There are millions of people practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) globally. The martial art has been around for over 100 years and originated in Brazil. It is most commonly associated with the Gracie family, who is credited with developing the art form.
Despite its popularity, black belts in BJJ remain quite rare. In fact, according to some estimates, there are only around 2% of BJJ practitioners who have achieved this level. If BJJ is one of the most common martial arts, why is it so difficult to achieve a black belt? And how long does it take to get a black belt in BJJ? You are about to find out.
Brief History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
BJJ is a martial art that emphasizes grappling and ground fighting. It is often considered to be one of the most effective self-defense systems in the world. The objective of BJJ is to control and subdue an opponent using joint locks and chokeholds.
One of the unique aspects of BJJ is that it allows a smaller, weaker person to defend themselves against a larger, stronger attacker. This is possible because BJJ focuses on leverage and technique rather than size and strength.
BJJ can trace its origins back to Japanese Judo. One of the Gracie brothers, Carlos Gracie, learned Judo from Mitsuyo Maeda — also known as “Count Koma.” Maeda was a world-renowned judoka and one of the first Japanese black belts in the sport.
Maeda eventually moved to Brazil, where he opened a dojo and taught his art to the Gracie brothers. Carlos Gracie then went on to teach BJJ to his own sons — most notably, Helio Gracie. Helio is considered by many to be the father of modern BJJ.
It was under Helio’s tutelage that the art of BJJ really began to evolve. He modified many of the techniques he learned from Maeda, as well as developed new ones to accommodate his smaller stature. Helio’s sons would also go on to become celebrated black belts in BJJ — further solidifying the Gracie name in the martial arts community.
The ultimate goal for many BJJ practitioners is to earn a black belt.
Belt Levels in BJJ
Before you can earn a black belt in BJJ, you must first progress through the lower belt ranks. The order of belts, from lowest to highest, is as follows:
- White Belt
- Blue Belt
- Purple Belt
- Brown Belt
- Black Belt
Each of these belts has its own requirements and milestones. For example, white belts must learn the basic techniques of BJJ before they can be promoted to blue belt, and blue belts must demonstrate a higher level of proficiency before getting promoted to purple belt.
The time it takes to progress through each belt varies depending on the individual. Some practitioners may progress quickly, while others may take longer. There is no set time frame for each rank.
Once you earn a black belt, there is one additional level that you can achieve — a black belt with a red and black stripe. This is the highest rank in BJJ. Red and black belts are reserved for those who have made significant contributions to the art of BJJ.
BJJ Black Belts
So, how long does it take to earn a black belt in BJJ? The answer is: it varies. It typically takes anywhere from 10 to 15 years to achieve the rank of black belt in BJJ. However, there have been some notable exceptions.
For example, Royce Gracie, one of Helio’s sons, was awarded his black belt at the age of 18. And Rickson Gracie, Royce’s brother, was also awarded his black belt at the age of 18. Both Roger and Rickson are considered to be among the most excellent BJJ practitioners of all time.
According to Rener Gracie, only 10% of new practitioners will make it to earning their blue belts. Out of that 10%, a mere 1% will continue on to a black belt. As of 2021, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJFF) has over 6100 listed black belts.
The number does not include black belts that are not IBJJF members, and most black belts in the world are not registered. If so, there is a chance that there are around 120,00 BJJ black belts worldwide. That may seem like a lot, but compared to the number of people who have started training, it is still a small minority.
Why Are They Rare?
So why are black belts so rare in BJJ? There are a few reasons for this. First, black belts represent a high level of proficiency in the art. It takes many years of training and dedication to achieve this level.
In addition, black belts must be able to not only execute techniques but also teach them to others. This requires a high level of understanding of the mechanics of each move. Not everyone skilled at BJJ can effectively communicate their knowledge to others.
Finally, black belts must undergo a rigorous testing process before they are awarded the rank. This testing process ensures that black belts are not only technically proficient but also able to apply their knowledge in a live setting.
The Path to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt
Is it easy? No. But is it possible? Yes. The rewards of earning a BJJ black belt are more worth than the effort. Keep in mind that there is no set time frame for each rank. The time it takes to progress through each belt varies and depends on you. With dedication, hard work, and consistency, you can achieve anything — even a black belt in BJJ.
If you are thinking about starting your journey towards a black belt, there is no time like the present. At Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu, we train individuals and let them experience BJJ in a supportive environment. Our instructors are dedicated to helping you from your first white belt class all the way to your black belt test.
Let us put in the work together. Your black belt is waiting for you. Give us a call today to get started!