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Red Belt BJJ

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of those Martial Arts that has an incredibly long journey ahead. The Martial Art is a highly complex combat sport that involves a series of intricate movements to get an opponent down to the ground, once they are down a student can utilize a number of different techniques in order to control an opponent, gain a position and catch them in choke holds and joint locks. It is a highly rewarding Martial Art that gives the student a host of physical abilities and a sense of confidence and empowerment. 

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What This Article Covers:

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a belt ranking system that involves a series of coloured belts that help identify a student's rank within the art. Each student's belt is awarded stripes by their instructors, which is a measure of the progression of skills between each belt rank. The system starts with kids Jiu Jitsu belts, as they range from the white, through to grey, yellow, orange and then finishing with the green belt. The adult system also begins with the white belt and ranges through to the blue belt bjj and purple belt bjj belts, before moving on to the brown and then black belts. After a significant amount of time students can then earn belts in the coral belt bjj rank and finally the title of Grandmaster wearing the red belt, but this rank is extremely rare for practitioners to earn.

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WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU 

There is a significant history behind how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu came to be popular in the United States of America. The origin of BJJ is one that goes back a long way, to 1907 in fact where Kano Jigoro the founder of Judo began teaching his style abroad. Kano was one of the first instructors to ever utilise a coloured belt ranking system, this was so he could keep track of his students' progression. In 1914 Kano Jigoro's prized pupil Mitsuyo Maeda arrived in Brazil, as he planned on sharing his knowledge.

Carlos Gracie first saw Mitsuyo Maeda demonstrating Kano Jigoro's Jiu Jitsu at the Da Paz Theatre in Brazil, and after watching the intricacies of the demo he wanted to learn the Martial Art. Mitsuyo Maeda accepted and taught Carlos Gracie his style of Martial Arts for five or six years. Carlos would then go on to teach his brothers Gastao, Jorge, Oswaldo and Helio Gracie. Together they developed their Martial Art based off of Judo, into the mainstream Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we all know today. It was Helio who developed the ground aspect of the Martial Art due to his size and inability to utilise Judo throws. In 1925 the Gracie family opened their own academy and began teaching their style of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to many interested students in Brazil. 

Helio Gracie started with only three coloured belts, a bjj white belt which was worn by all of his students, a light blue belt that he gave to his instructors and a dark blue belt that he wore which was reserved for the master of the academy. In 1935 Mikonosuke Kawaishi developed a more detailed coloured belt system when he was teaching his Judo concepts in Paris, France. As a result of this many Martial Arts including Helio's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, changed their belt ranking system so they could easily track the progression of their students. This is when the black belt was born and Helio began handing them out once his students became certified instructors.

It was in 1967 that the first proper belt grading system was brought into the Federation of Jiu Jitsu. Helio would adopt a more stringent belt ranking system that included a white belt for beginners, each student's belt would earn four stripes before moving onto the next belt level. The second belt rank was the blue belt and then followed by the purple belt. The fourth belt in the series was the brown belt and lastly the prestigious black belt. After time and significant popularity the Gracie's adopted further belts so they could stay ahead of most students, so they added a coral belt and a red belt which was reserved for mainly the Gracie's and certain pioneers of the Martial Art.

WHAT IS A RED BELT 

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu red belt is the most prestigious belt in Martial Arts history, as it takes a significantly long time for a practitioner to earn one. The red belt is reserved for the older pioneers of the sport, and by the most recent statistics there have only been fifty five red belts in the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A red belt is a practitioner who has been awarded nine degrees on their black belt, this is handed out after a practitioner has spent forty eight years at the black belt bjj level. 

When a red belt is handed out so is the title of Grandmaster. The earliest age a red belt can be handed out is at sixty seven years old and that is only if the practitioner receives their black belt at the age of nineteen. It is even more rare for a practitioner to be awarded a tenth degree red belt, that would mean fifty eight years as a black belt. There are currently no living tenth degree red belts and there have only been five in the history of the Martial Art, this includes Carlos Gracie, Helio Gracie, Gastao Gracie, Jorge Gracie and Oswaldo Gracie. 

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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO EARN A RED BELT

The red belt process is an extremely long and arduous one. It can take a practitioner fourty eight years as a black belt and fifty eight years to earn a tenth degree. Most practitioners will never see a red belt as it is mostly reserved for the pioneers of the Brazilian art, like the Gracie family. In order to understand the length of time involved in earning a red belt, let's break down each degree. 

