The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranking System
The instructor will award a BJJ practitioner one of the different colored belts to signify their increasing levels of skill and understanding of the technical principles of BJJ. Other factors can influence the decision of the instructor to award a belt, such as commitment to their studies, team and class cohesion and competitive achievements. There are often no warnings that a belt grading is going to take place, the instructor may just announce it unexpectedly. The practitioner has to stay focused on one thing only and that is to develop and commit to training and the reward of a belt grading will eventually come.
Belt System Structure
There are similarities with the belt structure of the judo ranking system and the origins of all colored belts, it now contains many of its own unique aspects and themes. Some of these differences are relatively minor, such as the division between youth and adult belts and the stripe/degree system. Others are quite distinct and have become synonymous with the art, such as a marked informality in promotional criteria, including as a focus on a competitive demonstration of skill, and a conservative approach to promotion in general.
Traditionally, the concept of competitive skill demonstration as a quickened and earned route of promotion holds true. Some schools have placed a green belt for adults between the white and blue belt ranks due to the long periods between advancement. In addition, the use of a grey belt has been instituted for many children’s programs to signal progress between the white and yellow belt rankings.
Unlike in some martial arts such as judo and karate, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu commonly takes more than several years to earn, and the rank is generally considered expert level. The amount of time it takes to achieve the rank of black belt varies between the practitioner. Some notable individuals who had previous backgrounds in other martial arts have been promoted directly to black belt rank without going through any intermediate rank. Others have achieved the rank in relatively short timeframes. Outside of exceptions such as these, the average timeframe is around 10 years with a consistent training schedule. However, Ryron Gracie (grandson/grandnephew of founders Hélio and Carlos Gracie) has stated that the average of 10–12 years is longer than necessary, suggesting that the ego of the practitioner often hinders progress, and advancement to black belt should take 7 years.