Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

4 min read
Are Jiu-Jitsu belts just something to secure your Gi, or is there more than meets the eye with every belt we achieve?

Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Are Jiu-Jitsu belts just something to secure your Gi, or is there more than meets the eye with every belt we achieve?

Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Just 5 minutes in today’s world, and you will see that there are many different forms of martial arts. Each with its own techniques, values, methodologies, and principles that attract millions of people to train and better their lives through an activity that has been around for hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years depending on the art. Whether for self-defense, physical fitness, mental health, or sport, martial arts have become increasingly popular in modern society. With mainstream adoption, some traditional disciplines utilizing swords and knives may not have the same growth as those used in a sporting environment (e.g., MMA, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling boxing, sambo); however, they continue to be taught and learned.

With so many people involved in martial arts, each discipline has developed its own grading/belt system as a representation of knowledge, skill, and proficiency in that discipline. Legitimacy in what is being taught and fairness of competition are two things that come to mind and are commonly understood regarding a belt system. But is that all they are good for? Are all belts of the same rank equal? Do belts mean the same for everyone?

I have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for around 10 years and recently achieved my black belt. For anyone who seeks to train a martial art for a lifetime, 10 years is not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it has allowed me to train, travel, learn, compete, and progress in a belt system that takes time. First and foremost, I firmly believe that overall knowledge, skill, and proficiency should be at the forefront of importance when being promoted. Second, positive character traits relevant to life and highlighted through martial arts such as respect, humility, and discipline should also be a significant contributing factor.

For the rest of the article, we will assume those two factors are considered when someone receives a promotion. So, what more can there be to belts?

Something commonly said is, “Jiu-Jitsu is a journey, and everyone has their own.” I’ve heard this from countless high-level, high-ranking, well-respected individuals in BJJ, and it simplifies the overall message of this article. Anyone who has spent any amount of time training sees the wide variety of backgrounds the martial art attracts. Your partner may be a doctor, a construction worker, or even be unemployed recovering from personal struggles. All of them are looking for an activity to bring positivity to their lives. The remarkable thing about Jiu-jitsu is that it provides an outlet with countless benefits to anyone who embraces it. With different life experiences and perspectives, receiving any new belt or stripe may signify a deeper personal goal to the practitioner in addition to improvements in skill, knowledge, and attitude.

Imagine a few scenarios:
A doctor receives his black belt after training for 15 years.
An alcoholic receives his blue belt after training for 2 years.
A wife with three kids receives her purple belt after training for 8 years. A 40-year-old received two stripes on his white belt, 2 years after he lost a leg in an accident. A 25-year-old receives her black belt on the podium after years of training and winning the world championships at brown belt.

What is the difference in these belts?
To the doctor, it may mean a goal to stay as active as possible with a demanding profession. To the alcoholic, it may mean stability and sobriety for 2 years. To the wife, it may mean an activity she can do with her kids.
The 40-year-old, who never thought he could engage in physical activity after his accident, now has a positive outlook again.
The 25-year-old is one step closer to her dream of being a black-belt world champion and using Jiu-Jitsu as her career path.

Every academy across the world has examples like this, and when you hear the stories, it does not take much to realize how different belts can be to each person.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been experiencing a rise in popularity over the past decade with no end in sight. People will be joining this amazing martial art for its many benefits and the environment it creates for the foreseeable future… every level, from hobbyists to avid competitors, enjoy the art every day around the world. We all start our journey as white belts, but with time, dedication, and grit, many will reach the elite black belt level and potentially even further.

We somewhat know what each belt represents at a glance, but since everyone has their own journey through Jiu-Jitsu, it is inspiring to think that something that holds up your Gi pants can mean so much more.



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