Who wouldn’t want to become a BJJ black belt with the power to effortlessly submit any attacker no matter how big or small? But how exactly do these submission masters receive their black belts and subsequent belts?
How Do BJJ Black Belts Get Promoted?
BJJ black belts get promoted by their instructors who must have at least 2 stripes (each stripe represents 3 years of being a black belt) on their own black belt before promoting their student. Promotions are based on skill, competition results, dedication, length of training and contribution to the sport.
To receive your black belt in Jiu Jitsu you must be promoted by a BJJ black belt who has been a black belt for at least 6 years and has been awarded 2 stripes on their belt.
If you are promoted to black belt by a non black belt or an instructor who does not have 2 stripes then the promotion is illegitimate and the black belt will not be recognised.
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) requires athletes spend 2 years as a blue belt, 1 year at purple belt and 1 year at brown belt. The IBJJF will only recognise black belts that have been training for at least 4 years based on their minimum time requirements.
If your instructor promotes you without considering these time minimums other BJJ practitioners will accept your black belt but the IBJJF will not and won’t allow you to compete in black belt competitions.
There is no set criteria that Jiu Jitsu instructors use to promote their students to black belt. BJJ Instructors will assess a student holistically before deciding on whether to hand them a new belt.
Instructors will study a student’s:
- Skill level – during training when drilling and sparring, coaches are looking at your ability to execute a wide range of techniques with speed, control and fluidity
- Competition results – submitting brown and black belts in competition or winning major tournaments such as IBJJF worlds will make it hard for your coach not to promote you
- Dedication – if you are on the mats everyday, every week for years and years your coach will have an easier time promoting you over someone who is more sporadic with their training schedule
- Contribution to the gym and sport – are you constantly helping out at the gym, teaching classes, cleaning mats, looking after new students, giving advice? Then your coach will likely choose to promote you to black belt over another student who is not as committed to the martial art as you are
Once a BJJ student has received their black belt then further promotions become a formality. Black belt is the last belt that BJJ practitioners receive based on merit. Coral and Red belts are largely ceremonial and are received after time served.
After 3 years of being a black belt a Jiu Jitsu practitioner will receive the first stripe on his black belt. This will be awarded by his instructor who promoted him to black belt.
A BJJ black belt who continues to train and is active in the BJJ community will continue to be awarded stripes on his black belt based on training time. Stripe 2 takes an additional 3 years each to receive. While stripes 3 to 6 require 5 years of training each.
After spending 7 years as a 6th stripe black belt BJJ athlete receive their 7th stripe and are promoted to red and black belt. After being a red and black belt for 7 years they are promoted to red and white belt.
Finally after being a red and white belt for 10 years, BJJ students reach the pinnacle of the sport and earn their red belt.
To receive these belts BJJ students need to be promoted by a BJJ instructor who is senior in rank. This becomes difficult as there are very few red and black and red and white belts who are able to promote.
Can Any BJJ Black Belt Promote?
Any BJJ black belt can promote a student to the rank of brown belt or below. However, only a BJJ black belt who has been a black belt for at least 6 years and has a minimum of 2 stripes on their belt can promote a Jiu Jitsu practitioner to black belt.
BJJ has its own somewhat strange rituals when it comes to belt promotions. BJJ is relaxed when it comes to criteria used to promote athletes and individual coaches are given freedom to promote whoever they determine is worthy based on their own standards.
However, for a BJJ promotion to be legitimate the instructor promoting must be at least one rank higher than the student they are giving the belt to. So a purple belt can give a Jiu Jitsu practitioner a blue belt but not a purple belt.
Any BJJ black belt can promote a student to any rank below brown belt whenever they choose to. However, to promote a student to black belt they themselves must have been a black belt for at least 6 years and have 2 stripes on their belt.
There is also an interesting situation in BJJ where the biggest governing body the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) has set minimum time limits on how long an athlete has to spend at each belt level before being promoted.
Currently, the IBJJF insists that BJJ athletes remain at blue belt for 2 years, purple belt for 1 year and brown belt for 1 year. Many BJJ coaches ignore these minimums and promote athletes sooner. While the rest of BJJ community recognises these promotions as legitimate the IBJJF does not.
To receive a black belt BJJ students must be promoted by a 2 stripe black belt. Once a practitioner has received their Jiu Jitsu black belt they receive additional stripes and belts from their instructor at specified time periods ranging from 3 to 10 years.