Which Belt is the Hardest?

6 min read
A breakdown of the toughest belts Jiu-Jitsu has to offer

Which Belt is the Hardest?

A breakdown of the toughest belts Jiu-Jitsu has to offer

Location: London, England

As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you may have thought to yourself, Which belt is the hardest both to get and to be? The answer, in short, is that it all depends on the person, but stick around long enough, and you’ll start to notice some common themes; phrases people say about each belt that tend to be echoed throughout the community. 

White Belt

All journeys start with a single step, and Jiu-Jitsu is no exception. Like most martial arts, that step is a white belt tied firmly around your waist. For many, this is by far the hardest belt to obtain for one single, simple reason: it takes courage. Courage to walk into a gym, courage to be a beginner, courage to subject yourself to the all-too painful learning experience that Jiu-Jitsu so readily subjects you to, and courage to continue. But it’s not just the start that’s hard; the belt itself is also immensely challenging.

Jiu-Jitsu offers a steep learning curve, where techniques are complicated, the body is being tasked to move in new ways, all whilst you’re being forced to accept how little you know in a physical and demanding way. It’s no exaggeration to say you are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to being a white belt, and above you at every rung are those more experienced who are all too willing to try out a new submission on you. This can make progress tough and very often demoralizing. Which is why it takes a certain something, a certain someone, to keep pushing onwards. To not stop, to not quit, but instead to keep going.

Blue Belt

The quitter’s belt. The belt that sees so many fade off to never be seen or heard from again. If White Belt was climbing the hill, Blue Belt is getting to the top and seeing the mountain range in front of you.

While you may have survived the onslaught that was white belt; getting smashed every day, being higher belt’s food for sparring, and feeling like you’re not progressing, you’ve come out the other end with a Blue Belt for your troubles. You feel proud of your achievement, only to be greeted with an even more troubling realization: you now know enough about Jiu-Jitsu to recognize just how little you know about pretty much all of Jiu-Jitsu.

Blue Belt is by far and away the belt that sees most people not progress any further. White Belt may have the most who quit, but it also has the most who take it up. On balance, Blue Belt sees most people not make it there in the first place, but the percentage that do and never make it to purple are far higher.

But why? The answer, for many, is because this is the belt where the hard work truly begins. Blue Belt is the first real understanding of just how much time you must invest into Jiu-Jitsu to keep progressing. You begin to understand the vastness, and you certainly understand the rate at which progression comes. This all amounts to a certain dialogue with yourself that leads you to believe that you’ve done enough; that perhaps you know enough. Blue Belt seems to be the belt where you can comfortably hang it up in the closet, content in the knowledge that you have a fairly good grasp of the sport, or good enough at least that it can serve you well in life.

Purple Belt

And for those who push on, it’s a constant uphill battle. Purple belt is often referred to as the ‘advanced level’ belt, and to get there, the expectation is very real. By the time you get there, you’re going to have had to put hours in, both on the mat and off. It’s also where competition and some involvement in teaching are expected, even at an assistant level. Do all that, and you still have to come to terms with the fact that people tend to spend a while at this belt, fumbling around in the dark trying to navigate the vast and open waters that are the purple belt.

Black Belt

The top of the mountain. The end goal. The reason you started it all in the first place. And yet, talk to a Black Belt, and they will likely all say the same thing: this is where you start all over again.

The Jiu-Jitsu community prides itself on not just handing out belts. To tie the coveted Black Belt around your waist, you must have earned it. To achieve a Black Belt, you must have spent, on average, somewhere between 8-10 years (often more) practicing Jiu-Jitsu, and even then, it is your coach who will eventually decide when you are ready. The sense of expectation garnered from the idea that you are a pure representation of your coach at the top level means that to achieve a Black Belt, you must truly deserve it.

From a skill level, you are expected to be comfortable in all positions, and able to pass that skill on to others. You’re typically coaching at this point and easily able to handle most belts in the gym when it comes to sparring. Your knowledge level is also matched with your ability to apply these techniques in competition. You’re a familiar face around the gym, eager to help out and pass on your wisdom, and often involved in the day-to-day running of operations.

You’ve started from the bottom and reached the top… but now there is the simple question that may well make this the hardest belt of them all. What next?

The Black Belt comes with a significant realization that Jiu-Jitsu can never be finished, never completed. It is, in fact, a sport with so much potential for innovation, improvement, and development that there really is no finish line. Black Belt also comes with an enormous sense of expectation from others. It’s safe to say that people will expect you to have answers and constantly be ready to demonstrate the belt’s true potential at a moment’s notice. You’ve reached the end only to realize that it is, in fact, very much not the end, but rather just the beginning. That, for many, makes Black Belt one of the hardest to carry.

Side Note: But What About the Other Belts?

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the Brown Belt and aspects of the purple belt have been left off this list, and you may ask, “Are they not hard and challenging in their own right?”

The answer is, of course, yes. Both belts are equally taxing in their own unique ways, but I wanted to pick and order the belts I felt presented the most challenging features.

The time for exploration on those other belts here at BBMJJ will come in time!

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