If only I had a penny for every time a white belt asked me that question.
The truth, that most white belts hate hearing, is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question…
It takes as long as it takes.
That said, there are certain requirements for blue belts you should be aware of, as well as some tips and tricks to accelerate your process.
Let’s dig in.
BJJ Belt Order
The belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu work in a slightly different way than most other martial arts which employ a belt ranking system.
For starters, there are fewer belts compared to Judo, Aikido, or Karate, which are the closest in terms of belt system, given the Japanese roots of BJJ through Judo. Whereas Judo has 7 belts until black belt, and Karate has up to 9, BJJ only has 5 belts for adult practitioners.
The belts in BJJ are as follows:
Not too hard to remember right?
Well, as easy as it may be to remember, attaining each belt (apart from the white, which you “earn” that one by just signing up for your first class) is the exact opposite.
Namely, there are no official exams for BJJ belts like there are in Judo or Karate. Instead of having to memorize and then demonstrate a bunch of techniques and a series of steps once, you’re evaluated by your coach(es) every time you step on the mats.
When your coaches deem you ready, you will advance to the next belt, for example, white to blue without having to demonstrate anything – your coaches simply promote you by tying your new belt around your waist.
This method of ranking has its pros and cons.
On the side of pros, it offers a realistic way of determining when someone is ready to go to the next belt rank. In other words, it places focus on the individual and their accomplishments in accordance with their abilities and goals, rather than a preset standard.
On the other hand, there is a lack of an established universal standard for promotion, meaning different gyms set different parameters as important. This does result in significant variations in the depth of knowledge of students at every belt level, but given the individual nature of BJJ, it does not interfere with progress, competitive performances, or anything of the sort.
For the sake of transparency, there are a couple more belt ranks in BJJ that come after the coveted black belt. The reason I did not mention these ranks above is that they are rare, and require decades of practice.
The first belt after the black belt is the red and black coral belt, which requires a practitioner to hold the rank of black belt for at least 7 years before being eligible for promotion to a coral belt.
Following suit is another version of the coral belt, this time a red and white one. This one is only an option for those who spend 10 years training and teaching at the red and black coral belt level.
The final piece of the belt ranking puzzle in BJJ is the red belt, reserved for those who spend a lifetime in BJJ. For someone who earns their black belt at 19, the earliest they can hope to achieve red belt status is when they are 67 years old.
BJJ Blue Belt Requirements
While the lack of standards in terms of promoting people to any belt in BJJ does make it difficult to define requirements applicable across the board, there are certain BJJ blue belt requirements that are absolutely necessary in order to achieve the rank.
To begin with, let’s address a couple of requirements set forth by the governing body of BJJ, the IBJJF.
The first is the age requirement, which states that an athlete has to be 16 years or older in order to be eligible for a promotion to the blue belt level.
It’s worth mentioning that academies and coaches are not bound to respect this requirement. A student who has been promoted before the age of 16 can still train, but can’t compete at the level until they are of age.
Another IBJJF requirement is the minimum time spent at the previous belt, which in this case is the white belt. According to their regulations, an athlete has to spend at least two years as a white belt, but only if they are a complete beginner.
Students who are 16 years of age or older, and have come through the kids’ belt ranks (meaning they have a green belt) only have to wait a year before being eligible for a blue belt.
Aside from the time and age requirements, defined by the IBJJF, there are no other specific demands for getting a blue belt.
How I Do Blue Belt Rankings for My Students
I would not like to discuss other coaches’ blue belt promotion standards, as I do not have an idea of their thought process behind it. What I can do is share my own take on what is required to award a practitioner their blue belt.
According to me, a white belt is not a beginner any longer when they start understanding what it is they do. By this, I mean figuring out fundamental stuff, like what is considered top and bottom, what is a sweep, how long you need to secure pins before moving on, respecting the tap, etc.
For me, these are much more important than someone reciting “7 steps to do an armbar from mount” or something similar. Understanding lays the foundation for experimenting, which is what awaits blue belts when they reach their next level – purple.
When white belts understand the fickle nature of control in BJJ (not master, simply understand) and they start looking for ways to use it to their advantage both offensively and defensively, then they start to smell like a blue belt.
Another thing crucial for me to promote someone to blue belt is seeing them work with a purpose. Just rolling around trying to survive and opportunistically attacking or escaping is chaotic, and blue belts need to demonstrate order.
When a student begins applying (well, okay, trying to apply) techniques and concepts with a purpose rather than because they presented themselves, they are showing clear and measurable progress.
Being able to string together moves intentionally and repeatedly, while rolling under pressure with a resisting partner/opponent is crucial.
It doesn’t matter if they fail, they’ll certainly do against higher belts or even peers, but the fact that a white belt is connecting things mindfully demonstrates they’re ready for the next step.
Being aware of using strength is another important aspect, although not a defining one. A blue belt should be aware that they’re powering out or through moves, and address that.
I don’t expect them to stop, if anything blue belts tend to overly rely on strength, but awareness of doing so is a bonus when I consider someone for promotion.
Finally, there is the factor of time spent on the mats. By time I don’t mean the IBJJF blue belt requirements but rather how often a practitioner trains. Someone can be on the roster for three years, but if they train sporadically, tehy won’t get their blue belt. Time on the mats counts.
