Ranking systems are common in many forms of martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Students of Jiu-Jitsu will earn specific belts as they add to their skill set, learning technical and practical skills as well as improving one’s ability to utilize those skills. The belts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu not only represent improvement of skills, each also marks the strengthening of the student’s commitment to Jiu-Jitsu.
When you begin, you are given a white belt. Typically during this part of your training, you will focus on defensive positions and escapes, as these are highly important for beginning practitioners. However, in order to become a well-rounded fighter, most schools also incorporate some basic offensive positions, including a few guard passes and some submission holds. Some BJJ schools add a stripe to the black edge of the belt, signifying the passage from one level of expertise to a higher level.
The white belt is the beginning belt for all forms of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, although in general, the ranks and belts vary between children and adults. Children progress through the belt system at a faster pace than adults, simply because they are weaker physically and less is expected of them for each ranking. Once a fighter reaches 16, they can begin their adult training and work toward attaining the blue belt.
The blue belt is the second belt ranking in the adult BJJ ranking system, and typically fighters take one or two years to move from a white belt to the blue belt. Once you have earned a blue belt, you will have acquired a myriad of skills and spent many hours each week improving your techniques.
After the blue belt is earned, you begin working toward your purple belt, and this will take at least two years of solid work and sometimes three years to earn. After you do earn the purple belt, some schools will allow you to teach those holding white belts as you have reached a level of skills that allows you to effectively share your knowledge. As you train, you work on polishing the many skills you have acquired, and then you continue working toward the level of brown belt, which is usually the highest rank that most fighters will earn. From white belt to brown belt, you might have spent eight or nine years studying and practicing.
The black belt is certainly an attainable goal, but you will find that most of those who have earned a black belt also earn their living through the martial arts, as it requires thousands of hours of practice and commitment. There are, of course, degrees of black belts, and once you reach the level of a 7th degree black belt, you also receive a black and red belt. To put this in perspective, even amazing fighters such as Anderson Silva have not yet attained a black and red belt. The final belt, a red belt, has been awarded to fewer than two dozen fighters, and the highest, the 10th degree red belt, has been awarded to only five people, none of whom are alive today and none who are not part of the Gracie family.