1. Respect your Training Partners

While a challenging training partner is important, a safe training partner is even more important. The best person to train with is someone who cares about your well being as well as your development. Since combat sports are highly competitive, establish mutual, friendly respect for your training partners. So, shake hands with everyone in the room, at least twice.

Showing respect will earn you respect, regardless of your skill level. When you spar or roll with someone, shake their hand before, and shake their hand after. Thank them for them for the sparring session. You don’t need to be creepy about it, a simple “Hey man, thanks for the roll” will do. When class is over, shake hands goodbye. Thank your partners for working with you, and thank your instructor for the class. Being kind and respectful will make your life at the gym much more pleasant. People will return the favour, and eventually, you’ll have friends as sparring partners.

2. Learn to Lose

Being a good sport is just as vital as being friendly. Very rarely will you be the best person one the mat, especially if you’re just starting out. You will lose, and you will lose a lot. Tapping out and eating a few punches is an important part of learning. Each mistake is an opportunity to learn. If the same submission or same combination keeps catching you, ask your partner what you’re doing wrong, either right then or after training. If you’ve been friendly and respectful, chances are that they’ll be more than happy to give you a few pointers.

Losing is actually a good thing. Now, when you’re getting submitted 20 times a night, that statement will seem like a load of hogwash, and that’s fine. A losing streak can be frustrating, and frustration is the enemy of progress. Try rolling with someone less experienced than you. Even if you have only been training for a few weeks, you will likely be able to find someone even greener than you. I’m not suggesting demolish them; I mean to take it slow and control them. Against a less experienced opponent, you will find it easier to secure positions and find submissions. This is good for both your development and your confidence.

Having the time to think about attacking instead of constantly defending advances your mental game, letting you see openings and opportunities that you may have missed while running from the triangle choke for 5 rounds straight. Finishing an opponent lets you know that even though you’re losing against stiff competition, you are still progressing and can actually do the things you have been learning.

Try rolling with someone way above your experience level. While this advice may seem counter-productive, entering a match where you’re “supposed” to lose gives you the freedom to experiment. Of course a purple belt is going to trounce a white belt, but when the white belt taps, it’s no big deal because it was expected. A quality upper-level training partner won’t just spank you up down the mat. He should be relaxed and methodical, letting you work your game while he himself experiments. Instructors are best for this, and it might be a good idea to get to know the people you train with before approaching a high level grappler (some people are still mean).

3. Do Your Homework

With many grappling classes teaching a range of skill levels simultaneously, an instructor may not be able to cover core fundamentals with every new student. Also, class sizes may prevent an instructor from addressing the particular position that’s giving you the most trouble. These are not signs of a bad instructor; these are the realities of grappling instruction.

Reading books and watching videos outside of class is a great way to patch up your game. If you’re looking for a video of grappling fundamentals, you may want to first ask your instructor what material he recommends. For the more advanced student that finds himself in a rut, do some research on the position that you have trouble escape or the submission that you have trouble finishing. If you can’t think of a specific area that you would like to improve, read about grappling for the sake of reading. With the amount of material available in books, videos, and online, you are bound to find something relevant and interesting.
Time spent studying off the mat will enhance your time on the mat. Fighting is a thinking man’s game, and doing your homework will make you more critical and more aware of what’s going on during training.

4. Change Things up

A skilled painter will often-times stop adding paint to his canvas and step back to view his work at a distance. This allows him to view his art work in its entirety. When he is within brushing distance, he cannot see the big picture and may find it difficult to make progress because he cannot properly assess the interaction of each element in the piece.Fighting is no different.
If you have been training hard for months and feel as though you’ve hit a wall, or plateaued as some fighters call it, it may be time to change things up. Taking a day off lets you rest and escape the day to day frustration that may be hindering your progress. Taking some private classes or changing your strategy when you spar will help you tovercome the plateau and help you get moving again. The key is to step outside of the box long enough to clear your mind and return revitalized.


mproving yourself is no easy task, but if you approach the challenges with a positive attitude and a constructive mind, you can overcome the road blocks that may slow your journey through the fighting world. Be friendly, be respectful, be a good sport, be a good student, and learn to change things up once in a while. If you’re proactive about the obstacles you are likely to encounter, your training will be more productive and more pleasant. Based on an article by Marshal Carper


  • Always control your submissions.
  • Always take all your injuries seriously.
  • Always follow all instructions carefully.
  • Always tap if you feel any pain or discomfort.
  • Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.6. Always come to class clean with clean gear and short nails.
  • Always watch your language and avoid making disrespectful comments.


