So you’ve been a blue belt for a while now, and you’re looking to jump to the next level by working hard towards your purple belt.
If you thought getting from white to blue was difficult, you’re in for a surprise if you’re wondering how long it takes to get a purple belt in BJJ.
I’d say enjoy the ride, but for those of you who are dead set on achieving the purple belt level, I’ll cover what I find to be the key requirements for promoting a blue belt student.
BJJ Belt Order
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a very unique belt system. The order of belts is unlike other martial arts that employ the use of belt systems, and the requirements, and most importantly, way of promoting students are also specific to this grappling martial art.
Historically speaking, the belts in BJJ are a tribute to the Japanese roots of the sport. However, in Japan, the belt system was not comprised of colored belts. The original belt system in Judo had two belts: white and black.
Practitioners were white belts until they mastered the art so much, that they got promoted directly to black belts. That usually took the better part of a decade.
Now imagine trying to convince Westerners to do something for a decade without a visible way to mark their progress. They’d give up in a month, or not start at all.
A Japanese Judoka named Mikinosuke Kawaishi came up with the colored belt system in 1936, trying to make the progress more tangible for the students in his Judo school in Paris.
Everyone quickly adopted the colored belt system, and BJJ, stemming from Judo for the most part, followed suit.
In BJJ, however, there are fewer belts compared to other belt-ranked martial arts. There are only 5 adult belts:
Each belt takes approximately two years to achieve, but that is highly individual. In fact, getting a belt in BJJ has nothing to do with being able to memorize and demonstrate a bunch of techniques and moves in an exam setting.
On the contrary, coaches and instructors constantly monitor students taking into account everything, from being on time for class, to how you perform on the mats and off them when they consider someone for the next belt.
The belt people are most keen on is the blue belt (nobody likes being a beginner), and the hardest one to get, in terms of BJJ belt requirements, is the brown belt. That leaves the purple belt bang in the middle of these and what you need to do to get one is what I’ll focus on today.
BJJ Purple Belt Requirements
There are two kinds of requirements to consider for any BJJ belt:
- Standardized requirements (usually stemming from IBJJF regulations)
- Academy requirements differ from one BJJ school to another.
The BJJ purple belt requirements, as per the IBJJF have to do with age and time spent as a blue belt.
Age-wise, a student can not get a purple belt unless they are 16 years of age. This is somewhat illogical, given that the same bottom age border is given for a blue belt. But then again, the IBJJF is full of these kinds of contradictions.
Practically speaking, this means that unless a student is 16 years of age, they can’t compete as a purple belt in a tournament organized by the IBJJF.
It does not mean a coach or an instructor can’t promote a student who is younger – they just wouldn’t be able to compete until they come of age.
From the standpoint of time spent as a blue belt, IBJJF requirements state that a BJJ practitioner needs to be a blue belt for at least 2 years until they can be considered for promotion to purple belt.
Once again, this is highly individual and mostly down to how well the student performs and the coach’s perspective. People can get a purple belt in as little as a few months under certain circumstances.
Personally, I feel that 2 years is too long. The jump from white to blue does require about two years, on average. Purple to brown requires longer than two years, and I am categorical about it. Blue to purple, however, is a fairly short jump, which I believe most people are able to do in slightly over a year of regular, dedicated training.
Becoming a purple belt has more to do with understanding how offense and defense interchange, and developing the right attitude for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
I’ll cover a bit more concerning the form in an upcoming section covering the more technical aspects of the purple belt requirements.
The attitude, however, is a big one, especially in my book. I have kept people from getting promoted, regardless of their technical prowess, when their attitude fails to meet certain requirements, and I will do it again if need be.
A purple belt should know how to conduct themselves in regard to those lower ranked than them, their peers, and higher ranks.
Purple belts tend to go through a “know-it-all all phase” which is a part of the journey. Their attitude, however, should not reflect this way of thinking, and I insist that blue belts are aware that no matter what they think they know, they have to stay respectful and humble before I consider them for their purple belt promotion.
Blue belts looking to become purple have to understand that that rank carries a lot more responsibility, in terms of how lower belts perceive them, than the blue belt does.
At purple belt, practitioners start taking on teaching tasks, giving back to the the academy and community. Unless you’re ready for such a responsibility, expect to linger on at blue belt a while longer.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Purple Belt in BJJ?
The million-dollar question that you should not ask your coach.
There is no shortcut to becoming a purple belt. You’ll need to find the balance of technical improvement, fueled by a deeper understanding of the art, with an attitude that fits a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
Coaches understand (or at least, they should) that getting a blue belt is a huge deal for people, and they sometimes rush to achieve this goal. However, students should understand that giving a purple belt is a big deal for coaches, so try not to be pesky about it.
IBJJF requirements aside, a blue belt should not take more than a year and a half to make the jump to the purple belt level. Pair that with a couple of years spent at blue belt, and you can hope to achieve a purple belt in about three and a half years since you walk through a BJJ academy’s doors.
Once again, this timeline varies wildly, and while all coaches have different criteria and thoughts on the subjects, the individual effort of a student is what determines how fast can you get a purple belt in BJJ.
So, how long does it take to get a purple belt in BJJ?
As long as you need to figure out how to defend everything and switch to offense when you desire.
Key Techniques to Learn for Purple Belt
How good is a purple belt in BJJ?
Well, a purple belt knows everything a black belt does, in terms of techniques, but does not understand the finer aspects of movement and timing, among other things just yet.
This pretty much sums up the technical aspects of being a purple belt. That said, the focus now is on getting to that level, and that will require some effort on your part during your blue belt days.
