As you are probably aware BJJ has a range of belts including white, blue, purple, brown, and black. BJJ students typically follow the same order when progressing through the belts, starting with white and finishing with black.
Can You Skip Belts In BJJ?
Skipping belts in BJJ is possible but is very rare. Usually, it only occurs if a student comes from a high level Judo or wrestling background or has been training NoGi for a long time and never been ranked. It is not unheard of these athletes to receive blue or purple belts immediately.
The most famous example of a BJJ athlete skipping belts is Olympic Judo silver medalist, Travis Stevens. Stevens began formally training BJJ after his Judo career under John Danaher. Steves was immediately promoted to purple belt and after just 1 year of training, he received a black belt.
As Danaher is one of the best BJJ coaches in the world and is known for being very tough with grading, Stevens must have really impressed Danaher to receive his belts so quickly and to completely bypass both white and blue.
The reason why skilled Judo players often skip belts in BJJ is because of the similarities between the two sports. The two sports share the same uniform and many of the same techniques. While Judo focuses primarily on the standing position it still does incorporate ground grappling where athletes use many of the same submission and pinning techniques found in BJJ.
In a standard Judo academy Judokas will spend around 20% to 30% of their training focusing on ground techniques and submissions.
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) has acknowledged the skill of Judokas and instituted a rule that all Judo black belts must compete in the blue belt division. While they don’t force instructors to immediately promote Judo black belts to blue belt they admitting that they are of similar skill levels.
This makes sense when you factor in it takes about 6 years to get a Judo black belt. If we estimate that to get their black belt the average Judo player has trained 3 times a week, 1.5 hour each session for 6 years and 30% of their training has been ground focused, then they would have spent over 400 hours ground grappling.
If you compare that to a typical blue belt who usually would have spent 1.5 to 2 years, training 3 times a week to earn their promotion, they would have a very similar amount of mat time between 351 and 468 hours.
While wrestling does not translate to BJJ as well as Judo does, wrestlers are still high level grapplers who can walk into a BJJ gym and at least beat up the white belts.
Wrestlers will have no problem taking BJJ athletes to the ground and are also highly effective at pinning techniques, winning scrambles and finding a way to secure the back.
Wrestlers are particularly strong in NoGi as the grips are the same in wrestling. A solid high school wrestler will usually be around a blue belt in NoGi BJJ while a well trained college wrestler should have purple level skills.
Even though wrestlers may already possess the skills of an upper belt in BJJ instructors will usually make them start at white belt. They will often promote them faster than other students but it is rare they will just hand them a blue or purple belt on their first day of training.
The other group of athletes who often skip BJJ belts are MMA fighters. Practically all MMA fighters train BJJ. They spend hours every week learning MMA grappling. However, many fighters never wear a Gi and never receive a formal rank in BJJ.
You have UFC fighters who have been training NoGi BJJ and MMA grappling for 10 + years and are submitting black belts in the Octagon but don’t any rank. These fighters if they ever decide to throw on a Gi and join a standard BJJ class will be eligible to skip belts.
One high level MMA grappler who despite his grappling prowess has not skipped BJJ belts is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Even though Nurmagomedov has rag dolled numerous black belts and shown a truly world class versatile grappling skill set he is still a white belt in BJJ. Occasionally he will train BJJ in a Gi and you won’t catch the Sambo and UFC champion wearing a colored belt.
If you are hoping to skip BJJ belts but don’t come from a high level wrestling or Judo background or you weren’t a champion MMA fighter then, unfortunately, you will have go through the standard process like everyone else.