Can Anyone Become A BJJ Black Belt?

BJJ black belts hold a mythical status. The ability to effortlessly submit any man and the respect of your fellow peers is something that all BJJ practitioners strive to achieve. Is attaining a BJJ black belt a reasonable goal and can anyone become a Jiu Jitsu expert or is it only reserved for those special few? Lets find out.

Whittier resident Gene Pace, 78, receives his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the Gracie Barra studio in Costa Mesa on Thursday night. He studied for 15 years before receiving the recognition.

Can Anyone Become A BJJ Black Belt?Yes, anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort to become an expert at BJJ can become a black belt. If you are unathletic or you are not able to train very often it may take you a very long time (10 + years) but if you keep showing up to training and trying your best you will eventually become a BJJ black belt.

The great thing about BJJ is that it is for everyone. Everyone has the opportunity to come to training, develop their skills and earn their next belt. Your coaches are experts at taking unskilled BJJ practitioners and turning them into submission machines. If you follow their advice you will continue to develop and after many years one day you will wake up a black belt.

BJJ coaches realize that everyone in BJJ has different goals and different limits on their abilities. If you are an older hobbyist practitioner don’t worry that you won’t ever be as good as the 25 year old who started when they were 7, trains twice a day and competes 20 times a year. This won’t effect your ability to receive a black belt. Coaches won’t compare your ability to these full time athletes but instead will compare your skill to other practitioners who are similar to yourself. I know many average joes who started BJJ in their 30s or 40s who went on to get their black belts and become great BJJ athletes.

How Hard Is It To Get A BJJ Black Belt?

It is very hard to get a BJJ black belt. Ryron Gracie estimated only 1% of BJJ practitioners get their black belt. On average it will take you 7-8 years of consistent training to receive your black belt with many people taking 10 + years to finally attain their black belt.

Now just because anyone can get black belt does not make it easy. It is actually very difficult to receive your black belt. You will have to be prepared to train for a very long time and go through many ups and downs before you finally reach black belt status.

A coach of mine told me how he thought of quitting many times throughout his BJJ journey and was convinced he would never receive his black belt after his progression stalled multiple times and he suffered numerous injuries. However, after training for 14 years he finally received his black belt.

His story is common for many hobbyist BJJ practitioners who often wonder if the injuries, frustrations and all that time spent on the mats is worth it. If you don’t truly love BJJ you will most likely quit the sport before you reach black belt as only the truly obsessed are willing to spend thousands of hours on the mat.

Can You Get A Black Belt In BJJ Without Competing?

Jiu-Jitsu black belt Royce Gracie kicks at cruiserweight boxer Art Jimmerson during a 1st round match in the Ultimate Fighter Championships in Denver, Colorado. Gracie went on to win the match and eventually the championship. Mandatory Credit: Markus Boes

Yes, you can get a black belt in BJJ without competing. Competing is not a necessary condition to receiving any belt in BJJ. A coach can award a black belt to any student who he feels possesses the skill of a BJJ black belt. Many BJJ black belts have never competed.

When coaches promote students they don’t require them to compete. Coaches realize not everyone is a competitor or wants to compete, they also realize it would be ridiculous to keep a student who has been training for 10 years and submits black and brown belts in training at white belt because they don’t want to compete.

If you can demonstrate to your coach in the training room that you are deserving of a black belt then they will promote you. Coaches are looking at your skill level and they don’t need to see you compete in a competition to determine your level when they watch you multiple times a week compete in the training room.

Now even though competing is not a necessary condition to get your black belt it can be beneficial to your BJJ progress and can help you receive your black belt quicker than if you don’t compete.

Competing can be a great tool to improve your BJJ and jump start your progression. Competitions expose your BJJ skill. They will let you know what areas you need to improve on and what areas you are solid in. They also can highlight positions that you thought you were strong in but you actually may need to work on.

For example you may think you are pretty good at takedowns because you takedown your training partners regularly, only to compete in your local competition against some guys with high school wrestling experience and end up getting rag dolled. Your gym’s weaknesses can give you a false sense of security which can only be exposed through competing against different skill sets.

Competition can also prove to your coach that you are deserving of your next belt. If you are a brown belt and you compete in a major tournament and go out there and submit everyone. Then you have made a pretty strong case to your coach that you should receive your black belt.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Black Belt In BJJ?

To become a black belt it takes around 7-8 years of consistent training. This equates to around 2500 hours of mat time. Many athletes are receiving their black belts in less years as they are training 10-15 hours a week allowing them to achieve the necessary mat time in 5-6 years.

In the past it would often take athletes 10 + years to receive their black belt. This number is going down. In the past there were limited opportunities to train and compete. A BJJ practioner if they were lucky may have been able to train for a couple of hours a week and compete every couple of months.

Now it is a completely different environment. You have many athletes training twice a day every day and competing weekly. This allows athletes to progress at a much faster rate. Also with the invention of online training instructionals and the explosion in popularity of BJJ, the sport has progressed and athletes are able to get really good really quickly.

Old school practitioners sometimes like to deride the new generation as not being as good or belts being watered down as they are being given out faster than when they received them. However, this isn’t the case. When you look at the hours of mat time the new generation athletes are actually putting more training time in, they are just compressing this training time into a smaller window of time as they have the opportunity to train twice a day and spend 12 + hours a week on the mats.

Why Does It Take So Long To Get A Black Belt In BJJ?

It takes so long to get a black belt in BJJ because a black belt is meant to represent expertise. A BJJ black belt is meant to be a master of the art. As there are so many techniques to learn and the sport does not come naturally to people it takes many years to learn and become an expert.

In other martial arts a black belt does not always mean that athlete is an expert. In fact in many martial arts a black belt means an intermediate student. This not the case in BJJ. A BJJ black belt is someone who is an expert in the martial art, can display hundreds of techniques perfectly and can easily defend himself against a larger untrained and trained opponent in combat.

BJJ practitioners have ferociously defended the meaning of a black belt. In other martial arts the meaning of a black belt has been diluted to keep students paying their memberships. This has resulted in 8 year olds receiving their black belt or students who have only been training for a year being promoted to black belt. BJJ has not allowed this to happen and kept the strict standards that many other martial arts have abandoned.

This strategy has actually worked in BJJ’s favor. As many students have sought out BJJ because it still tries to maintain strict standards relating to the promotion of black belts. These standards have allowed BJJ to continue to market itself as a real and effective martial art unlike other arts which give black belts to children who couldn’t beat up their local 10 year old bully let alone an actual street thug.


BJJ is for everyone and that includes earning a black belt. Now just because everyone has the opportunity to earn a BJJ black belt does not meany everyone will. It is incredibly difficult to get that final rank with only an estimated 1% of practitioners earning that belt. However, if you train consistently for 7-8 years and try your best at every training session irrespective of your age, gender and athletic ability you will eventually become a BJJ black belt.

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