Belt levels are important for several reasons beyond the traditionally obvious; they allow us to place techniques in order of importance and build in a logical order. Just as anything you build, the foundation must be solid first and will determine the limits of our structure. The belt ranks help us to award students for their achievements, time in and aid in goal-setting.
Before listing the requirements for each belt, I would like students to know that there are several associations (federations, etc …) of BJJ and each has their own set of expectations for pupils. Within those associations, individual instructors will often have their own different requirements. This is (one of the reasons) why in doing research for my books, I sought instruction from many different places; you wouldn’t write a book on a subject without interviewing more than one person. The only common or similar requirements held by most schools were for blue belt level. Beyond that, there were almost no common requirements for Purple, Brown and Black Belt. In fact, even in the schools where teachers had instructional products, such as books and DVDs outlining specific requirements, their actual students were not held to those exact criteria.
It seems as though the BJJ Belt requirements are somewhat of a mystery that has been further deepened by the release of popular works which erroneously outline techniques into specific belt levels. By training with so many different instructors, I have noticed where there are common requirements and where there are not. I have also been able to develop a curriculum that will realistically and efficiently prepare a student for each level, meeting the expectations of any instructor you might be training under.
The First Belt: Common Requirements
The techniques required from white to blue belt are usually very similar from one association to another. If you look at Jiu-jitsu as a housing development, you will notice that all of the foundations are made form the same block and are of similar dimension. It is important that these foundations are strong because they will be the moves that all the rest are built on. Once a foundation is built, people may choose what color they want to paint their homes and the details within, but the fundamentals must be the same. I like to call these fundamental techniques “A” group moves; they are the first moves you will try in a sequence and the moves that all others grow from. Learning these techniques first will help develop the required coordination needed to perform later techniques with greater ease, making advanced development faster and more efficient.
Blue Belt and Above
After a student reaches blue belt level, the foundation has been built and it is time for adding moves to set up and sequence. It is also time to look at some variations and different situations like different guard types and ways to pass those leg positions. Instead of coming up with specific moves that each student should definitely be learning, it is best to present problems for a student to solve along with a number of different solutions that may fit individual body types and aptitudes accordingly. For example: instead of saying that in order to reach purple belt, you must learn two specific butterfly guard passes, I will show three or four and through teaching experience, have noticed that different people prefer different passes, regardless of level; it’s about body type and how some connect better to certain movements than others. Of course, I will arrange certain techniques, including guard passes in sequence for students so that they can remember it more easily and set moves up on advanced opponents, suggesting a certain linking of techniques, but I allow room for growth and variation, caring more that the student was able to solve the problem than simply learning ‘my’ move. There will always be more than one way to solve a problem and a good teacher should recognize that what works for him may not work for someone else; therefore, he should be able to present his students with different options that will suit certain body types or physical attributes and/or limitations differently.
With all this being said, I will list the requirements for Blue Belt that are pretty common between all associations. For Purple, Brown and Black, you will see some required techniques, but you will notice how I present the problems that must be solved from each position.
You can find all of the solutions for belts blue and above in my Mastering BJJ DVD set or in my eTraining section.
Both are available at