history of bjj belts

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is more than just a martial art; it’s a way of life that emphasizes discipline, technique, and personal growth. One of the most recognizable symbols of a practitioner’s progress in BJJ is the colored belt system. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating history of bjj belts, exploring their origins, evolution, and the deeper meaning they hold within the BJJ community.

The Foundation of BJJ Belts

A Glimpse into the Past

The roots of BJJ belts can be traced back to the ancient Japanese martial arts, where white belts were worn by novices. This tradition was carried over to Brazil when Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judoka, introduced Jiu-Jitsu to the Gracie family. As the Gracie family refined and popularized the art, the belt system evolved to reflect the practitioner’s skill level.

The Birth of the Colored Belt System

In the early days of BJJ, belts were simple and functional, mainly white and black. However, as the art gained prominence and more practitioners joined the ranks, a need arose to differentiate skill levels. Thus, the colored belt system was born, with blue, purple, brown, and black belts representing various stages of expertise.

Unveiling the Journey: BJJ Belt Progression

White Belt: The Beginning

The white belt symbolizes purity and humility, signifying the practitioner’s initiation into the art. It’s a blank canvas upon which the foundation of BJJ is built. The focus is on learning fundamental techniques and cultivating a strong base.

Blue Belt: The Discovery Phase

The blue belt signifies progress and the start of deeper exploration. Practitioners begin to grasp the intricacies of BJJ and develop their personal style. This stage is marked by increased sparring and a more comprehensive understanding of techniques.

Purple Belt: The Maturation

With the purple belt comes a higher level of proficiency and the ability to adapt techniques to different situations. This stage emphasizes refining one’s game, innovation, and teaching others.

Brown Belt: The Refinement

Brown belts are skilled practitioners who have honed their techniques to a high degree of precision. They possess a deep understanding of strategy, timing, and execution. Brown belts often take on leadership roles within the BJJ community.

Black Belt: The Mastery

The black belt represents the pinnacle of achievement in BJJ. It reflects mastery of the art and a profound knowledge of its nuances. Black belts are not just skilled fighters; they are also mentors, guiding and inspiring others on their journey.

The Significance of BJJ Belts

Beyond Technique: Personal Growth

BJJ belts are not solely about physical skill; they also reflect personal growth and character development. The journey from white to black belt is a transformative experience that instills discipline, resilience, and humility.

Building a Community

BJJ belts foster a sense of camaraderie among practitioners. The belt system creates a hierarchy that encourages mentorship and collaboration. Higher belts pass down their knowledge, ensuring the preservation and evolution of the art.

Goal-Oriented Progression

The belt system provides a clear path of progression, giving practitioners tangible goals to strive for. Each belt represents a milestone, motivating individuals to push their limits and continuously improve.


The history of bjj belts is a testament to the evolution of an art that goes beyond physical combat. From the humble white belt to the revered black belt, the journey through the colored belts signifies not only technical proficiency but also personal growth, community, and goal-oriented progression. As practitioners tie their belts before stepping onto the mat, they carry with them the legacy of generations past, connected by a common thread of dedication and passion.

FAQs About BJJ Belts

  1. How long does it take to earn a black belt in BJJ? Earning a black belt in BJJ typically takes around 10 to 15 years of consistent practice and dedication.
  2. Is there a universal standard for belt colors in BJJ? While there are general guidelines, each BJJ academy may have its variations in belt colors and progression criteria.
  3. Can someone skip belts in BJJ? It’s rare but possible to skip belts based on exceptional skill and dedication, as determined by the instructor.
  4. Why do BJJ practitioners wear different colored belts during training? Colored belts help instructors and training partners identify a practitioner’s skill level and adapt training accordingly.
  5. Is BJJ only about self-defense and combat? BJJ encompasses self-defense and combat techniques but also emphasizes personal growth, mental agility, and community building.

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