Once a student gets a black belt they are qualified to teach BJJ, and a black belt is seen as the pinnacle of skill in many martial arts. But how long does it takes to get a black belt in BJJ?
On average, it takes 8 to 14 years to get a black belt in BJJ, provided a person trains a minimum of 3 times per week. However, the decision about exactly when a person gets a black belt in BJJ is up to a person’s professor. Some people have legitimately got the black belt in BJJ much faster.
Below, I will cover:
- The requirements to get a black belt in BJJ
- Belt ranking system timeframes
- How often you should train to get a black belt as fast as possible
- Requirements to get from one belt to the next
- Is training three times a week enough?
- How long does it take to get a belt in BJJ?
The Requirements to get a Black Belt in BJJ
There are two overall belt ranking systems in BJJ, and all BJJ professors will award a person a black belt using one of these methods. These are the:
- International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) belt ranking system
- The Helio Gracie and other belt ranking systems
They differ in how they are awarded but are both typically indicative of a similar level of skill.
The IBJJF has a minimum time requirement to get each belt, as well as being at the discretion of the professor awarding each belt.
On the other hand, in the Helio Gracie ranking system, there is no official time requirement before a belt can be awarded. However, the time frames are roughly the same.
Here’s a table that shows the minimum time required for each belt under the IBJJF belt ranking system. The IBJJF is one of the most well-known BJJ organizations due to its many competitive tournaments.
Carlos Gracie (IBJJF) belt ranking system timeframes
|Time at this belt on average
|Cumulative time until the next belt
|1 to 2 years
|1 to 2 years
|3 to 4 years
|4.5 to 5.5 years
|5.5 to 6.5 years
|8.5 to 9.5 years
|Black belt (1 stripe)
|11.5 to 12.5 years
|Black belt (2 stripes)
|14.5 to 15.5 years
|Black belt (3 stripes)
|19.5 to 20.5 years
|Black belt (4 stripes)
|24.5 to 25.5 years
|Black belt (5 stripes)
|29.5 to 30.5 years
|Black belt (6 stripes)
|36.5 to 37.5 years
|Coral belt (7 stripes)
|43.5 to 44.5 years
|Red & White belt (8 stripes)
|53.5 to 54.5 years
|Red belt (9 degrees)
Helio Gracie and other belt ranking system timeframes
All BJJ black belts can be traced back to Carlos Gracie, and Helio Gracie. They were two brothers who invented the art and adapted from the judo techniques that were taught to them by a Japanese immigrant and famous fighter Mitsuyo Mayeda.
Mitsuyo Mayeda spent a lot of time training under Jigoro Kano, the master who invented judo. He adapted it, and changed its name from jiu-jitsu to ju-do.
Helio and Carlos refined the art and made it very realistic by developing it for real situations. Therefore, there are MANY Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belts who have trained directly from Helio and Carlos, as well as their many sons.
Anything other than the IBJJF ranking system can broadly be lumped into the Helio Gracie and ‘other’ category.
It basically means anyone who got their black belt from Helio, Carlos, or their many relatives and friends who trained in BJJ.
One of the most famous sons of Helio Gracie is Rorion Gracie, who invented the UFC, which he later sold. Rorion Gracie’s sons have many academies around the world and teach through their online curriculum of videos called Gracie University.
The timeframe to get a belt from anyone other than IBJJF is slightly longer. They are shown below:
|Time at this belt on average
|Cumulative time until next belt
|1 to 2 years
|1 to 2 years
|2 to 4 years
|3 to 6 years
|3 to 5 years
|6 to 11 years
|2 to 3 years
|8 to 14 years
|Black (1 to 6 stripes)
|20 to 26 years
|Coral belt (7 stripes)
|30 to 36 years
|Coral belt (8th stripe)
|40 to 46 years
|Red belt (9 degrees)
Requirements to go from one belt to the next
As explained by experienced BJJ practitioners there are different qualitative indicators that a person is ready to be awarded their next belt. Here’s a broad idea about the skill level of each belt:
|Generally, a person should be able to do at this level
|Can’t do much at all, learning the different positions and moves.
|Can easily control and submit a white belt. Knows all of the core curricula.
|Can submit black belts on the odd occasion. Very comfortable on the mat. Can easily defeat a low-level blue belt or white belt.
|Can ‘hang’ with black belts. Very little difference between a brown belt and a black belt.
|Ultimately up to the professor awarding it. But, can do fairly well against other black belts, and brown belts.
It has been explained by very experienced black belts that they will only award a black belt to a brown belt who is a good person. And also someone who is in agreement with their training methodology.
For example, some masters have a big emphasis on competition training, and techniques. On the other hand, there are others who are more interested in self-defense, and BJJ for a real fight.
If a person gets a black belt from someone, then they are representing that person. So, a BJJ professor will only award a black belt to someone they are comfortable will represent them successfully.
How often should you train to get a black belt as fast as possible
It’s true that in many pursuits the more you do something the faster you will get good at it.
But, in some activities, there is what is called a point of diminishing returns. For example, if you do something for 2 hours, you will get better twice as fast as if you train for 1 hour.
