If you are serious about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you might, after many years of careful practice and study, achieve the rank of a black belt. Few fighters achieve above this level. The black belt degrees move up to the 6th degree, and at the 7th degree level, one earns a red and black belt. The red belt, presented at the 9th and 10th degrees, has been earned by a very limited number of BJJ experts. In fact, only five men have possessed a red belt at the 10th-degree level.
Not surprisingly, Carlos Gracie is one of the rare few who has earned this special rank. Carlos first learned the art of Kodokan Judo from Master Mitsuyo Maeda and transformed it into the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He opened the first school for BJJ in 1925, and the martial art quickly became popular throughout Brazil.
His youngest brother, Helio Gracie, also has earned the 10th degree red belt. Because of his smaller size and physique, he was unable to perform some of the judo-style moves and altered the art to fit his weaker physical strength which has had a huge influence on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
George Gracie, another of Carlos’s younger brothers, also earned the honor of 10th degree red belt. He was a fierce and highly successful competitor, known throughout Brazil during his heyday of the 1920s and 1930s. The other two men with this ranking are two more Gracie brothers – Gastao Gracie and Oswald Gracie. This honor has been bestowed only on the pioneers of this martial art, and is probably unlikely to be given out again.
Those with the 9th-degree red belt include names such as Rorion Gracie, who co-created Ultimate Fighting Championship and brought Gracie-Barra Jiu-Jitsu to the United States. Others among this elite group include Armando Wridt, who boasted not only an undefeated record, but is also one of the few people on earth to receive the red belt directly from Helio Gracie. Oswaldo Fadda is yet another red belt earner, and one of the very few who was not part of the Gracie family or school.
Even if the red belt seems like an unattainable honor, the black belt or brown belt are certainly something you can earn if you commit yourself to this martial art. It is important to train with excellent teachers, so look for a San Diego Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym that has several top instructors. It is also wise to choose a gym that allows you take an unlimited amount of classes each week for one flat fee. This will allow you to improve your skills more quickly.