When you start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you will be a White Belt. It takes a long time to receive belts in BJJ so you need to be prepared to be patient – there is a lot to learn and your ability is apparent because we spar with full resistance. If you train consistently, you will become more skillful and your success will be clear when sparring with others. Everyone can get there, but hard work and persistence are essential.
It took me 18 months of training to receive my Blue Belt – the second belt given in Jiu-Jitsu and it’s considered quite an achievement to get to this level. You will without question be considered no beginner on the ground. It is possible to receive your Blue Belt in a shorter period of time but to be honest, once you’ve got a Blue Belt tied round your waist the White Belts will be very keen to tap you out so waiting until you really do feel comfortable on the ground and are experiencing consistent success when sparring with your peers really isn’t a bad thing. It does feel mightily good to have a Blue Belt tied round your waist, though, and the more often you train the faster you are likely to be recognised as worthy of belt promotion. Personally, I don’t think anyone with less than 12 months experience should be given a Blue Belt. When you wear a belt of any colour you should be able to defend it as far as I am concerned. First and foremost, I believe belts should be awarded for technical ability when sparring and in competition, but other factors such as depth of technical knowledge and consistent training are factors considered, too. That said, I couldn’t award a belt to someone who couldn’t hold their own – getting technically good just requires consistency and hard work.
After the Blue Belt comes the Purple Belt – this is the first of the ‘big belts’. I started training in June 2006 and received my Purple Belt in August 2011 although I’m told it had been waiting for me for a while – but it gives you an idea. Trust me, the night this one is tied round your waist they will come at you guns blazing, but it’s all enjoyable and for me, being given my Purple Belt made me up my game – receiving it was also a proud moment. The first night I wore my Purple Belt, there were only five or six people on the mat plus Leo Negao and we had the fortune of being visited by a 6 ft 2 inch, very athletic guy from a well-known MMA gym. He’d just finished pulverizing the heavy bag and decided to see how good our grappling skills were – boy was I pleased I had five or so years of training behind me because our visitor wasn’t taking prisoners and did everything he physically could to dominate me. Thankfully I held my own at 5 ft 7 , 75 kilos and 20 years his senior and my thoughts since are that this was all a very good experience.
From Purple you are given your Brown Belt and finally, after many years of dedication, hard work, personal research and sacrifice you are given your Black Belt.
Likely timescales are White to Blue – 18 months to 2 years, depending on how hard and how often you train, Blue to Purple, at least another couple of years, Purple to Brown – the same again and Brown to Black Belt – probably another year, maybe more. But once you have all that skill and experience and enjoyed the journey, you’ll be a hell of a grappler and the holder of a belt that really is an incredible achievement – for many, one of a few lifetime achievements. Of course I would like to progress, but it’s not a race and when I finally get my Black Belt, I hope I will still have many years to proudly wear it.