How BJJ Grading Works
There are a number of guiding principles that determine when a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) student is ready for promotion. BJJ can take a very long time to rank up and is defiantly hard work. It is very common to say it takes 8-10 plus years of dedication to achieve a black belt. By dedication I mean training 2-3 plus times a week and really putting in quality mat time. BJJ has been called the hardest black belt of the martial arts to achieve.
A lot of academies have a stripe system for each belt, awarding four stripes on each belt to advance to the next (eg. Blue Belt 4 strip is pretty much ready for his purple anytime). Stripes aren’t always the case and some academies will just use indications of skills by accomplishments or performance to transition between belts. There are others systems that are less common and I’ll let you research those on your own.
A saying that stuck with me and holds true to the reputation of the sport of BJJ is “The belt that is awarded has to fit”. This means that unlike other martial arts you can’t just go through the motions or patterns (no offence to other martial arts) and expect to advance. Your instructor will gauge you with the ranks above you when training. Any legitimate instructors will be well aware of the skill level each belt should perform at. In many occasions students prove themselves in competition to be ready for their next belt by dominating their division. An Instructor will usually promote you even if it hasn’t been “the average” time to avoid the possibly of getting you titled as a “sandbagger”. I highly recommend even if you’re just doing the sport to stay in shape or as a hobby to compete. It’s a great experience and will only improve your game.
So your up for a promotion, what can you expect your grading to be like? Depending on your academy there are a number of formats your instructor may follow including and in any possible combination; Formal testing, extended periods of sparring, being thrown by equal and higher ranking belts, and the traditional gauntlet run. Formal testing is being adapted more and more in recent years and includes testing students fundamental skill sets for each belt. It’s a test of technical and theoretical knowledge and capacity to apply those techniques against an opponent. This method has came under fire recently and been accused of watering down the sport with programs such as Gracie Academies online learning and testing system. In my opinion this should be a part of every “in class” grading. Extended periods of hard sparring is something I’m very familiar with, as it has been part of my grading. You may be asked to spar everyone at the ceremony or just the equal and higher ranking belts. By the last guy you can barely stand up, but this is a very rewarding feeling. Being thrown by the same and higher level belts is very common and part of our tradition. Some academies have you thrown by everyone. Last and my least favorite the gauntlet run or belt whipping. Everyone at the grading forms two rows with a nice size gap between the rows. The newly promoted student must now walk between the rows (gauntlet) while their fellow teams hit them on the back with their belts. The number of times you must walk the gauntlet depends on the belt and increases as your belt does. This isn’t the most pleasant experience of your BJJ journey that’s for sure, but it’s not that bad and over before you know it.
Please keep in mind this is only a brief explanation and doesn’t explain every academies traditions and curriculum, just some of the most common ones. I sincerely hope this article has been helpful and answered some questions you may have had. If you have any question please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Osssss