Brazilian jiu-jitsu ranking system
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ranking system is a means of signifying a practitioner’s increasing levels of technical knowledge and practical skill within the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Colored belts that are worn as part of the uniform are awarded to the practitioner. While the ranking system's structure shares its origins with the Judo ranking system and that of all colored martial arts belts, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ranking system grew to incorporate unique aspects and themes. The system has minor differences from Judo in areas such as a division between youths and adults and the issuance of stripes and degrees. Some distinct differences have become synonymous with the art, such as a marked informality in promotional criteria, a focus on a competitive demonstration of skill, and a conservative approach to promotion.
- 1 History
- 2 Adult belt ranks
- 3 Promotion criteria
- 4 Stripes / degrees
- 5 Extra-promotional customs
- 6 See also
- 7 References
In 1907, Kanō Jigorō, the founder of Judo, introduced the use of belts (obi) and gi (judogi) in the martial arts, replacing the practice of training in formal kimonos. In 1914, Kanō's pupil Mitsuyo Maeda arrived in Brazil, a journey which led to the development of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. At the time Kanō used only white and black belts, with white representing the beginner, as a color of purity and simplicity, and black being the opposite, representing one who is filled with knowledge.
Some believe that Mikonosuke Kawaishi was the first to introduce additional colors in 1935 when he began teaching Judo in Paris, 10 years after Carlos Gracie opened his academy in Brazil. Kawaishi thought that a more structured system of colored belts would provide the western student with visible rewards to show progress, increasing motivation and retention. Since then, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Judo and many other martial arts have adopted the use of colored belts to denote students' progression in the arts.
Adult belt ranks
White belt is the first belt within Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The rank is held by any practitioner new to the art and has no prerequisite. Some instructors and other high-level practitioners think that a white belt's training should emphasize escapes and defensive positioning since a white belt will often fight from inferior positions, especially when training with more experienced practitioners.
Most academies will additionally require that a white belt level practitioner works to obtain a well-rounded skills set, with a knowledge of basic offensive moves, such as common submissions and guard passes.
Blue belt is the second adult rank in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. At the blue belt level, students gain a wide breadth of technical knowledge and undertake hundreds of hours of mat-time to learn how to implement these moves efficiently. Blue belt is often the rank at which the student learns a large number of techniques.
The IBJJF requires that a practitioner be at least 16 years old to receive a blue belt, thereby officially entering into the adult belt system.
Purple belt is the intermediate adult ranking in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The purple belt level practitioner has gained a large amount of knowledge, and purple belts are generally considered qualified to instruct lower-ranked students. In other martial arts, students with a similar amount of experience are often ranked as a black (instructor) level belt.
The IBJJF requires student to be at least 16 years old and recommends they have spent a minimum of two years ranked as a blue belt to be eligible for a purple belt, with slightly different requirements for those graduating directly from the youth belts.
Aside from the exceptional belts awarded at the highest levels, brown belt is the highest ranking color belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Brown belt typically requires at least five years of dedicated training to achieve. It is often thought of as a time for refining techniques.
The IBJJF requires that students be at least 18 years old and recommends they have spent a minimum of 18 months as a purple belt to be eligible for a brown belt.
As with many other martial arts, the black belt is the highest common belt within Brazilian jiu-jitsu, denoting an expert level of technical and practical skill. Estimates of the time required to achieve the rank vary, but all holders of this rank have thousands of hours of experience.  Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts are often addressed within the art as professor, although some schools and organizations reserve this honorific for more senior black belts.
The IBJJF requires that a student be at least 19 years old and recommends they have spent a minimum of 1 year ranked as a brown belt to be eligible for a black belt.
Black / Red belt (Coral belt)
When a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt reaches the seventh degree, he or she is awarded an alternating red-and-black belt similar to the one earned at the sixth degree in Judo. This belt is commonly known as the coral belt. Coral belts are very experienced practitioners, most of whom have made a large impact on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and are often addressed within the art by the title master.
White / Red belt
The International Brazilian jiu-jitsu Federation recently amended the graduation guidelines with respect to the transition between seventh degree and eighth degree black belt. The transition is specifically noted on page 6 of the IBJJF General System of Graduation, Section 1.3.4. In short, a practitioner who has achieved the rank of 8th degree black belt will wear a red and white belt.
