30 to 36 years
Coral belt (8th stripe)10 years40 to 46 years
Red belt (9 degrees)Final beltFinal belt

It’s important to note that these are guidelines.

And it’s up to each instructor as to when they choose to award you with each of the belts. At some schools the award in degrees for each belt. These are what are known as stripes.

Many people wonder whether jiu jitsu is Japanese, and how it’s origins differ from that of Judo. I explained the history, and how BJJ came to be in this article that answers is jiu jitsu Japanese.

According to Relson Gracie, one of the oldest sons of Helio Gracie in Brazil, stripes were not awarded on the white belt.

And were only awarded for the colored belts such as blue and purple, and also on the black belt, and coral belt. However, he states that once BJJ came to the United States different academies began awarding stripes on white belts (source).

He also goes on to outline that in the comprehensive book that Helio Gracie wrote he outlines that to be awarded a black belt you need to meet technical requirements, as well as, personal requirements.

By personal requirements is meant you need to be punctual to every class, and maintain grooming such as trimming the nails, and keeping a clean kimono.

The IBJJF organizes some of the biggest jiu jitsu competitions. They also have MANY affiliate schools which are known as Gracie Barra. Barra is pronounced ‘ba-ha’. They come from Carlson Gracie who is the older brother of Helio Gracie. 

Here’s a table that shows their ranking system:

Carlos Gracie (IBJJF) belt ranking system timeframes

Belt colorTime at this belt on averageCumulative time until next belt
White1 to 2 years1 to 2 years
Blue2 years3 to 4 years
Purple1.5 years4.5 to 5.5 years
Brown1 year5.5 to 6.5 years 
Black3 years8.5 to 9.5 years
Black belt (1 stripe)3 years11.5 to 12.5 years
Black belt (2 stripes)3 years14.5 to 15.5 years
Black belt (3 stripes)5 years19.5 to 20.5 years
Black belt (4 stripes)5 years24.5 to 25.5 years
Black belt (5 stripes)5 years29.5 to 30.5 years
Black belt (6 stripes)7 years36.5 to 37.5 years
Coral belt (7 stripes)7 years43.5 to 44.5 years
Red & White belt (8 stripes)10 years53.5 to 54.5 years
Red belt (9 degrees)Final beltFinal belt

Their ranking system is virtually identical to the Helio Gracie ranking system. However, there are few minor differences. Between a black belt which has 7 stripes, which is when a coral belt is awarded and a red belt there is a red and white belt. 

They also require practitioners to hold each belt for a minimum amount of time before they can be considered for promotion. These are the timeframes I’ve outlined in the table. It’s also available in visual form on their official website here.

The white to red belt system only applies to people over 16 years of age

A person is only eligible to get a blue belt which begins the track from white belt to red belt after the age of 16. If a person begins BJJ before that age there are different colored belts these are:

  • White belt
  • Grey
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green

In between each belt there is also a white stripe and black stripe that runs through the entire belt lengthwise.

For example, before a child becomes a grey belt, they first get a grey belt with a white stripe through the center. Then their next promotion they get a solid grey belt. And after that they get a grey belt with a black stripe through the center.

Training at BJJ
Getting to red belt status takes a lifetime or determined practice in the art of BJJ

How good is a red belt in BJJ

A red belt has spent at least 46 years actively training. This is an incredibly long time, and anyone who has been consistently training in anything for this long has a high level of skill. 

Due to how long it takes to get a red belt a person who has one will be older and if they started training as soon as they are physically able to do so – once they can crawl and walk – they will have been awarded their red belt by about age 65.

Any person of this age has diminished physical ability.

It’s well known that as you age you lose strength and you don’t recover as quickly as a person does in their 20’s and 30’s.

Because of that it is possible that they can be out muscled and physically put through the ringer.

In this article I’ve already made mention of Rickson Gracie. He has a son named Kron Gracie who is in his 30’s and has had a few UFC matches recently.

In a recent Joe Rogan podcast, the topic of training BJJ as you age came up. Rickson mentioned that if he did one normal training session with Kron he would need to be in physiotherapy rehab for 6 months.

This sheds light on the fact that as a person ages and reaches the more advanced belts they can’t train with the same intensity.

However, against an untrained opponent it’s fairly clear they would not struggle at all.

Here’s a video of a BJJ white belt who has little or no experience sparring with Relson Gracie a red belt in BJJ:

As you can see the red belt manages to apply a joint lock multiple times and the untrained fighter is unable to get into an advantageous position or do any kind of attack.

Instead, he is constantly on the back foot and trying to avoid everything the red belt is doing.

How Many Red Belts Are There in BJJ

BJJ is a relatively new martial art compared to other martial arts. Since a red belt is the most advanced belt a person can get I thought I’d explain how many red belts there are in BJJ.

There are currently around 40 red belts in BJJ. If a person begins BJJ in childhood they will be awarded their red belt at around age 65. There are currently around 35 coral belts which are at around a maximum of 10 years away from being awarded a red belt in BJJ.

In BJJ red belts are awarded by other red belts. A coral belt which is a black red belt is one belt before the red belt. In BJJ this is considered a retirement belt.

When it’s awarded it typically coincides with when a BJJ practitioner retires from competition. After this time historically these practitioners put much more focus on teaching rather than preparing for and competing in competitions.

How Hard Is It To Get a Red Belt in BJJ

A red belt is the highest honor a BJJ practitioner can get. But, is it difficult to get or is it just a matter of time?

It is hard to get a red belt in BJJ. It requires virtually a lifetime commitment to training, and teaching BJJ. In the Helio Gracie ranking system a BJJ practitioner can not advance beyond the black belt unless they are an instructor. 

The requirement to teach BJJ is not explicitly stated under the IBJJF belt ranking system. Therefore, it’s isn’t absolutely mandatory. However, it likely is a requirement for it to be awarded by some instructors. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Each Belt in BJJ

Almost all martial arts start with a white belt. To progress from one belt to the next generally takes 6 months to a year. All martial arts are slightly different so I’ll explain how long it takes to get each belt in BJJ.

The first belt in BJJ is a white belt and can be used even if a person hasn’t attended a BJJ class or lesson. From white belt to blue belt takes 1 to 2 years, white belt to purple belt takes 3 to 6 years, white belt to brown belt takes 6 to 11 years, and white belt to black belt takes 8 to 14 years. 

I’ve been training BJJ for about 18 months.

Over that time I’ve done a lot of research into BJJ as well as other martial arts. Based on that research it’s become clear to me that it’s best to find an instructor that you’re happy to stick with through your entire BJJ journey.

This can take a bit of trial and error and research. The reason is that it takes a very long time to go from white belt to black belt. Therefore, if your personalities aren’t a good match and you don’t have good vibes with your instructor you should keep looking for a school that fits what you want to achieve out of learning BJJ. 

Sources

Jacob Wilson

Jacob loves sports. He did karate for 3 years in elementary school, and played volleyball and basketball in high school. He has also been training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for a year, and is a 2 stripe white belt. You can find out more about Jacob at https://sportscentaur.com/about-jacob-wilson/

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