The belt system in BJJ goes white, blue, purple, brown and black. BJJ belts are indentified by a 4 to 6 inch band on one end, which is black on all belts except the black belt, where it is red. In many schools, the white, blue, purple, and brown belts will each receive up to 4 stripes, each being an in belt promotion. This means there are 5 levels in each belt color prior to the black belt. Some schools and associations do not use the striping system, or use it haphazardly.
Children cannot be promoted into the adult ranking system. They have their own system of belts going white, yellow, orange, and green. 16 is the youngest age for blue, and 19 the youngest age for the black belt.
Unlike most martial arts, BJJ black belts do not start at 1st degree. Rather, you start as a black belt, then graduate in 3 years to a black belt with one degree (Or 1st degree black belt). Once you reach black belt, additional degrees respresent time in grade. There are 11 levels of black belt in BJJ, zeroth through 10th degree. The 7th through 9th degree black belts are black and red, and the 10th degree black belt is red.
- For the first 3 degrees on the black belt, 3 years each, and you must be actively training.
- For the 4th through 6th degrees on the black belt, 5 years each, and you must be the main or assistant instructor at an active school, or train at a school where the main instructor is at least a 2nd degree black belt.
- For the 7th through 8th degree red and black belt, 7 years each, and you must be the main or assistant instructor at an active school, or train at a school where the main instructor is at least a 2nd degree black belt.
- For the 9th degree red belt, 10 years, and you must be the main or assistant instructor at an active school, or train at a school where the main instructor is at least a 2nd degree black belt.
- The 10th degree red belt is limited to the pioneers of BJJ, Carlos, Oswaldo, George, Gastao and Helio Gracie.
Who Can Promote
Only black belts can promote color belt ranks, and only to the brown belt. Usually, brown belts are allowed to put stripes on white belts. In the past, lower colored ranks were allowed to promote to one rank below their own, but only in areas where black belt instruction was not availiable. This practice has almost completely been eliminated, at least in the United States. In order to promote a black belt, you must be a second degree black belt (That is, you must have been an actively training black belt for 6 years).