What are the BJJ Belt Requirements?
by Ryan Young, Professor, Kama Jiu-Jitsu
“What Are Your Requirements For Each Belt?”
If we got a dollar for every newbie who’s ever asked this question, we would (seriously) have huge wads of cash in our pockets!
Our answer is always, “Depends on 1) who you ask, and 2) your progress through the art.”
Here’s another one…
“How long do you think the average person takes to earn a black belt?”
I’ve heard of Master Rickson once saying, “The average person never earns a black belt.”
Every school has their own standards, but our main goal is to create proficient practitioners who can successfully protect themselves (or win in competition, if you’re in that type of school).
Keep in mind, BJJ Belt Requirements are vastly different at times. If you’re an active competitor, your BJJ Belt Requirements can be way different from a non-competitor’s BJJ Belt Requirements in the same school!
Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not the school observes the standards set by the IBJJF, or some other sanctioning body. And, you’ll see great differences from jiu-jitsu school to jiu-jitsu school, depending on their individual criteria.
For example, we had a 1-year blue belt recently leave our school for another school, and within a couple of months, was awarded his purple belt. I presume it was because he was tearing up that school’s blue, purple, and (often) brown belts. Like I said, different standards. At least his “Master” didn’t feel he was over belted. Says something about KJJ’s standards and quality of teaching, I presume.
Kama Jiu-Jitsu does not adhere to the IBJJF requirements set out by Carlos Gracie, Jr (who is the IBJJ”Federation”). Instead, we go by the traditional standards set forth by Helio Gracie and perpetuated by his sons, who were our instructors, back in the day. Where Master Rickson’s JJGF increases the standard (especially in minimum years required at a particular belt as well as black belt degrees), we defer to the JJGF standards.
Where this plays out most is 1) we don’t generally stripe white belts, 2) we have traditional kids’ belt colors of white, yellow, orange, and green (with three stripes on each), 3) we don’t give belts for no-gi only, 4) we’re not a “timeline academy;” your number of classes attended has little to do with your ultimate progress through the ranks, 5) we rank with 5 levels (color plus 4 stripes) of each belt after white with blue, purple, brown, 6) black belt ranks progress according to JJGF standards.
The general progression at Kama Jiu-Jitsu Dallas is:
White to Blue: Know the Rickson Gracie self defense curriculum, and know with a certain level of proficiency, each of the basic positions.
Blue to Purple: Learn advanced techniques to build on your knowledge of the basics from White Belt.
Purple to Brown: Learn more advanced techniques to further build on your knowledge of the advanced techniques you picked up while a Blue Belt. Also, learn how to string your techniques together in sequences.
Brown to Black: Take those sequences you honed while a Purple Belt, and develop “your game.” You will know by now what your “go to” moves are and can execute those sequences flawlessly and like clockwork. Technically speaking, you will be adequately proficient at this level, when compared to a typical black belt.
How long for each belt under your BJJ Belt Requirements?
It varies, of course. But, for argument’s sake, let’s take the “typical” scenario.
Assuming someone who trains consistently in group classes or practice sessions outside of class at least 3x/week. Also, a student who takes an active role in CORRECTLY drilling the correct techniques, at the correct time, with his Professor’s guidance, then:
White BJJ Belt Requirements: 6 months – 1 year
First of all, LEARN TO CORRECTLY TIE YOUR BELT!! If you haven’t yet seen my tutorial on correctly tying your belt, check this out:
– The shortest, but most important belt. Remember how in grade school, those who didn’t learn to read and write correctly in the lower grades had a hard time later on the upper grades? Same thing with Kama Jiu-Jitsu and your white belt. It all starts at white belt. If your foundation is not taught to you correctly, and your professor doesn’t develop your habits correctly in this crucial time, you will be correcting mistakes for the remainder of your journey. Generally, given the importance of teaching this level correctly, we prefer black belts to teach the majority of the white belt sessions (if not all) and oversee all white belts’ progress. It’s better to ensure we teach our students the correct way from the beginning. By the end, you’ll be “rolling” well with any white belt, and most blue belts from other academies. Your defensive instincts and skills will be solid. By the end of your white belt, you will be “street ready.”