According to Renzo & Royler Gracie, in Brazilian jiu-jitsu the red belt is reserved "for those whose influence and fame takes them to the pinnacle of the art". It is awarded in lieu of a ninth and tenth degree black belt. If a practitioner receives his or her black belt at 19 years old, the earliest they could expect to receive a ninth degree red belt would be at the age of 67. Brazilian jiu-jitsu red belt holders are often addressed within the art by the title grandmaster.
Few published guidelines or standards determine when a practitioner is ready for promotion; the criterion is generally determined by individual instructors and/or academies. The IBJJF maintains an extensive graduation system that takes into account time-in-grade and membership standing, but makes no mention of specific performance or skill requirements. When instructors or academies comment on the criteria for promotion, the most widely accepted measures are the amount of technical and conceptual knowledge a practitioner can demonstrate, and; performance in grappling (randori) within the academy and/or competition.
Technical and conceptual knowledge are judged by the number of techniques a student can perform, and the level of skill with which they are performed in live grappling, allowing smaller and older practitioners to be recognized for their knowledge, although they may not be the strongest fighters in the school. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a distinctly individual sport, and practitioners are encouraged to adapt the techniques to their body type, strategic preferences, and level of athleticism. The ultimate criterion for promotion is the ability to execute the techniques successfully, rather than strict stylistic compliance.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu has had an informal approach to belt promotions, in which one or more instructors subjectively agree that a given student is ready for the next rank. In recent years[when?] some academies have moved toward a more systematic, formal testing approach, especially true for lower ranked students, where the decision to promote is arguably the least contentious. One of the first instructors to publicly publish formal testing criteria was Roy Harris, who has formalized his promotion tests from white belt to black belt. Formal testing is now becoming commonplace in many Gracie Academies and organizations such as Alliance.
Some Gracie systems have introduced formal online testing where the student can upload her or his qualification videos to qualify for promotion. Formal tests are generally based around the same elements as a normal promotion, such as the student's technical and conceptual knowledge and the ability to apply those techniques against a resisting opponent. Some tests take other aspects, such as a student's personal character or a basic knowledge of the history of the art, into account.Formal testing may require the payment of testing fees and a require a minimum of pre-testing private lessons with the instructor.
Students are generally encouraged to compete, as this can help her or him gain experience. Competition allows instructors to gauge students' abilities while grappling with a fully resisting opponent, and it is common for a promotion to follow a good competition performance. In most academies, competing is not essential for promotion, but in a minority of schools, competing is not only endorsed but is required.
Stripes / degrees
In addition to the belt system, many academies award stripes as a form of intra-belt recognition of progress and skill. The cumulative number of stripes earned serves as an indication of the student's skill level relative to others within the same belt rank. Stripes may consist of small pieces of cloth sewn onto the sleeve of the belt, or simple pieces of tape applied to it. Although the exact application, such as the number of stripes allowed for each belt, varies between institutions, the IBJJF sets out a general system under which four stripes can be added before the student may be considered for promotion to the next belt. Stripes are only used for ranks prior to black belt. After black belt is achieved, the markings are known as degrees and are awarded formally. Time-in-grade and skill level are both important factors. Stripes are not used in every academy and, where they are used, they may not be applied consistently.
One long-standing tradition practiced in many Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools immediately after a promotion, is known as "running the gauntlet" ("passar no corredor" in Portuguese). This generally follows one of two basic patterns. The newly promoted student is hit on their back with belts—once by each of their fellow practitioners—as s/he walks or runs past ("faixada" in Portuguese), or s/he may be thrown by each instructor and sometimes also by each student in the academy of equal or higher grade. In recent years[when?] some[who?] have criticized the practice, citing ethical and legal reasons, and it is no longer practiced in some prominent academies. Advocates for the custom argue that "running the gauntlet" serves as a method of team building and reinforces camaraderie between classmates.
- List of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners
- Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Rio de Janeiro
- Dan (rank)
- Black belt (martial arts)
- Sandbagging (grappling)
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