Jiu Jitsu Highest Belt: Which one is it and how can it be achieved? How long does it take to achieve BJJ’s highest belt?
To answer these questions, we first must understand where Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comes from and what each belt means.
The short answer:
The highest belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu achievable today is the BJJ Red Belt. The Red Belt is the last belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s ranking system and represents a 9th Degree Black Belt. According to the IBJJF’s graduation system it takes a minimum of 52.5 years of actively training Jiu Jitsu to be considered to earn a BJJ Red Belt.
The Origin of Jiu Jitsu and its Belt System
BJJ originated from Judo in the early 20th century in Brazil. In 1914 Mitsuyo Maeda left Japan and came to Brazil where he passed on his Judo knowledge to Carlos Gracie and his brothers. The Gracie brothers, especially Helio Gracie, then adopted and refined the art making them the root of what is known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu today.
As a result, Jiu Jitsu today uses a belt system that is fairly similar to the one used in Judo. You can check out our article Jiu Jitsu vs Judo to dive into a full comparison between the two.
Jiu Jitsu Belt System Today
In BJJ, there are only five major belt colors for adults: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. If you see BJJ Belts in the colors grey to green, these are kids’ belts and are converted to adult belts at the age of 16. In addition to belts, stripes on the section at the end of the belt mark the progress throughout the time at a certain belt color.
There are minimum age requirements for colored belts. For example, practitioners must be at least 16 years old to earn a Blue Belt and 19 years old to earn a Black Belt.
There is no belt testing for graduation, but the professor observes his students’ skills and then elects them for graduation.
The image shows the IBJJF’s (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) Graduation System. Minimum times that have to be spent at each belt before getting promoted can be seen at the bottom of the image.
Jiu Jitsu Black Belt: The Professor
After a practitioner turned 19 years old and spent at least one year at Brown Belt, he is eligible for promotion to Black Belt, according to the IBJJF. A practitioner must spend a sum of at least 4.5 years at the previous colored belts. He can now call himself a Professor of Jiu Jitsu, and a new part of his Jiu Jitsu journey begins. Nevertheless, as much as a professor is a teacher, he remains a student of the art.
The Black Belt marks a new stage in the Jiu Jitsu journey since it is practically the highest achievable rank. From there on only higher degrees of the Black Belt follow. A Black Belt is worn up to the 6th Degree Black Belt. To make the highest belt degrees distinguishable, Coral Belts and the Red Belt were added as the last belts of the progression. Only Masters and Grand Masters of the art are allowed to wear the highest belts of Jiu Jitsu.
On average it takes a BJJ practitioner around 11 years to earn a Black Belt. We published extensive articles on How long it takes to get a Black Belt in BJJ and How long it takes to get a Blue Belt in BJJ that dive into the statistics and reasons for fast and slow promotions.
Jiu Jitsu Coral Belt: The Master
There are two kinds of Jiu Jitsu Coral Belts: The Red/Black Coral Belt followed by the Red/White Coral Belt. They succeed the 6th Degree Black Belt and represent the 7th and 8th Degree Black Belts. Only the Red Belt exceeds the Coral Belts in rank.
It takes a minimum of 35.5 years of training Jiu Jitsu to be considered for a promotion to the Red/Black Coral Belt according to the IBJJF, while 31 years are spent at Black Belt alone. As a result, the earliest age to expect a BJJ Coral Belt is 50 years of age, if the Black Belt is awarded at the age of 19 years. The Red/Black Coral Belt then must be worn while actively training for another 7 years to be viable for promotion to the Red/White Coral Belt.
Jiu Jitsu Red Belt: The Grand Master
The Red Belt is the highest belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s ranking system and represents a 9th Degree Black Belt. It succeeds the Red/White Coral Belt which therefore is the 8th Degree Black Belt.
According to the IBJJF’s graduation system it takes a minimum of 52.5 years of actively training Jiu Jitsu to be considered to earn a BJJ Red Belt, while 48 years are spent at Black Belt alone. As a result, the earliest age to expect a BJJ Red Belt is 67 years of age, if the Black Belt is awarded at the age of 19 years.
Therefore, this belt is reserved for practitioners that start their Jiu Jitsu journey at a young age and dedicate their whole life to the sport.
Jiu Jitsu Grey Belt (10th Degree): The Founders
There is one more belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that is not on the IBJJF’s Graduation System today because it cannot be achieved anymore. It is the 10th Degree Black Belt or Grey Belt. This belt was only given to the Gracie brothers, as they are the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:
- Carlos Gracie
- Gastão Gracie
- Jorge (George) Gracie
- Hélio Gracie
- Oswaldo Gracie
Carlos Gracie, as he was the oldest of the brothers, learned Judo from Japanese immigrant Mitsuyo Maeda. He passed on his knowledge to his brothers and Jiu Jitsu started to develop from this origin. Hélio Gracie was the only person alive to ever hold a 10th Degree rank in Brazilin Jiu Jitsu. He, unfortunately, passed away in 2009.
Conclusion: Jiu Jitsu Highest Belt
For most BJJ practitioners, the highest belts in Jiu Jitsu are not achievable since one has to start training at a young age to have a chance of earning a Coral Belt or Red Belt one day.
After all, belts are made for holding up your pants, and making progress is what matters most.