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Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be extremely complicated, and takes a long time to progress through the ranks. The Brazilian art is highly systematic with many dynamic transitional components. Originally the art was constructed for self defense purposes by the Gracie clan, but as the art has evolved over the last century it has become heavily entrenched as a combat sport. Students will need to learn many different bjj systems if they want to become highly successful as a practitioner. The art has many different avenues for students to excel in, as similar to a doctorate, students can major in different parts of the game. The BJJ journey can be a long, and arduous one, as the highly complex grappling system takes hard work, perseverance, continuity, and technical proficiency to become masterful at.

Prolific Jiu Jitsu instructor Roy Dean shares his recipe for the perfect jiu jitsu class in this instructional.  Get it here at!

progression in bjj


Children that begin training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will start off purely excited by the games, and the friends they will make. The passion for grappling usually takes a few years to set in, as kids as young as five will need to mature before they can fully understand many concepts in BJJ. Children start off as white belts, and must learn many lessons in bjj etiquette before they can move on through the belt ranking system. Kids can often become distracted, and lose motivation to train, this is why kids belts are handed out more frequently then the adults divisions. Kids can look to receive a new belt roughly every three to five months, as there are thirteen belts to get through on their way to a green and black striped belt. The first stop after the white belt is the grey belt series, which includes three belts, a grey and white striped belt, a solid grey belt, and a grey and black striped belt. Black and white striped versions of the grey belt are followed on throughout all coloured belt groups. After the grey belt group, students will move on to the yellow belt series, then the orange belt series, and finally the green belt series. There are different criteria for each belt group, as kids will slowly progress from stripe to stripe, and belt to belt. After receiving the final children's belt, which is the green and black striped belt, students of this level will be extremely technical, and are given the green light to skip the adult white belt, as they will move straight into their blue belt when they turn sixteen years of age.


Learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as an adult white belt can be extremely frustrating, especially if the new student is uncoordinated, unfit, or lacks the relevant amount of strength required. There is so much to learn for new students like all of the control positions, how to score points in jiu jitsu, and ultimately how to finish a fight. BJJ has a complicated series of techniques, which involves guard passes, submissions, sweeps, escapes, takedowns, and transitions, all of which are impossible to learn for brand new students. Trying to understand the whole game of BJJ is mind boggling, this is why Jiu Jitsu has been compared to a jigsaw puzzle, as white belts will learn one piece at a time. Novice students will need to focus on fundamental concepts like staying balanced, remembering to breathe, keeping good posture, and using pressure to control an opponent.

Joining a BJJ academy can be extremely daunting for a new student, especially when they do not know what to expect. Learning how an academy works, and how the BJJ program is taught can cause students to become anxious. Beginners can be rest assured that joining a grappling community is highly encouraging, nurturing, and understanding of all skill levels, fitness levels, and cultural backgrounds. White belts will make an easy transition into feeling comfortable training inside of an academy, and this will ultimately help them progress through the first stages of their journey. Piece by piece they will begin to understand the mechanics of BJJ, as they start to learn to neutralise their opponents by controlling the position, and soon after learning the dynamic elements of  transitioning with sweeping mechanisms, and guard passes. Before long, beginners will be taking down their opponents, and setting up submissions, as they become highly addicted to what has now become mainstream submission grappling.


Earning their first promotion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an amazing achievement, and this first stop along the journey is the blue belt. This is one of the hardest belts to earn, as beginners know very little about the Martial Art, and are starting from scratch. Once the student has impressed the coach through sheer discipline, hard work, consistency, and proficiency, they will be awarded their blue belt in Jiu Jitsu. By this stage many practitioners have already competed in Jiu Jitsu tournaments, but there are still some that will ask the question do you have to compete in bjj. No student ever has to compete in tournaments, as this is purely an individual choice, however most academies have outstanding competition teams that are all highly encouraging of students that wish to compete. Becoming a blue belt means there are some leadership qualities attached, and this is the perfect moment for students to start testing their proficiency against other students of the same calibre.

Blue belt students by this stage should have a grasp on the fundamental elements of BJJ, meaning they should know all of the control positions, and how to neutralise their opponent. They should also know how to execute basic guard passes, and at least one, or two basic sweeps, submissions, and take downs. All blue belt students should have a pretty good knowledge of how to defend submissions, and escape from positions, as these are extremely fundamental core principles that students of this level should know. Wearing a blue belt also comes with other expectations, like being a mature student, and leading by example. They should be following all of the guidelines set by their academy, and helping to encourage other white belts to progress towards their next belt level. Some instructors will also expect their blue belts to assist them in training, so they can start to gain some valuable knowledge, as they head towards their purple belt.