However, if you train too much, it can lead to overtraining. A person’s body also has a limit for how much it can handle. And training too much can increase the risk of injury.
There are many people who have been awarded a black belt in BJJ in a much shorter amount of time. Some examples are:
- BJ Penn (Former UFC champion)
- Geo Martinez (Very accomplished BJJ competitor)
- Richie Martinez (Very accomplished BJJ competitor)
BJ Penn is a Hawaiian MMA fighter and is a previous UFC title holder. It’s well known that he received his black belt in 2 to 3 years.
As you may know, there is a well-known BJJ teacher called Eddie Bravo. He is often featured on the Joe Rogan podcast. Eddie Bravo received his black belt in BJJ from Jean Jacques Machado.
He has awarded black belts to two brothers: Geo and Richie Martinez after only about 3 years. Geo Martinez is quoted as saying in the podcast that Eddie Bravo said to him:
“I really don’t want to give your black belt so early, but I have no choice.”Eddie Bravo
The reason was that he performed so well in international competitions, beating many black belts, and in some cases taking first place in the black belt division of tournaments.
It was clear he was at a black belt level even though they have only been training for about a third of the time it typically takes a person to get a black belt.
Stripes used at benchmarks from one belt to the next
It’s common now at BJJ schools to award 4 stripes for each belt before moving on to the next belt. For example, a white belt will get 1 stripe on their belt, then another one, and another, and another until they have 4 stripes.
On their next promotion, they will get a blue belt. The same is true when going from blue to purple. A blue belt gets four stripes before being awarded a purple belt.
The stripes are always white in color. They start from the very tip of the belt, and then each successive stripe goes further up the belt towards the knot.
Stripes and belts are awarded due to performance in competition
Competition is a good way for BJJ practitioners to see how good their skill level is compared to other BJJ practitioners. Often, at a BJJ academy it’s a fun and collaborative environment. People regularly training against each may take it easy, and have fun.
On the other hand, in competition, the mindset is to win. And win at all costs!
Therefore, you can really see how good your techniques are against a 100% resisting opponent.
Competitions have divisions based on weight class, as well as belt level. For example, there will be a white belt division with different weight classes. For example, common weight divisions are 143 lbs (65 kg), 154 lbs (70 kg), and 165 lbs (75 kg).
However, it is not divided by stripes. Therefore, if a person wins the white belt division many times, they will often be awarded a stripe. It really depends on the level of competition.
As an example, if they consistently win the white belt division then it’s clear their skill level is high enough to move on to the blue belt. Because they can easily beat all the white belts.
For this reason, they will be awarded at least one stripe, and often it may be more and depends on their place in a competition.
Number of techniques in BJJ
There are a near-unlimited amount of techniques in BJJ.
However, there are core positions and moves for each of these. Examples of these are attacks from the guard, side control, mount, and back. Then there are also escapes, and ways to defend against the attacks.
There is typically a core curriculum at any BJJ school where they show all of the main types of these techniques.
Once a person can execute each of these reasonably well, and with a realistic amount of resistance, a person will typically be awarded a blue belt.
Is Training Jiu Jitsu 3 Times a Week Enough?
It takes most people about the same amount of time to go from one belt to the next. However, the more often you train the faster you will become better at jiu-jitsu. Here’s a summary of whether training jiu-jitsu 3 times a week is enough.
On average, training in jiu-jitsu 3 times a week is enough. But, ideally 4 times a week to see optimum progress. Research has found that training 4 times a week, and not doing weight training directly before training is optimum.
But, professional competitors and fighters will typically train jiu-jitsu once per day. Steve Maxwell, a BJJ black belt has stated that he has about 300 students come and go, over a period of about 15 years.
During this time he noticed people made optimum progress if they trained 4 times per week for about 1 to 3 hours each time.
These people made the fastest progress. People who trained more regularly than this typically had more injuries. Rest days are important.
Some martial arts have a higher rate of injury than others. I looked into the statistics that showed how frequently injuries occur in BJJ.
You can read all about it in this article I wrote about the 6 hardest martial arts to learn. Read it to find out what people voted as the hardest martial arts to learn and do.
I found the following youtube video really interesting. In it, Brandon McCaghren talks about the personal qualities required to achieve a black belt in BJJ:
How Long Does It Take To Get a Belt in BJJ
Getting the next belt in BJJ is very motivating, especially when you see people you train with get another stripe or get promoted to a higher belt level. Having trained in BJJ for 3 years, and learning about it, here is how long it takes to get a belt in BJJ.
On average, 2.5 to 4.0 years to get each belt. The first belt, a blue belt takes 2 years on average, 4 years from purple to brown, and 2 to 3 years at brown belt. However, there is a lot of variance between schools. But, on average it would take 8 to 14 years to get a black belt in BJJ.
Some jiu-jitsu academies don’t allow you to spar for the first 6 months. An example of one of these is the very well-known Gracie University. The reason is it’s important to spar lightly. Otherwise, it’s more likely you will get injured.
Competition training is when 2 people go 100%. As you learn more techniques and practice each position your skill level increases. And things that were hard before are now easy.