BJJ White Belt Stripe Requirements

November 27, 2023
Are you due for the next stripe on your Brazilian jiu-jitsu white belt? Check out this article to see all the BJJ white belt stripe requirements as you push forward on your journey to blue belt!

So, you've started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu and you're wondering why some of the other white belts at your school have stripes on their belts.

"When am I going to be getting stripes on my belt?" you ask, glancing over at your training partner's striped belt with envy.

This article will answer that question and more.

But before we get into it, to be honest, "when am I going to get promoted" is always a difficult question to answer. This is because there are no universal standards for Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt promotions. However, I'll do my best to offer a general outline of what most jiu-jitsu instructors are likely looking for when it comes to graduating their students from white belt to blue belt.

A Brief History of the BJJ Belt System

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is not a very old martial art, at least not when compared to other traditional martial arts such as Judo, Karate, or Kung-Fu. In fact, it was only in the early 1900s that the Gracie family first began learning martial arts.

The history and origins of BJJ can be traced back to Japan, where Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo in the late 1800s. With his students, kano only used white, brown, and black belts to distinguish between ranks. Then, with the Gracie family in the early-mid 1900s, Carlos and Hélio Gracie only used white belts to identify students and blue belts to identify instructors.

The coloured belt system that we know today (white, blue, purple, brown, and black) was first adopted in 1967 by the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara in Brazil.

What are BJJ belt stripes?

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt system for adults consists of 5 belts (in the following order):

  • White belt
  • Blue belt
  • Purple belt
  • Brown belt
  • Black belt

In order to help track practitioners' progress, stripes are often used at the end of the belt. These are also referred to as degrees. The stripes are often made with white tape, which are placed on the black bar at one end of the belt. Belts from white to brown have a black bar at the end, whereas black belts can either have a red bar (professors) or a white bar (athletes/competitors/fighters).

From white to brown belt, a practitioner receives 4 stripes on their belt before being promoted to the next belt.

Different from coloured belts, black belts can receive up to 10 degrees on their belts. The 7th and 8th degrees result in a promotion to red-and-black belt (also called a coral belt), and the 9th and 10th degrees result in a promotion to red belt.

Does every BJJ school use stripes?

Not all BJJ schools award stripes, but it has become quite popular in recent years. Most academies nowadays use BJJ stripes as a way of enticing students to continue training and to measure their progress within each belt.

However, as mentioned above, there are no universal rules about stripes. This differs from other martial arts, which have much more fixed criteria for promotions.

Even among BJJ academies that do give stripes, it's not uncommon to see a student skip stripes and receive an early promotion based on their skill level, knowledge of techniques, tournament performance, or previous experience (this mostly applies at white belt when someone has trained in another martial art before switching to BJJ).

The BJJ White Belt Journey

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu journey to black belt is long and complex.

But the first leg of the journey that BJJ beginners must focus on is the climb from white belt to blue belt – and that's not going to be an easy climb.

While the benefits of training BJJ are overwhelming, it's not uncommon for beginners to get discouraged as they navigate this new world of grappling. Belt promotions come once every few years, and it can be at times difficult to stay motivated to push through the tough training that is necessary to progress through the ranks. Stripes on a BJJ white belt can make the journey a bit easier to manage.

What do BJJ Belt stripes mean?

For white belts, stripes can be a great way to measure progress. They separate the pure beginners from the beginners who have been training for a few months.

Also, as discussed above, stripes/degrees on a belt can be a great way to remind yourself (and others) about your general level of BJJ competence, and about how much progress you've made.

The Four Degrees of a BJJ White Belt

Here is an idea of what a practitioner might be feeling at each stage of their white belt journey.

White belt - 0 stripes/degrees

You just started training. The warm-ups may seem as difficult as the techniques. At this stage, survival is the name of the game!

White belt - 1st stripe/degree

You're no longer entirely helpless. Sure, you're still likely only a few months into training, but you've demonstrated a small yet significant baseline of knowledge. At this stage, you might know a handful of techniques and can perform them successfully against other students in sparring.

In some academies, the first stripe on a white belt means that a practitioner can begin participating in the live sparring classes, and so this represents a huge first step towards a blue belt.

White belt - 2nd stripe/degree

You've shown that you can train regularly and not injure yourself or others. Your repertoire of techniques is growing. You're starting to be able to put together attacks while keeping yourself safe (when sparring with other white belts, of course... the coloured belts still give you a tough time in sparring).

In the grand scheme of things, you're still a beginner in BJJ. But you're no longer a fresh white belt!

White belt - 3rd stripe/degree

You are now one of the more senior white belt students. You likely have competitive rolls with some blue belts, and are finally beginning to grasp the fundamentals of BJJ.

Maybe you've racked up some competition experience by this point too. With a few stripes on the white belt, many practitioners start to become interested in some of the more advanced and fancy techniques.

Remember that white belt is a time to learn the fundamentals of the art. Berimbolos can come later!

White belt - 4th stripe/degree

You're almost there! Just a few more months (most likely) of consistent training and you'll be promoted to blue belt!

However, it's at this stage that many students become weary of receiving their blue belts. Many believe they are not ready to be promoted, as the expectations of a new BJJ belt can be quite daunting.

In the end, it's best to trust the professor/instructor's discretion for promotions – they usually know best when it comes to promoting their students.

The IBJJF Belt Rank Standards

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) does have guidelines on how long students must stay at each belt before receiving a promotion. Yet, there are no guidelines about how long a student must train before being promoted to blue belt. The IBJJF does state, however, that a student must be at least 16 years old before being promoted to blue belt.

That said, it is typical for a student to remain at white belt for anywhere from 1-2 years.

FAQs

How long does it take to get the first stripe on a BJJ white belt?

The first stripe on a white belt is the first promotion you'll ever receive in jiu-jitsu. Because of that, it should be considered a big deal!
For most white belts, the first stripe can take anywhere from a few months to six months to get. This is, of course, if the student is training regularly. Many students who start out train as much as they can in the first few weeks, then burn out or start to pick up injuries, which sets back their training and their progression.

Now, this is not a rule, but if you can manage to train three times per week for three months, there's a good chance you'll get the first stripe on your white belt. But, again, trust the instructor responsible for promotions and don't worry about it too much.

How long does it take to get four stripes on a BJJ white belt?

Four stripes on your white belt? You're almost a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt! Depending on how fast you're progressing, this can come within a year, or it could be between two and three years if you're training inconsistently.

Hey, sometimes life gets in the way, and you're forced to take time off from training. To get the fourth stripe on your white belt, though, the instructor responsible for promotions will likely be looking more at skill-level and overall development rather than just time spent training. That said, if you're dedicated to the art, you can get four stripes on your white belt in less than a year. This is especially the case if you have previous martial arts or grappling training that translates to your time on the BJJ mats (e.g., judo, wrestling, sambo). This may also be the case if you are very deliberate about how you learn and train techniques, spending time watching BJJ outside of class, studying instructional, and taking private lessons with higher belts.

In the end, a mixture of time spent training, skill level, knowledge level, and dedication to the art (i.e., are you a good student? are you a good teammate?) are the factors considered for your next belt promotion.