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Jiu Jitsu Belts and What You Need to Get Them

What do Jiu Jitsu Belts Mean?

I get a lot of questions about what belts mean and how they are given out. Most Jiu Jitsu schools are broadly the same, with standards varying by small degrees. You’ll also find that age is a factor. It’s taken into account, for example, that a 36 year old going for a blue belt may not have the same level of fitness as a 20 year old going for the same grade. That’s not to say the technical knowledge requirement is less.

And belts are funny. As I often say, no one gives you your purple racquet in tennis. But it is good to have a grade system to help push people on, and to guide training levels. It’s also useful to know when you’re going to another academy the level of each person you’ll be training with. That’s before we talk about competition divisions, which is probably where belts are most useful to avoid sandbagging and encourage fairness.

So let’s go. What are the belts, and what do they mean-

White Belt

The moment you walk into your first session, congrats, you have earned a white belt. The hardest of all belts to get because it is the biggest hump to get over- to step into a room for the first time and accept you know nothing. The journey begins.

Blue Belt

To get a blue belt at Kyuzo, you have to know techniques from 9 categories. These break down into Mount, Back, Side Control, Defending Mount, Defending Back, Defending Side Control, Passing Guard, Bottom Guard, Takedowns.

If you have a plan for all of these positions, and you can implement them “live” in sparring and live drilling, then you will be a blue belt. It takes anywhere from a year to 3 years to get to this point depending on the person.

Purple Belt

At this level, you are expected to have the strong fundamentals as above, but to begin to develop more advanced technical skills in Guard and Passing, where the bulk of more advanced Jiu Jitsu takes place. This will involve exploring different guard positions and passing styles, and finding out what works for you.

This might be the belt level in which most technical development takes place, probably because it’s around the time (4 years or so into training) where you really begin to understand the hows and whys of Jiu Jitsu, rather than just learning techniques by repetition.

Brown Belt

By the time you get to brown belt, you’ll have your own effective “style” of Jiu Jitsu more or less locked in. You’ll still be learning and developing of course, but these steps now tend to be incremental. This level is all about paring back the unnecessary bits you’ve picked up along the way, rather than trying to add too much more.

Black Belt

The biggest thing about the black belt, in my opinion, is that you are now “qualified”. Many expect the sensation of getting it to be one of achievement, and of course it is, but the biggest thing people report is a little pressure. You are looked on as someone who has been there and done that, and has something to pass on. Many of the colour belts begin to look at you as a sort of target as well as a potential teacher. You have to live up to that standard. You don’t have to beat everyone all of the time, but you do have to have a high standard of training and technique that’s an example to those who aspire to a Black Belt. It’s not easy!

Hopefully that explains some of the technical and general standards of what the belts mean here. Remember you can drop a request for the blog by emailing [email protected] if you have a question you’d like answered.

See you on the mat,


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