Long Overdue Belt Promotions

Belt Promotions

Often when one of your BJJ training partners posts a photo of a new belt promotion on social media, there are multiple comments of “Congrats! Long over due!”

This sentiment suggests that the student has demonstrated a high level of skill for a while and at last is receiving the official recognition in the form of a new, higher belt.

Those who know…know that to earn that promotion that you had to — in the words of one Brazilian instructor — “sweat many gi’s!” There is no quick and easy way around the hard work and mat time.

Related: How Do Belt Promotions Work?

There is considerable debate on the topic of belt and stripe promotions. In an effort to maintain the high standards of belt ranking in the art, the BJJ community scrutinizes belt promotions and compares the rank of the individual with their perceived skill level.

In this respect, it is preferable to wear a belt that relatively accurately reflects your skill set. Now, different schools handle promotions differently. There is no universal, objective standard for what purple belts are supposed to know or even how long they should have trained.

Different schools will have different standards for belt promotions. Even within the same school, there are different standards for the 20-something competitors and the masters recreational students. Sometimes competitors will be held back longer to give them more opportunity to compete at their current level before a new belt bumps them up to the next division.

One thing is certain, however. Students recognize the value of having to work hard to earn that next stripe or belt! I recall one white collar professional earning her first stripe on her white belt and she was tremendously excited. “I’m more excited about this than when I graduated college!” she gushed. In BJJ you are evaluated on your own merits and consistently applied efforts.

Related: “Should I turn down a belt promotion?”

I also recall one student who had graduated to a blue belt primarily through taking private lessons. When the blue belt joined another school that was strongly competition-oriented, he found himself in deep waters against the skilled white belts. He privately expressed embarrassment at being dominated by the lower belts and felt undeserving of his blue belt. It was now his goal to improve and raise his level to that of his new school. In time, he caught up just fine.

Sometimes students will pick up a colored belt on the mat and wrap it around their waist jokingly. I smile and say “You can wear whatever color belt that you want…but you have to defend it!”

Perhaps Royce Gracie said it best:

“A black belt only covers two inches of your ass. You have to cover the rest.”

The true satisfaction of getting a belt promotion is knowing inside that you worked hard and earned that new belt!


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