Kelly Slater Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt: In Love with BJJ since the 90s

Kelly Slater BJJ

Robert Kelly Slater is a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and trained under some of the biggest names in the sport like Rickson Gracie.

Kelly Slater is known as the greatest professional surfer of all time, holding 56 Championship Tour victories.

Check out Part 4 of our YouTube BJJ Celebrities Series which covers Kelly Slater’s complete Jiu Jitsu journey:

Kelly Slater Jiu Jitsu FAQ

Everything you need to know about Kelly Slater’s Jiu Jitsu journey in a short and concise format:

Kelly Slater has trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu inconsistently for many years.

The professional surfer is a Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu. After controversy around his belt promotion, it turns out his BJJ Blue Belt was rightfully earned.

According to Kelly Slater himself, he first came in contact with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1992 in Brazil on a beach. In 1994 he got into training BJJ through a friend that was a Jiu Jitsu practitioner himself.

Kelly Slater doesn’t have a main coach for Jiu Jitsu because he travels a lot as a professional surfer. However, he has trained under some big names in martial arts, like Rickson Gracie and Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida.

Slater did some traditional martial arts training under Don Wilson, mostly kickboxing and taekwondo when he was between 8 and 10 years old. In the ’90s, he picked up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Kelly Slater BJJ Rolling Footage

The following video shows Kelly Slater fighting world champion boxing trainer Jason Parillo under the eyes of BJ Penn and Vitor Belfort as the referee.

Obviously, Kelly Slater is no advanced Jiu Jitsu practitioner, but it was also just a friendly roll, and everybody was having fun.

There’s some more footage available of Kelly Slater having a friendly and more methodical teaching roll with Black Belt Tiago Ferreira:

Controversy around Kelly Slater’s Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt

After Kelly Slater received his BJJ Blue Belt and started wearing it publicly, Joel Tudor, a BJJ Black Belt himself, criticized Slater for allegedly not having earned the belt:

Super lame of @kellyslater to wear a blue belt when he has never been given one @pmtenore,” Joel Tudor stated on Instagram.

Joel’s critique sparked a discussion about Kelly Slaters Blue Belt promotion and celebrity belt promotions in general.

It turned out, Kelly Slater’s Blue Belt was legitimately earned.

Here’s the picture from the Mendes Bros’ Art of Jiu Jitsu Training Academy in Costa Mesa, Ca:

Kelly Slater Jiu Jitsu Blue Belt
Kelly Slater with a BJJ Blue Belt

How Surfing and Jiu Jitsu Go Hand in Hand

It is no wonder that Kelly Slater got into Jiu Jitsu, as many great BJJ athletes love surfing and the other way around.

For example, Kelly Slater is good friends and surfs with Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and Rickson Gracie, who is considered to be one of the greatest Jiu Jitsu competitors of all time. Slater even became Rickson’s surfboard sponsor and Rickson taught him BJJ lessons in return.

It’s great to see how the two exceptional talents in their sport help each other to become the best versions of themselves.

What Role BJJ Plays in Kelly Slater‘s Life

Kelly Slater is aware of the physical and mental benefits Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has to offer. He states:

“If you have insecurities, they get worked out on the mat.”

“It’s a humbling thing. People think of martial arts and they think it will make you a badass. To me, it’s the opposite. If it’s treated right and taught correctly, it’s the opposite. It gives people confidence, and with this confidence comes less ego and more respect for the people.”

The surfer explains how grateful he is to be in a position that allows him to train with the best athletes and coach in BJJ:

“I’ve trained with the who-is-who of Jiu Jitsu basically. There are a few guys missing, but [for example] Mario Sperry, Rickson Gracie, Vitor Belfort, Buchecha, and the Mendes brothers. I’ve been really blessed I’ve had some time with each of these guys.”

Slater also comments on the way he enjoys and learns Jiu Jitsu:

“I enjoy watching as much as I enjoy learning. I’m learning a lot from watching things and thinking about things. Just watching them roll and watch videos of tournaments. I’m a fan as much as I’m into it myself.”

Does Kelly prefer Gi or No Gi? Here’s his opinion:

“I prefer No Gi. I like the technical aspect of the Gi. For me, at this moment in my life, the only reason to know it is to stop something from happening when I see someone in a fight or if I get into a situation myself and that’s No Gi.”

“If you are grabbing somebody’s neck and you put him to sleep, it’s over and nobody gets hurt.”

Slater expresses that he doesn’t view BJJ as a competitive challenge at the moment and uses BJJ for self-defense and enjoyment. He’s still a beginner and can’t compare his BJJ level to his surfing level.

“It’s hard for me to think of the level I’m at and then think of the level I’m at in surfing. In surfing, I can look at the ten best surfers on earth and pick apart what they are good and bad at. In Jiu-Jitsu, I can’t do that. I really wish I had that knowledge.”

Watch the full interview here:

Kelly Slater is a Big MMA Fan

At the end of the interview above, Kelly talked about how he watched the first fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202 with about 50 friends, and they were all screaming and cheering.

“I’m a sports fan, I love MMA, and I’m a huge UFC fan. I’ve been friends with Dana for a few years.”

Kelly Slater and UFC President Dana White
Kelly Slater and UFC President Dana White

When Kelly Slater analyzed Conor McGregor fighting Nate Diaz, it became obvious that loves martial arts and the hardships it comes with:

“[Conor] looked like a broken man in the second and all through the third [round]. But at the end of the 4th I thought ‘wow, this guy just fought through something special for himself.'”

Kelly Slater Jiu Jitsu: Conclusion

Kelly is a surfing legend, and it seems like he is eager to get into Jiu Jitsu more. For now, he is a casual BJJ practitioner, but he knows how much the sport has to offer.

Together with many great Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes and pioneers, he has built a bridge between the sports of surfing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Check out our complete list of BJJ celebrities:

BJJ celebrities

Complete List of Celebrities that do BJJ

Which stars do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Which belt ranks are the celebrities?


Tom Hardy | Keanu Reeves | Jason Statham | Ed O’Neill | Demi Lovato | Russell Brand | Maynard James Keenan | Ashton Kutcher | Guy Ritchie | Jonah Hill | Joe Rogan | Chuck Norris | Jason Momoa | Mario Lopez | Joey Diaz | Jim Carrey | Henry Cavill | Charlie Hunnam | Millie Bobby Brown | Shaquille O’Neal | Dave Bautista | Vin Diesel | Robert Pattinson | Kelly Slater

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