Everyone has their own reasons for starting BJJ.
Some people want to lose weight. Others might want to learn how to defend themselves, or they might plan to compete.
But once we get started, most of us have the same goal before long: to get a black belt.
For some martial arts, a black belt is not much more than a recognition of how long you’ve studied, and how well you’re able to memorize and replicate certain actions.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, however, a black belt is a sign that a person is extremely skilled in combat, and that they’ve been through the ringer and back out again.
A BJJ black belt is a sign of years of hard work, immense dedication, and probably a lot of injuries along the way.
If you’re just starting your BJJ journey, or have been at it for a while, and wondering how long it takes to get a black belt, read on and find out.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a BJJ Black Belt?
For most people, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes approximately 10-15 years to earn.
This will be true for 90% of people who train BJJ and stick it out long enough. But you should understand that the journey is different for everyone.
If you’re training 3 or more times a week most of the time, without any big gaps, injuries or setbacks, you’re most likely going to fall within this time frame.
For some, particularly those with previous experience in other martial arts (like Judo or Wrestling), or for someone who trains BJJ like a professional, it can take less than 10 years.
Then there are exceptional cases, like former UFC fighter BJ Penn, who is widely considered to be the fastest person to earn a black belt in BJJ – 3 years and 4 months.
On the other end of the scale, it can take longer than 15 years for some. If you have injury problems, outside commitments that affect your ability to train, or simply don’t wish to dedicate yourself to an extreme level, it can take longer.
And that’s fine. Understand this: BJJ is not a competition.
Sure, there are BJJ competitions, where you compete in a match against an opponent. But overall, the art of BJJ is not about who can progress faster and earn each belt the fastest.
It’s about your own personal journey. Don’t worry about how long the next person takes to earn a belt and compare yourself against them. Just focus on becoming the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner you can.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Blue Belt?
A black belt is clearly a long-term goal in the grand scheme of things. It can be hard to stay motivated if your only thought is about the promotion that might come in 10+ years’ time.
If you’re using belt levels as motivational targets, it’s better to look at the next immediate step in the BJJ belt system. Which, if you’re a white belt just starting out, is the blue belt level.
The average time to get to blue belt is around 1-2 years.
Again, the journey to blue belt takes a different length of time for each person, and that’s fine. Some people – particularly accomplished wrestlers or high-ranked judokas, might be very close to blue belt level when they first start BJJ (some competitions stipulate that people with prior experience in Wrestling, Judo or MMA cannot compete in the white belt division of BJJ, even if that’s what belt level they are at).
It also depends greatly on the particular school or instructor’s definition of what makes a blue belt. There’s no standard rule for when someone should earn a blue belt. Some coaches might give it simply for time spent on the mats, while others might need to see their student hit certain milestones in their training, such as performing in competition or showing the ability to hang with higher belts.
If you’re a little behind the average – let’s say you’ve been training for over 2 years and are still at white belt – don’t get discouraged. For each person, progress comes faster at different times.
With my own journey, it took 2 and a half years to get to blue belt. Another 2 and a half years later, I earned my purple belt, which is faster than average. When you get over the hump, you might find you start to progress faster than you’d ever imagine.
Black Belts in Different Martial Arts
As mentioned earlier, BJJ is one of the toughest black belts to get. There are very few martial arts that can say they require the same length of time and level of dedication it takes to earn a black belt in BJJ.
That’s not to say that other black belts aren’t a great accomplishment. A black belt in anything is pretty awesome.
Here’s the length of time it takes on average to get a black melt for a few different martial arts.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in Judo?
A Judo black belt generally takes around 4 to 6 years.
It can vary greatly on either end, though, from as little as one year to 10 years or more, as various anecdotes will tell you.
The grading system in Judo is a little simpler than BJJ, since there are more clearly defined techniques to master. It’s easier to judge someone, for example, on being able to hit specific throws than to judge someone’s ability to attack or defend and armbar.
Judo is a taxing sport though, and injuries are common, so a Judo black belt is no mean feat.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in Karate?
On average, it takes around 5 years to earn a black belt in Karate. Of course, this can vary. Some say it can take as low as two years for extremely dedicated students. However, the Japanese Karate Association says one must train for a minimum of 3 years before they can get a black belt.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in Taekwondo?
Taekwondo is, relatively speaking, one of the faster martial arts to be able to get a black belt. It generally takes around 3-5 years. Some schools mandate at least 4 or 5 years before someone can get their black belt, but this is up to the individual school and their own rules.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Black Belt in Aikido?
4 or 5 years is the average time to earn a black belt in Aikido. It’s important to understand though that with Aikido there is a mental element as well as physical. It’s not just how you perform certain actions, you also need to show the proper mindset to be able to earn your black belt, which can make the time it takes vary greatly from person to person.
How to Go from White Belt to Black Belt
This is a commonly shared quote from Chris Haueter, one of the first Americans to earn a black belt in BJJ.
It’s a quote that’s worth coming back to if you’re ever down on confidence, or if you’re wondering how you could ever get all the way from white belt to black belt.
Sure, there are some exceptional athletes, like BJ Penn or other professional BJJ athletes, who step on the mats and kill it from day one. But for most black belts, they began their journey as a lost white belt, and only achieved the rank of black belt by years of persistence and dedication.
Always remember that the best thing to do to get a black belt in BJJ is to put in time on the mats. Even if you put zero thought into how you’re learning or progressing as a BJJ athlete, if you spend enough time training you’re going to get good eventually without even realizing it.
If you want to progress faster, here are a few tips:
- Get your mindset right: a positive attitude, where you’re focused on improving and not about competing with others in your class, goes a long way.
- Take care of your body: injuries can set your progress back big time. Focus on recovery, don’t burn yourself, and put yourself in the position where you are able to spend the time you need on the mats. You might also want to take supplements to help you keep your body in top shape.
- Ask questions: try and understand any areas in which you’re struggling, or any techniques you’re having trouble with, and ask questions from your instructor or higher belts. Use their experience.
- Teach: when you get to a high enough level (don’t try to teach as a white belt), teaching will help you progress further yourself. Teaching a move helps you understand it better, and by giving back to your teammates they’ll be more willing to put in the work to help you as well.
- Compete: it’s not a must to compete in BJJ if you want to progress. You can earn a black belt without ever entering a competition. But competing can help speed up your progress. You learn more in a 5 minute competition roll than in 100 friendly rolls at open mat.
There’s no scientific formula to earning a black belt in BJJ, but if you follow these tips, and most importantly, put in the hours on the mat, anyone has the potential to one day get their black belt.