The topic of stripe and belt promotions in BJJ has its fans and detractors on both sides of the topic.

“Belts don’t matter! I don’t care if I’m a white belt forever as long as I have the skills.”

Fair enough.

“I like to set goals and one of my goals is to earn a black belt in BJJ.”

Also fair. Humans are goal oriented creatures and periodic belt promotions can reinforce our motivation to train hard.

The difficulty comes when someone only trains no-gi submission grappling or MMA and still wants to receive a belt promotion from BJJ.

While doing a seminar tour of another country, I was invited to teach several days of BJJ seminars at an MMA gym. There were two important considerations to the gym owner.

1) The instruction be in no-gi submission grappling

2) Could the worthy students have a chance to be promoted to a higher BJJ rank?


“But the students train hard and I want to provide some motivation and encouragement for them!”

I understand. I am a proponent of stripes and belts because students receive some recognition for their skills and a new belt can ignite a whole new level of enthusiasm for training. I also understand that a student training BJJ in a city / country without a black belt to regularly oversee their training wants to know how they are doing.

But no-gi grappling is not the same as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as taught by the Gracie family and recognized by the IBJJF. They have many common elements, but they are two different things.

The obvious is that one does not actually wear a belt when rolling with a rash guard and board shorts. As far I can see, the sole purpose of a “no-gi belt” (which is an oxymoron?) is boasting on social media?

A former UFC fighter used to prepare for his fights at my jiu-jitsu academy. He had multiple submission wins in the UFC, but in the rare occasions that he wore a gi, he had a purple belt. When I asked the head instructor about it he replied simply, “He can hang with black belts on the ground, but he rarely trains with the gi. BJJ is taught with the kimono.”

I saw a photo of UFC Light Heavyweight great Jon Jones showing his new blue belt wearing a gi. Jones has submitted BJJ black belts in title fights, but is only a blue belt?

Yes. Because…he rarely trains in the gi.

So I explained to the gym owner that I would be happy to teach no-gi positions in the classes, but if a student wanted to eventually earn a BJJ blue belt, they needed to put on the gi and train jiu-jitsu.

Do you know of a school that awards no-gi ranks?


  1. I think that’s the wrong approach – the belt system should be considered as a classification of skill.
    If a guy can submit a BJJ blackbelt under IBJJF rules wearing a GI – but he does not train regularly in the GI – should he really just be a white or blue belt?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here