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The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ ranking system awards a practitioner different colored belts to signify increasing levels of technical knowledge and practical skill. While the systemâ€™s structure shares its origins with the Judo ranking system and the origins of all colored belts, BJJ now contains many of its own unique aspects and themes.
In 1907, KanÅ JigorÅ, the founder of Judo, introduced the first use of belts (obi) and gi (judogi) within the art of Judo, replacing the practice of training in formal kimonos. In 1914, KanÅ dispatched Mitsuyo Maeda on the trip to Brazil, which resulted in the development of BJJ. At the time however, KanÅ implemented only the use of white and black belts, with white representing the beginner, as a color of purity and simplicity, and black being the opposite, representing one who is filled up with knowledge. Mikonosuke Kawaishi is believed by many to have been the first to introduce additional colored belts. He originated this practice in 1935 when he began teaching Judo in Paris, France. Kawaishi felt that structured system of colored belts would provide the western student with visible rewards to show progress, increasing motivation and retention.
Kawaishi’s adoption of colored belts came only 10 years after Carlos Gracie opened his BJJ academy in Brazil. Since then, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ, Judo, and many other martial arts have adopted the use of colored belts as a way to denote a student’s increasing progress.
BJJ Belt Stripes
In addition to the belt system, many BJJ academies award “stripes” as a form of intra-belt recognition of progress and skill. The cumulative amount of stripes earned serves as a rough indication of a practitioners skill level relative to others within the same belt rank.
Stripes are only used for ranks prior to black belt, after black belt is achieved, the markings are known as “degrees” and are only formally awarded. Unlike the belt system, stripes are not used in every academy and, where they are used, they may not always be applied consistently.
BJJ White belt
White belt is the lowest ranking belt within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ. It is the rank held by any practitioner new to the art and has no prerequisite. It is the rank immediately preceding the blue belt. Some instructors and other high-level practitioners feel that white belt is the rank where most of the studentâ€™s training emphasis should be placed on escaping and defensive positioning, as it can be argued that a white belt will do much of his or her fighting from inferior positions.
BJJ Blue Belt
Blue belt is the second lowest adult rank within the most commonly accepted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ grading system, bridging the way between the beginner rank of white belt and the intermediate rank of purple belt.
To progress to a purple belt, a blue belt level student must acquire a vast technical knowledge regarding all aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ and hundreds of hours of mat-time to know how to implement these moves efficiently. Perhaps because of this, blue belt is often known as a rank where a student collects a large number of techniques.
BJJ Purple Belt
Purple belt is the intermediate adult ranking within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ, coming after the rank of blue belt and before brown belt. It is often considered one of the longer held ranks, and typically takes at least 3 years of dedicated training as a blue belt to achieve.
BJJ Brown Belt
Aside from the exceptional belts awarded at the highest levels, brown belt is the highest “color” belt rank within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, providing a transition between the intermediate purple belt rank and the elite black belt. Brown belt is arguably the beginning of the elite ranks in and of itself, typically taking at least 5 years of dedicated training to achieve. As a transitional rank, it is often thought of as a time for refining rather than accumulation, where a practitioner hones already acquired technical and practical skills until they reach a black belt level.
BJJ Black Belt
As with many other martial arts, the black belt is the highest common belt within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ, denoting an expert level of technical and practical skill. Estimates vary on the time required to achieve the rank, with 10 years total (or more) an often heard estimate. No matter how many actual years are required, every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ black belt will have undoubtedly invested thousands of hours of mat time (randori) into the art and hold a skill-set that demonstrably reflects such.
BJJ Black and Red Belt
When a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ black belt reaches the 7th and 8th degree, the practitioner is awarded an alternating red-and-black belt (similar to the alternating red and white belt earned at the 6th degree in Judo). This belt is also referred to as the “coral belt”. Black-and-red belt holders are very experienced practitioners, most of whom have made a large impact on the overall art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ.
BJJ Red Belt
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ, the red belt is reserved “for those whose influence and fame takes them to the pinnacle of the art”. It is awarded in lieu of a 9th and 10th degree black belt (identical to the art of Judo).
Examples of BJJ 9th Degree Red Belt holders include the late Carlson Gracie, Rorion Gracie, Aldo Arreola, Oswaldo Fadda, Osvaldo Alves, Francisco Mansor and Geny Rebello. The 10th degree red belt is permanently reserved to the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu BJJ: Carlos, Oswaldo, Jorge, GastÃ£o and HÃ©lio Gracie.