Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt: How long do I need to train to earn one?

The first few months of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are hard. Practitioners start sparring from their first or second class, and are initially more focused on survival and learning the basics. Then, all of a sudden, techniques will start working and survival becomes easier. Around this time students will get more ambitious and begin thinking about belt promotions.

They start eyeing a black belt.

We get students from all across Sydney’s Inner West at Gracie Balmain, and they all eventually ask the question, “how long will it take me to get my black belt?”

There are two answers. Firstly, “it depends.” How much a student can train a week, their athletic ability and previous martial arts experience are major factors. The second answer is, for 99% of students, “a long time.”

In my own case, I was awarded my black belt from Master Royler Gracie and Gracie Humaita Australia head Bruno Panno on March 7, 2018. It took me 13 years.

Nothing worth having comes easy

In this aspect, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is particularly tough. Other martial arts, like Karate, Japanese Jujitsu and Taekwando, award dedicated students their black belt in under five years. It’s true that there are some exceptions in BJJ. BJ Penn, for instance, famously earned his black belt in less than three and a half years. This is uncommon enough that he earned his nickname of “The Prodigy.”

Just like how we all know that friend who can get ripped after two weeks in the gym (or no time at all, the jerks!), there are some who naturally take to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Particularly talented grapplers with enough dedication can earn a black belt in as little as seven or eight years.

Similarly, a veteran Judo player or someone who has 10 years of wrestling under their belt will naturally advance quicker than a previously untrained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player.

But these are a tiny minority. For most of us, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is all about hard work over a long period of time. For the average practitioner, as in over 90% of us, expect a black belt to come after 10 to 15 years of dedicated training.

Time on the mats

It’ll take a long time to earn your black belt. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: Anyone can do it. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu isn’t about talent or athleticism, it’s about hard work, dedication and perseverance.

There’s a famous saying in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: A black belt is a white belt who never quit. Even if you consider yourself uncoordinated or unathletic, you can earn a black belt if you’re willing to put in the work.

Ironically, the easiest way to progress is to not think about belts. As cliche as it sounds, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is more about the journey than the destination. Every black belt I’ve met will tell you that they don’t know everything there is to know. Some black belts even say that they only really started to understand Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at black belt.

Instead of thinking about getting your next belt, think about what elements of your game can be improved. Everyone has weaknesses, and if you spend your time focusing on how to turn those weaknesses into strengths then eventually the belts will come.

Just as importantly is the psychological aspect. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hard on your ego. Every time you think you’ve got it worked out, a new opponent will break your game apart. Sometimes that opponent has been training half as long as you. Just as important as techniques, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches you to deal with failure and plateaus.

Do it for long enough, though, and you’ll realise that even the biggest hurdles can be jumped over with enough dedication. In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the most important thing is time on the mat.

The best time to start was 10 years ago. The second best time is today. Contact us here if you’re interested in a free trial class.