Blue BJJ Belt Requirements: 2-3 years
– This belt should only be given once the student has a strong command of the basics. As a blue belt, you will learn more ways to apply chokes, apply joint locks, pass guard, etc. You will begin to learn how “tightness” and “weight” plays into the whole game. You will also begin learning more complicated maneuvers that require a solid foundation to successfully accomplish. While you will have learned all the self defense curriculum while a white belt, by the time you complete your blue belt, they will be well ingrained into your muscle-memory. By the end of your blue belt, you will be “street proficient.” If you haven’t been with us through a summer while a white belt, you will have begun to train no-gi during your blue belt.
Purple BJJ Belt Requirements: 3-4 years
– Purple belts are beginning to become “dangerous” to other higher level training partners if they’re not careful. In other words, if an upper belt lets a proficient purple belt get “too much,” the upper belt is liable to be caught. When I can “spot” a purple belt a setup to a submission, and when he can tap me without me being able to escape, he’s likely ready for his brown belt. Higher level purple belts often are offered the option of beginning to teach lower belts (especially blue belts) techniques. Those who wish to, can choose to enter our instructor training programs at this time.
Brown BJJ Belt Requirements: 2-3 years
– Brown belts no longer need to be “spotted” a setup to a submission; they can take it pretty much at will. They have a solid command of every conceivable basic move and setup, and have learned the vast majority of the current submissions and setups that are popular to at least a rudimentary degree, if not, to a highly advanced degree. Brown belts have taken on some responsibility of teaching all the lower belt students. For those who wish to earn their “professor bars” as a black belt, they will enter the instructor training program, if they have not during their purple belt.
Black BJJ Belt Requirements
Currently, only Professor Dave Kama, Professor Fernando Costa, or Master Rickson Gracie will be awarding black belts at Kama Jiu-Jitsu. It is up to them to determine who meets the Kama Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Requirements.
Total Time For BJJ Belt Requirements to be met: 7.5-10.5+ years
Some caveats for the above BJJ Belt Requirements…
1. Students who take regular privates in addition to their group classes naturally progress through the ranks faster. There is something to be said for individual instruction. But that’s up to the student and the Professor to determine.
Here is a short video I did on the subject of private and group sessions.
2. Students who don’t train consistently, cannot expect to progress as quickly as those who train more consistently, or more often. It’s as simple as that.
3. Students who don’t frequently have their outside training sessions evaluated by their professor run the risk of developing bad habits. Bad habits will lengthen your time to your next promotion.
4. At Kama Jiu-Jitsu, we strive for technical proficiency in all our students. After all, we have a reputation to uphold! Given the general BJJ belting standards of late, it’s becoming ever so clear, that our students have a better command of the basics than many of our counterparts’ similarly-ranked students. I am not saying our students know all the latest and greatest competition techniques. Far from that! For all our students, we focus on superior basics, the way Master Rickson Gracie (and now, Professor David Kama) always professed. That better command of the basics tends to make us confident our students have a much more proficient overall “game” than many other students at their belt level. Although we have been accused of it, WE DO NOT HOLD OUR STUDENTS’ PROMOTIONS BACK!!! They get promoted when they fulfill their particular Kama Jiu-Jitsu Belt Requirements.
That being said, if one student is particularly powerful, but is sloppy and executes the techniques on a level 5 out of 10 and is still able to get his desired result, he will be worked with intensively to get him to work the technique to at least an 8 out of 10 before he will be promoted. Just because you can pass everyone’s guard, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re technically sufficient. Overall Kama JIu-Jitsu proficiency is the combination of technical skill, and physical “gifts.” At Kama Jiu-Jitsu, we seek to subtract out the “gifts” and just focus on your technical skill.
Then and only then, you can augment your superior technical skill with your superior physical abilities.
We hope that clarifies the belt promotion questions you had!
The Kama Jiu-Jitsu Team
Our jiu-jitsu school campuses in Orange County, CA service Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Foothill Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, Trabuco Canyon, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, Tustin, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Huntington Beach.
Kama Jiu-Jitsu, Laguna Niguel Campus
23500 Club House Drive
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
We are located inside the Laguna Niguel Racquet Club
Kama Jiu-Jitsu, Irvine Campus
5 Ethel Coplen Way
Irvine, CA 92612
We are located inside the Racquet Club of Irvine