17 January 2023
Many martial arts such as Karate and Taekwondo have a ranking system based on different belt colours, which allows for easy identification of those who are more proficient at them. Black belt tends to be the best known and it is widely recognised that to have a black belt is to be considered an expert at a martial art. Jiu-jitsu is no different and has a ranking or grading system in order to denote progression and improvement.
It can be difficult to move up in grading in adult Jiu-jitsu but it can be slightly easier for children to do so. There are more belts at a junior level than at adult level so although it is easier to move up a grading level, there are also more levels to move through.
This is a sensible way of organising the system as it means that young people can improve in smaller increments at a time and have their progression rewarded, and thus their interest and focus retained. Adults don’t need that reinforcement and reassurance that they are improving as much, so it makes sense that there are larger gaps between belts for adults.
As well as being important for retention of students, this is also a recognition that children can learn much faster than adults and that those who learn a martial art at a younger age are far more likely to go on to attain a higher proficiency level than those who start later in life when they have already reached adulthood.
The children’s system has its own grading system that is separate from the adult one and the only belt colour in under 16 Jiu-jitsu that matches the adult version is the beginner’s white belt.
That isn’t to say that the belt colours achieved at the junior level are worthless. When a child reaches the age of sixteen, whichever belt a child has at that point is “translated” into an adult belt colour based on where their abilities and experience level should be.
Everyone starts at white belt, no matter their age and in children's Jiu-jitsu, they progress to the grey belt. This should be after six months of training or so and there are three differing versions, one with white bars, a plain grey belt and one with black bars. These are awarded at different stages in your child’s journey to the next belt. The minimum age to achieve a grey belt is 4.
The next belt colour is yellow and this also has three variations, which will be awarded as mini-promotions, including black and white bars as with the grey belt. The minimum age to attain this belt is 7 years old and the average time to achieve each of the progressions in it is a year of training.
An orange belt is next and this also has the three variations, with each taking around a year to be awarded, depending on individual progression. The minimum age to be eligible for the orange belt is 10.
The green belt is the highest of the children’s ranks and can be awarded at the age of 13. Each of the three ranks in the belt will probably take around a year to achieve, as with the previous belts, so when nearing the maximum level of advancement possible in the children’s level, which would be a green belt with a black bar, your child will likely be around 15 or 16 years of age.
When your child turns 16 they are eligible to be considered to be adults in terms of Jiu-jitsu and their belt should be upgraded at this point. White belts remain white belts as adults and children’s grey, yellow or orange belts will be given an adult blue belt. A children’s green belt will be upgraded to either an adult blue or purple belt depending on how the instructor rates their abilities and readiness to advance. The next steps up from purple are brown and then black. The minimum age to achieve a black belt is 19.