In 1907, Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo and the individual who would later dispatch Mitsuyo Maeda on the trip to Brazil that resulted in the development of BJJ, introduced the first use of belts (obi) and gi (judogi) within the art of Judo, replacing the practice of training in formal kimonos.

At the time however, Kano implemented only the use of 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 up with knowledge. Mikonosuke Kawaishi is believed by many to have been the first to introduce additional colored belts. He originated this practice in 1935 when he began teaching Judo in Paris, France. Kawaishi felt that structured system of colored belts would provide the western student with visible rewards to show progress, increasing motivation and retention. Kawaishi’s adoption of colored belts came only 10 years after Carlos Gracie opened

The most commonly used belt system is the graduation system as designated by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and used in all international tournaments. It largely resembles the ranking system currently used by most officiating bodies of Judo, but with some major differences.

One prominent difference being that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (with the notable exception of the white belt, which is used by beginners of all ages) generally awards the first few belts (yellow, orange, and green) exclusively as youth belts. That is, for those 15 and under.

The remaining belts (blue, purple, brown, black, and above) are awarded only to adults, with various age and time-in-grade restrictions for each. While this is certainly the most prevalent system it is not exclusive, a prominent exception is the system used by American Top Team, which awards green belts to adults as a rank between the IBJJF white and blue belts.

Individual adult belt ranks

The following sections are provided as brief synopsis regarding the general themes surrounding each individual belt rank.

White belt

White belt is the beginning rank for all Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu students. White belt is the lowest ranking belt within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It is the rank held by any practitioner new to the art and does not require any special prerequisites to obtain. It is the rank immediately preceding the blue belt. Some instructors and other high-level practitioners feel that white belt is the rank where most of the student’s training emphasis should be placed on escaping and defensive positioning, as it can be argued that a white belt will do much of his or her fighting from inferior positions (especially when training with higher belts). While this may be largely true, and forms a solid training base for belts to come, most academies will require a prospective blue belt to show a well-rounded skill-set, with a knowledge of not only survival techniques, but basic offensive moves, such as common submissions and guard passes.

Blue Belt 

A general estimate of the time required to progress from White belt to Blue belt in most academies is 2 to 2.5 years. Students at the blue belt level will have a strong idea as to how to attack and have one “go to” attack in every position. Students awarded a blue belt will have a decent defense and are able to escape from every major position. As a blue belt, you’ll become consciously incompetent.  You’ll still making fundamental mistakes but you’ve retained enough information to know what to do and how to fix it. As a blue belt you may realize that there’s techniques that may be missing in your game or critical details in your technique that may need to be cleaned up. When you’re a blue belt you’ll start to become more independent with your skill development.  Because you have a deeper understanding of Jiu Jitsu, you’ll be able to ask questions and have a dialogue with your training partners and coaches as an attempt to patch up holes in your game.  As a blue belt you’ll be able to see your own mistakes. Functionalizing your Jiu Jitsu will be the greatest hurdle for the blue belt.  Finding the right timing, positional configuration and circumstance when executing your techniques will be the most frustrating part of this learning stage.  Blue belts know what to do; but, it’s just tough doing what they know.

Your performance as a blue belt is still inconsistent.  Some days you’ll feel like you’re tearing up the mats and then some days you feel like a fish on a bicycle.  This can create an enormous amount of frustration for students.  Dealing with the emotional highs and low with Jiu Jitsu is a part of the learning process.  You can’t learn how to swim without getting wet.