Once a practitioner earns their black belt they must spend three years training and coaching before they are awarded their first degree. The second and third degree also take three years per degree, the practitioner will then spend five years to earn their fourth degree. The fifth and sixth degree also takes five years per degree as they get ready for their first belt change in thirty one years. Seven years after their sixth degree is awarded, the practitioner will earn their seventh degree which is also awarded with a red and black coral belt. Seven years later they are awarded their second coral belt, this time it's a red and white belt with eight degrees on it. The coral belts in bjj are extremely significant as they represent the transition from black to red. The last two degrees are awarded ten years apart and are handed out with the highly unattainable red belt. 

A ninth degree red belt is highly unique and extremely hard to obtain. The nature of this belt means a practitioner must become masterful in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but they also must live and breathe its principles as they will have to make a huge impact within the Jiu Jitsu community. The tenth degree red belt is impossible to earn as it is only given out to the Gracie family. The last rank is a special belt rank that only five Gracie's have ever worn. Carlos, Helio, Gastao, Oswaldo and Jorge Gracie are the only recipients in the history of the art, and sadly all of them are no longer living.

HOW CAN A PRACTITIONER EARN A RED BELT

It is no easy task earning a red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as it takes over half a century of extreme dedication, consistency and making a significant impact on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. Ninety nine percent of all practitioners will never make it to the red belt, the only chance a student has is if they begin Jiu Jitsu at a very young age. They would have to train extensively for all of their life and acquire a profound knowledge stream, as well as become masterful at all of the technical applications. On top of that they must contribute to the succession of the art.

Students would start at the white belt level and begin learning fundamental principles like control positions and basic movements like positional escapes, submission defense, basic sweeps and submissions. It is a belt where students will have to put in some hard work, as it can be extremely difficult to improve a student's Jiu Jitsu skills starting from scratch. It takes serious dedication to the art as well as consistency on the mats, for a beginner to start their rise up the ranks, but with an enthusiastic attitude and a warrior's heart, white belts will have a chance.

After earning the promotion to the blue belt level, students will begin to find some technical proficiency within some of their movements. They will need to show more continuity and start to improve their overall knowledge of techniques. Blue belts will start to show leadership qualities, as they begin helping many of their academy's beginners with some of the smaller movements. They will usually start assisting their instructors with kids classes as they strive for future coaching aspirations. Blue belts should be starting to compete and win tournaments if they see themselves in a red belt later on in life. 

Moving from blue to purple belt bjj is another huge step, as practitioners will have to work even harder than previously before. They will need to study hard and develop a level of critical thinking in order to improve their technical skills. Purple belts will become role models to many of the lower belts and younger children at their academy, as they start to definitively improve their teaching ability. They will also need to improve their game comprehensively to be considered for moving up the ranks even further. Purple belts should be working extensively on their submission chains, setting traps and reinventing their game style by thinking conceptually.

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At the brown belt Jiu Jitsu level, practitioners will now be genuinely contending for a promotion to the pinnacle of BJJ, the black belt. They will need to refine their skills in all areas of their game, as technical excellence is what is required for promotion. Brown belts will often become extremely successful in competition matches, as they are looking to not only battle test their technical skills, but impress their coaches too. Another huge part of moving up to the black belt level is mastering their teaching skills, as becoming a coach is probably the most important aspect of earning that pivotal promotion.

Now that the practitioner has put in some years of dedication, patience and commitment they have earned the right to wear the black belt around their waist. Most practitioners will become extremely humble and excel in a coaching role, but they will need to improve considerably if they are ever to have a chance at moving up to the illustrious red belt. Black belts must spend thirty one years in that rank before they can receive their first coral belt promotion. To earn the ninth degree red belt will take fourty eight years as a black belt, and unless your last name is Gracie earning the tenth degree will never happen. It takes more than just time in the rank to earn a red belt, it is about how a practitioner adds to the community of BJJ. Aside from becoming a multiple world champion, practitioners need to make a significant impact on the evolution of Jiu Jitsu. This can be developing new and exciting concepts, helping with the development of competitive Jiu Jitsu or hosting or participating in numerous seminars.

The red belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a highly prestigious and honourable rank that any athlete can achieve. Although only a small handful of highly respected and talented practitioners will ever make it to the highly unattainable level, most athletes will dare to dream.

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