Becoming a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the toughest accomplishments there is. It takes years of dedication, passion, and even luck, to get there.
So how many Jiu Jitsu black belts are there across the globe? It’s difficult to get a true number, but we do have some data we can look to for answers. Using this, we’ll try to come up with how many BJJ black belts there are today.
Keep reading to learn more.
How Many BJJ Black Belts Are There?
According to the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), there are are a little over 7400 BJJ black belts registered today.
The real number, though, will be higher than this. Not all black belts are registered with the IBJJF. Black belts aren’t automatically registered – you’ve got to submit an application, have it approved by the person who gave you your black belt, and pay a fee in order to be added to this list. A lot of people don’t care to go through this process.
So, in addition to the number above, you’ve also got:
- Black belts from IBJJF academies that aren’t registered
- Black belts from non-IBJJF academies
We can estimate that as low as 1 in 10 black belts from IBJJF-affiliated academies are registered. If this is correct, then that would give us approximately 74,000 IBJJF black belts in the world.
How Many Non-IBJJF Black Belts Are There?
The other question is how many BJJ black belts there are from non-IBJJF academies.
This is much harder to answer, as there’s not really any kind of database where these figures are counted.
There’s no requirement to register with the IBJJF to open an academy. So, around the world, there may be any number of additional academies, which could have multiple black belts.
Being conservative, we could assume that the number of non-IBJJF black belts brings the overall number up to 100,000-150,000 BJJ black belts in the world.
A lot? Perhaps this is more than you would expect, considering how difficult it is to get a black belt in BJJ. But there is also a huge number of people across the world doing Jiu Jitsu today. BJJ’s popularity has exploded, and there have to be millions, or even tens of millions, across the globe who are part of the BJJ community.
Using that as context, it’s still very rare to get a black belt in BJJ.
How Long Does It Take to Get to Black Belt?
One of the reasons BJJ black belts are rare is because of how long it takes to get there.
It usually takes more than ten years of training to earn a BJJ black belt.
It’s a huge achievement, which takes a massive amount of tenacity, persistence, and drive – not to mention the fortune of avoiding serious injuries along the way.
Most BJJ black belts take between 10-15 years to get there. For some, it may take longer. For some exceptional cases, such as those who come into BJJ with a previous pedigree in other martial arts, such as Judo, Wrestling and MMA, it may take less than that.
Does No-Gi BJJ Have Black Belts?
Counting the number of BJJ black belts gets a little trickier as well when you consider some schools that train No-Gi only.
Generally, belt promotions only happen for Gi Jiu Jitsu. When we train without the Gi, we don’t wear a belt, so if you only ever train No-Gi you may not be a part of the traditional BJJ belt system.
Some No-Gi specific academies do add belts, though, which are symbolic (not actually used during training or rolling). So you may find a No-Gi BJJ black belt out there in the wild.
Are There Any Belts Above Black Belt?
Black belt may seem like the top of the mountain, but it’s actually not.
Aside from degrees on a black belt, there are three belt levels above black belt.
There are two levels known as “coral belts”. First, is the red and black belt, which is given to seventh-degree black belts.
The second coral belt level is red and white belt, for eighth-degree black belts.
Above these two belts is one more level – red belt. This is the absolute top, a rank given to ninth or tenth-degree black belts, with the requirement that you have spent 48 years as a BJJ black belt already.
Further Reading: What is BJJ? The history and basics of the gentle art.
How Many BJJ Red Belts Are There?
There are 20 known red and black belts and 13 recorded red and white belts in BJJ. So while there may be a lot of BJJ black belts around the world, the number who reach this level is extremely low.
In addition, there have been 33 BJJ red belts throughout the history of the sport, most of whom are significant figures in the history of BJJ.
BJJ Black Belts & BJJ Black Belt Statistics: Summing Up
It’s hard to come up with exact figure to answer how many BJJ black belts there are today. The IBJJF has a little over 7,000 black belts registered, but I personally know multiple credentialed and well-known black belts who are not on that list.
It’s not a stretch to say that there are more than 100,000 BJJ black belts around the world – which seems like a lot, but is still a tiny fraction of the number of people who start training BJJ.
You might think that only exceptionally talented athletes make it to black belt in BJJ. But that’s not quite the truth. A well-known saying in Jiu Jitsu goes like this: “it’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left.”
BJJ rewards perseverance and persistence. Often, supremely talented BJJ players fall off along the way, while those with no special athletic or physical gifts stick it through, to earn the ultimate reward of a black belt.