On the subject of competition, I do not include it in my set of requirements, since not everyone likes to compete. However, for those that do, competition performances and goals play an important role in terms of a promotion to blue belt in BJJ.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Blue Belt in BJJ?
Do you know what the desired belt in BJJ is? Contrary to popular belief it is not the black belt but rather the blue belt.
The answer is simple – nobody wants to be a beginner. People see the black belt as something so far along that it seems almost unachievable. On the other hand, they see the blue belt as something within their grasp.
Psychologically, people hate “admitting” they’re a white belt to non-training friends after proudly training for more than a year, or close to two. Hence, the blue belt is the most desired belt in the sport.
Time-wise, the average time it takes to get a blue belt in BJJ if a student trains 2-3 times a week on a regular basis, is a year and a half, give or take a couple of months.
True, the IBJJF seats a requirement of two years, but since there’s no centralized way of confirming how long a student has been training, not adhering to their standard blindly is pretty much how things work in real life.
To be honest, my take is that we should be aiming to reduce the time it takes for a person to reach a blue belt, or any belt for that matter. I do not understand the pride people take in stating that it takes two years to get a blue belt, or ten to get a black belt.
This is a massive amount of time to put into something. Seriously you could get a Ph.D. in the time it takes to become a BJJ black belt, and I feel that with the improvement of coaching and availability of resources out there we should be aiming to shorten the promotion time, without influencing the quality of knowledge, of course.
Belt promotion is very individual and specific and the time period is not set in stone. There are students who make it through the ranks a lot faster, and sometimes they’ll need only a year, or even less to reach the blue belt level.
Denying people their well-deserved rank based on a time preset set by any authority simply doesn’t make sense.
On the other end of the spectrum, I want to mention sandbagging as well, which is leaving a person at a certain level, (for example a year extra at the white belt) so that they can win every tournament they go to, even though their knowledge level is clearly at blue belt.
This is a disservice to the student, their opponents, and the image of the academy.
Key Techniques to Learn for Blue Belt
I already touched upon this subject when I covered BJJ blue belt requirements. While I prefer general knowledge and understanding of BJJ as a whole in terms of reaching the blue belt rank, there are specific technical aspects that a student must learn.
How good is a blue belt in BJJ? Practically, they should be able to emerge victorious out of an unarmed one-on-one self-defense situation if need be.
Offensively, they need to know how to use at least two of the main pins (side control, knee on belly, mount, back, Ashi Garami) in conjunction with each other. Holding people down does not work, and a blue belt should account for movement and be able to switch control points.
Furthermore, they need to have a combo of transition and submission options from their selected pins. I allow my students to pick what they specialize in but for the sake of argument let’s say they like to combine mount and back control.
Transitioning between them to retain control is easier when there’s a constant submission threat. In that sense, combining the rear naked choke from the back mount with the threat of an armbar or arm-triangle choke, which works from the mount, gives the student a clear attacking game with a purpose.
I expect a blue belt to be offensive from the top and defensive from the bottom. What I mean by that is that as long as a blue belt has a guard that is very difficult to pass, they can lag in the department of sweeps and submissions – that’s what they’ll develop as a blue belt.
Usually, white belts find open guards a ta simpler to understand, so I let them pick their guard and expect them to stick with it and make it a fortress until blue belt.
Finally, when standing I tend to keep white belts from engaging too much in takedown exchanges if they don’t have any previous experience. Instead, the focus is on staying on the feet and winning the grip fight for as long as possible, deterring the opponent by utilizing clinching tactics.
To summarize, a couple of pins and several interchangeable submissions from them, paired with a strong defensive guard and a disruptive grip fighting clinch game on top is what I expect from a blue belt.
5 Tips to Get Your Blue Belt Faster
If you’re wondering how fast can you get a blue belt in BJJ when you really focus on training hard, you’re asking the right question, My answer is going to be that it depends on what oyu’re doing in all those training sessions.
The following 5 tips are rules of thumb that will greatly aid in your quest for the blue belt.
- Tap early. Plain and simple do not wait for pain on joint locks or feeling dizzy on chokes to concede that someone got you. It will happen all the time, at all belt levels. If you want to learn how to defend and escape, tap early and talk to your training partner and/or coach. Injuries will only prolong your stay at white belt.
- Don’t try to remember names. You don’t need a roll-a-deck of technique names to learn JIu-Jitsu. Learning comes in waves of understanding and not in nerding out on the names of moves and tehri variations. Knowing the names helps with systematization, but don’t try to memorize everything as a white belt. You’ll only get stuck.
- Ask tons of questions. The best piece of advice I can give you for any BJJ belt rank. Jiu-Jitsu coaches love answering questions, so ask them every chance you get. Don’t forget to ask for feedback from training partners too!
- Don’t compare yourself to others. A hard one I know, but very important. Trying to compare yourself to your peers, or some blue belts is only going to frustrate you more. BJJ is very individual so stick to your strengths and learn from the weaknesses. Everything is a lesson.
- Do not ask when you’ll get promoted. In my academy, this is a direct way to stay a white belt, even if you’re ticking all other boxes in terms of becoming a blue belt. Be patient.
While you are certainly going to ask yourself how long does it take to get a blue belt in BJJ, your focus should not be on answering that question, but on trying to understand what is going on on the mats around you.
The best way to get an answer (quick) is to put in the time on the mats, understand what is what during BJJ exchanges and keep asking questions and being playful.