Earning a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an outstanding achievement, and one that not many white belts will ever reach. The purple belt level is the halfway point towards becoming a black belt in the art, and it's a time to start really developing an athlete's identity. Some students may take up to ten years to reach this level, and some may never go any further. At this stage of a student's journey they should be taking charge on the coaching level, because this is the only way to ultimately earn that elusive black belt. Competing as a purple belt is where a student really learns how to win in jiu jitsu, and this is because they will master many of their technical systems. At this level a student should be perfecting their flow chains, and exploring any new concepts that may improve the overall output of their efficiency. By the time a student becomes a purple belt they should basically know most technical movements, as there is not much they will change in terms of how they execute their movements.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more than just learning how to fight, it is basically a teaching degree. The complexity of the art has been compared with becoming a doctor, and this is why a BJJ black belt is called a professor. Reaching the purple belt level means that a practitioner can teach without having a higher level instructor present. This is the natural progression of a Jiu Jitsu athlete, as they will begin to put more time into coaching, and developing students. Spending more time teaching is how a purple belt can explore their game style, and learn to master their craft in the development of their students. At the purple belt level practitioners can also strive for a greater purpose as a competitor, as they usually enter their own bjj age divisions. In a lot of cases a purple belt will be over thirty years of age, which will open them up to the masters divisions.


Progressing through the ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be physically, and emotionally demanding on an athlete. The toll it takes on an athlete mentally can often stop them from progressing past the purple belt level. Statistics will show that only one out of three purple belts will be promoted to the brown belt. This may seem like a crazy figure, as you would expect most purple belts to keep training, and pushing on to strive towards a black belt in the art. There are two main problems that force students to linger at the purple belt level, and the first is injuries, as the art of BJJ can take a heavy toll on the athlete's body. The second problem that athletes will face is life balance, as an athlete will quite often spend a long time to reach the purple belt level, and this can take a heavy mental toll on an athlete's personal life. This can lead to a student training less frequently, and being content to stay at the purple belt level.

For the athletes that do persevere, and continue on the journey to reach the brown belt rank, they are even more certain to become a black belt in the art. To be a brown belt an athlete must step up to the plate, and really become a leader of their club. They must be great at teaching, as they should be excelling at sharing their knowledge, and developing younger belts within their academy. The brown belt level is all about refinement, as they should be taking what they already know, and mastering it even further. Even a brown belt will have weaknesses, and this is the time for these practitioners to patch up any holes they have within their game. A brown belt should already have the knowledge of a black belt, but they just have to spend at least a year refining their skills. Brown belt practitioners are usually hungry to win high calibre tournaments like the World Championships, as they know once they become a black belt, their chances will become increasingly harder.


Most athletes that set out to learn a Martial Art like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will never reach the pinnacle of the sport. In fact the statistics will show that roughly one out of every one thousand white belts will go on to become a black belt in the art. It can take some students up to twenty years to earn a black belt in BJJ, with the average athlete taking at least ten years. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule who astonish the community by earning their belt in three to five years, but they are extremely rare cases with athletes like BJ Penn, Travis Stevens, Vitor Ribeiro, and Caio Terra Earning their belts in quick succession. Becoming a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a lifetime achievement that only very few will conquer. It takes some serious dedication, perseverance, continuity, and ability to reach this prestigious level, and for the athletes that do, it is a moment that is cherished.

Prolific Jiu Jitsu instructor Roy Dean shares his recipe for the perfect jiu jitsu class in this instructional.  Get it here at!

jiu jitsu progression

A black belt should be a leader, someone who epitomises honour  and integrity. Their wealth of knowledge should be never ending, and their experience on the mats is formidable. A student will know the difference between a black belt, and a student that has a lower rank, as a black belt almost has an aura about them. Black belts demand attention just by the nature of their skills, as all lower ranked students will line up to learn from their expertise. When a student finally reaches that coveted level of black, they will soon realise they have only just scratched the surface. There is a huge difference between a first year black belt, compared with a first degree black belt, as it takes three years as an active black belt to earn their first degree. The second degree takes a further three years, and the third degree another three years, meaning a third degree black belt has had their belt for nine years. This only gets even more complicated, as they will spend five years to earn their fourth, fifth, and sixth degrees, meaning they will have spent twenty four years as a black belt to earn their sixth degree. From here it takes a further seven years to earn their first coral belt, which is essentially a seventh degree black belt, and a further seven years to reach the second coral belt, which is an eighth degree black belt. The ninth, and tenth degrees take ten years per degree, which are known as red belts. Meaning it can take a practitioner nearly sixty years as a black belt to reach the highest rank in BJJ. These ranks are actually unattainable, as the red belt is only reserved for members of the Gracie family, and coral belts are extremely rare, and can only be earned by pioneers of the sport.

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