To consider someone for a blue belt, I expect them to be able to string together a series of attacks in a purposeful way and against a resisting opponent.
Those same blue belts, after, let’s say, more than a year of training, should be able to demonstrate something else when they step on the mats: balance.
Offensive and Defensive Balance
By balance, I mean the ability to combine defense and offense strategically while they roll and/or compete. To be honest, the focus here is on defense, given that offensive maneuvers were in the spotlight for the promotion to blue belt.
Namely, I expect blue belts who knock on the door of purple, to be able to withstand both positional and submission pressure. In other words, I expect them to be able to retain positions, be able to neutralize threats from bad spots, and eventually escape, turning the tide in their favor.
I usually encourage my blue belts to start exploring this through the prism of the guard. The task they get is to play guard with just one goal in mind- do not allow the top person to pass.
To avoid making this too one-dimensional, I expect them to be able to withstand sweep and submission attacks when on someone’s guard as well – and yes, I do tend to urge them not to try and pass, but rather stay in the pocket of the guard and defend.
When blue belts get used to the pain and suffering of a defensive guard and defensive “passing”, I move them to an even worse task – survive in bad spots like mount, back mount, side control, Ashi Garami, front headlock, etc.
The accent here is on survival or as long as possible without escaping playing a role in it. It is actually better if they don’t escape but negate everything for their opponent.
The two final pieces of the blue belt puzzle are learning to defend and survive against submissions, and preventing people from finishing takedowns on their feet.
Here is the punch line – Once a blue belt spends a year doing defense, their confidence is suddenly increased as people have a harder time holding and finishing them, including black belts.
When this happens, they start to react instinctively to an opponent creating space and making mistakes and they suddenly have the ability to apply an offensive game a lot more effectively and with apparent ease.
The techniques a blue belt uses to develop an unpassable guard, prolonged balance when on top, the resilience to withstand pressure in bad spots, and the calmness of mind when defending submissions, are up to them.
I do not subscribe to the one-size-fits-all approach in terms of techniques in Jiu-Jitsu. There is no list of techniques that a purple belt should know, given the difference in age, goals, body type, injuries, time on the mats, etc.
I much prefer using concepts and measuring how well people understand them, but that does not have to do too much with a belt, as all underlying principles of Jiu-Jitsu are universal. It is the time on the mats that allows higher belts to understand them in a deeper way than beginners.
5 Tips to Get Your Purple Belt Faster
In your quest to beat the average time it takes to get a purple belt in BJJ, I can offer several pieces of general advice. There is no precise measure of how much time following this advice is going to shave off your journey from blue to purple, if any.
They have, however, proven to be very applicable and practical in accelerating the depth of understanding blue belts develop towards BJJ. I know they will be able to help you as well, but do not expect miracles – these are simply tips and not a silver bullet to faster promotions:
1. Become Annoying Before You Become Dangerous
A phrase coined by my dear friend and esteemed BJJ Globetrotters coach Charles Harriott. It is the perfect way to highlight what blue belts should focus on – becoming hard to beat, which will annoy everyone.
Only by becoming hard to beat can you transition into a successful offense, safe in the fact that even if you fail to be dangerous, you can still annoy people with your defensive skills until you get the chance to turn the tables again.
When a blue belt achieves this balance, they’re ready to become a purple belt.
2. Take Answers to Your Coaches
There is a famous quote that goes like this: “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”
In BJJ it is similar. When a student comes up with a question, it is easy for a coach to answer and explain it in depth. However, getting readily available answers tends to make you complacent and does nothing to help you remember those answers long-term.
What I expect from blue belts (and all higher belts) is to come to me with answers to their questions, even if those answers do not satisfy them or make no sense. I like to see people think for themselves and we’ll then look for the answer together.
So, don’t just go to your coach expecting answers you won’t remember. Instead, pair a question with the best answer you can find and discuss it with your coach. You’ll learn and progress a lot faster this way.
3. Take Private Lessons
It may seem like an expensive thing to do, but it is absolutely essential when you’re looking to speed up progress.
The reason for this is simple: you get dedicated, undisturbed one-on-one time with your coach. As opposed to a regular class, where you can only get a few minutes of your coach’s undivided attention, in a private class you get the full attention and the freedom to pick the subject of the class.
4. Start Studying Instructionals
If you’re knocking on the door of the purple belt, you are ready to diversify your sources of knowledge. Instead of just learning from the classes in your academy, invest in BJJ instructionals that target areas of the game you’re trying to improve.
There is an abundance of material available now, and it gives you access not just to different coaches, but to the knowledge of some of the best coaches in the BJJ universe. Don’t ignore knowledge you can use.
5. Watch matches
Put YouTube on. Pick a match or competition. Watch. Do not try to overanalyze but rather just watch what people are doing. And watch a match over and over again, at least 5 times before moving to another one.
Developing the ability to visually analyze and recognize patterns is huge in BJJ, and the best way to develop this purple belt skill is to start early by watching competition footage. And don’t be picky – watch everything,
It is not about how long it takes to get a purple belt in BJJ, but rather about what you’re going to learn during the time you’re a blue belt, and how you’re going to put it to use as a purple belt.
There is no point in giving yourself a curriculum of techniques to master as a blue belt – it contradicts the concept of promoting students without exams.
What counts is your attitude, time on the mats, and your dedication to finding the balance between offense and defense.
Add in trying to answer your own questions, watching instructionals and matches, and throwing in a few privates, and you’re well on your way to a BJJ purple belt.