It’s important for coaches and students to understand that performance inconsistencies are highly typical at the blue belt stage.  The key solution for coaches is to reinforce the basics and to force feed fundamental techniques to their blue belt students.  When fundamental techniques and movement patterns are habitualized, blue belt athletes will find greater consistency with their performance. As a blue belt, your attacks are well executed by they’re still disjointed and lacking smoothness. When blue belts are starting to chain together their attacks- armbar into triangle or kimura into bump sweep- they’re getting close to a purple belt.

Purple belt

A general estimate of the time required to progress from blue belt to purple belt in most academies is 3 to 4 years. Purple belt is the intermediate adult ranking within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, coming after the rank of blue belt and before brown belt. It is often considered one of the longer held ranks, and typically takes at least 4-5 years of dedicated training to achieve. Even as an “intermediate” rank, the purple belt level practitioner holds a formidable amount of knowledge, and purple belts are generally considered qualified to instruct lower belts in other arts students with a similar amount of time and effort invested would often be ranked as a black (instructor) level belt. The IBJJF requires that a student be at least 16 years old and have spent a minimum of 2 years ranked as a blue belt to be eligible to receive a purple belt (with slightly different requirements for those transitioning straight from the youth belts).

Brown belt

A general estimate of the time required to progress from purple belt to brown belt in most academies is 2 to 3 years. Aside from the exceptional belts awarded at the highest levels, brown belt is the highest “color” belt rank within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, providing a transition between the intermediate purple belt rank and the elite black belt. Brown belt is arguably the beginning of the elite ranks in and of itself, typically taking at least 5-6 years of dedicated training to achieve. As a transitional rank, it is often thought of as a time for refining rather then accumulation, where a practitioner hones already acquired technical and practical skills until they reach a black belt level. The IBJJF requires that a student be at least 18 years old and have spent a minimum of 1.5 years ranked as a purple belt to be eligible to receive a brown belt.

Black belt

A general estimate of the time required to progress from brown belt to black belt in most academies is 2 to 3 years. As with many other martial arts, the black belt is the highest common belt within the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, denoting an expert level of technical and practical skill. Estimates vary on the time required to achieve the rank, with 10 years total (or more) an often heard estimate. No matter how many actual years are required, every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt will have undoubtedly invested thousands of hours of mat time (randori) into the art and hold a skill-set that demonstrably reflects such. The IBJJF requires that a student be at least 19 years old and have spent a minimum of 1 year ranked as a brown belt to be eligible to receive a black belt.

Black and red belt

Current IBJJF regulations places the time it takes to progress from a 6th degree black belt to 7th degree black-and-red belt at 7 years. When a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt reaches the 7th and 8th degree, the practitioner is awarded an alternating red-and-black belt (Similar to the alternating red and white belt earned at the 6th degree in Judo). Black-and-red belt holders are very experienced practitioners, most of whom have made a large impact on the overall art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Red belt

Current IBJJF regulations places the time it takes to progress from a 8th degree red-and-black belt to 9th degree red belt at 10 years. 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 9th and 10th degree black belt (identical to the art of Judo). Assuming that someone received his or her black belt at 19 years old (the minimum age to receive a black belt under the IBJJF’s graduation system) the earliest they could expect to receive a 9th degree red belt would be at the age of 67. The 10th degree red belt is permanently reserved to the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Carlos, Oswaldo, George, Gastão and Hélio Gracie.


A blue belt with three stripes. In addition to the belt system, many academies award “stripes” as a form of intra-belt recognition of progress and skill. The cumulative amount of stripes earned serves as a rough indication of a practitioners skill level relative to others within the same belt rank (i.e. a blue-belt level practitioner with four stripes would be more adept then blue-belt practitioner with one, but not a purple belt with one.) Stripes can be as formal as small pieces of cloth sown onto the sleeve of the belt, or as informal as pieces of electrical tape applied to the same general area. Although the exact application (such as the amount of stripes allowed for each belt) varies from school to school, the IBJJF sets out a general system where 4 stripes can be added before the student should 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 only formally awarded (with time-in-grade being as significant a factor as skill level). Unlike the belt system, stripes are not used in every academy and, where they are used, they may not always be applied consistently.