BJJ Poll: How Are Jiu-Jitsu Belts Primarily Awarded at Your Academy?

by Caleb on January 16, 2010


One of the interesting things about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is that there is no widely adopted book that says how just about anything should be done. Like many martial arts, BJJ has a belt system (white -> blue -> purple -> brown -> black) to track students’ progress. For the most part, the skill level of people wearing a certain belt color is consistent and you know what that person will be like on the mats.

However the manner in which belts are awarded varies significantly between jiu-jitsu academies. This thread posed the question to forum-goers to discuss what the practices at their schools are like, and we received an email from Ross Finlayson, a longtime listener of our humble BJJ podcast who suggested that we include the question in one of our weekly BJJ Polls. (Ross is becoming the Pollster in Chief around here with all his ideas!) So here you go!

How are belt promotions handled where you train? Vote in the poll above and feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post. We will discuss this a bit in tomorrow’s episode of The FightWorks Podcast.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan January 16, 2010 at 10:17 am

The academy I train at does something between the last two options. There are scheduled promotions at times, but it is not always known who will be getting promoted.

Drew V January 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

A mix between the last two options over here as well. Sometimes belts were awarded after a great performance at a competition, some random surprises, and some were awarded at the end of the year holiday party.

Mr. Mike January 16, 2010 at 5:57 pm

My instructor (a 4th degree blackbelt) rewards belts twice a year and, uses your mat time, mat progress and, tournament performance (if you decide to compete) to make his decision. He surprised almost everyone at the fall ceremony/seminar, especially his new black belt. I got two stripes on my white belt, which I had no idea I would get.

There are no tests, just go to class and, train as much as you can.

patrick January 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Matt can attest to this – where we train at it’s all about the competition. It’s very cutthroat, when someone feels ready they enter a tournament – obviously outstanding performances receive great rewards. My sensei has mentioned to me people I know who were more than ready for their promotions, but he’d wait until they had a few matches under their belt before promoting them, even if they did poorly. There wasn’t an option for promotions based on competitions in the poll, so I thought I’d mention it.

Oh, people who are going to get promoted are strongly urged to attend a certain “after tournament parties” and bring loved ones and their gi. Which means they sort of know in advance they’re getting a shiny new belt. I clicked the know-in-advance option.

Ramone January 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

Doing well in a competition can get you noticed. And signal that you might be ready for promotion. But all of our belts still needed to be tested for at the academy where I train. There are roughly 250 techniques on the test. And the test for each belt is roughly the same, the % needed to pass of course gets tougher all the way up the ladder.

Doing well among your peers is great, but self defense should always be number one. And testing can gauge that.

Abby January 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm

At my academy we receive our belts as a total surprise. My academy does give out stripes but they are kind of a second thought and basically mean nothing. I’ve seen him promote a white belt two stripe to blue belt. My instructor bases if we are ready through rolling with us in class. There is really no logic to it. When he feels you are ready for you next belt he makes you wait a while to make sure you are truly at the next level. He then puts you through a really hard practice where the higher ranks roll with you and destroy you. At the end of class he calls you out and ties a new belt around your waist. The gauntlet comes next where everyone is allowed to whip your back with their belt. Not once but twice!! I honestly would not change one thing about this method of promotion.

josh January 29, 2010 at 8:04 am

no stripes

5 belts.

surprise whipping by the black belt with his belt when your “ready”

go out and buy your own belt

josh January 29, 2010 at 8:10 am

no stripes

5 belts.

surprise whipping by the black belt with his belt when you’re “ready”

go out and buy your own belt

Michael June 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

We are promoted in a variety of ways, kind of like the guy above who said “when your instructor feels you’re ready”. Our stripes are pretty formal, so you don’t skip ranks, but they come reasonably often.
Our promotions are usually a big surprise to the person being promoted, but to everyone else not a surprise at all. We all get a text message telling us not to miss class or w/e, then everyone rolls with the person being graded in a row, for reasonably short periods. The other week one of the guys did 20 minutes of constant rolling to get his blue belt.

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