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The belt ranking system is a foundation of nearly every martial art with roots in traditional styles.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt system for adults is in many ways more straightforward than other systems.
On the other hand, the ranking system for children training under a school that follows International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) guidelines can get a bit more complicated.
For ranking purposes, age 16 is where the cutoff begins in the adult system.
Once a teenager turns 16, they are now subject to the adult belt ranking system.
What is a BJJ Green Belt?
The green belt is the highest belt rank that a BJJ student can achieve before turning 16. A student with the rank of green belt is highly advanced in terms of technical BJJ skills.
Earning a green belt is a serious accomplishment for anyone training BJJ as a child or teen.
By the time a student receives a green belt, they will have refined BJJ knowledge and have most likely begun to develop their own personal style and grappling game.
Students at the green belt level may also be involved in coaching or assisting younger children learning BJJ alongside their adult instructor.
A student holding the rank of green belt has almost certainly competed quite a bit, although that may not be a requirement under all instructors.
The technical skill of a green belt will rival that of most typical adult blue belts. Generally speaking, a green belt student will be promoted to blue belt when they turn 16.
An Overview of the Children’s BJJ Belt Rank System
The length of time it takes a student to earn their BJJ green belt will vary somewhat, however the minimum time between starting BJJ and earning their green belt is about 6 years provided an average training frequency of 2-3 times per week.
The IBJJF kid’s ranking system is more complicated. All students start out as white belts.
Following the white belt, the children’s system is as follows: grey belt, yellow belt, orange belt, and finally green belt.
Unlike the adult system, each colored belt “group” for children is further broken down. The first significant promotion will be from white belt to “grey belt with white stripe,” followed by a “solid” grey belt, and finally a “grey belt with black stripe.”
Each individual belt within the group will generally involve around 8 months of training, meaning that between belt groups requires around 2 years of dedicated work honing BJJ skills at each level.
At each belt level within the larger colored belt group, a student will earn individual stripes at a rate of every 1-3 months of consistent training.
The stripes are generally just a piece of tape applied to the instructor, but represent improvement and progression within a given belt.
Stripes are often discretionary, particularly for adults, and some instructors avoid them altogether in favor of full ranking when the student has completely earned their next belt.
For children, stripes can be a useful tool as they allow the child to experience some recognition for their efforts at more frequent intervals than the long drawn out process between each full belt rank.
Children’s Belt System Breakdown
Below is a full breakdown of the kid’s BJJ Belt system with the associated skill level at each belt and typical age requirement.
While not listed in the breakdown, remember that at each belt level within a group there can be a separate stripe progression of the tape stripes given at the instructor’s discretion.
|Gray Belt Group||Intermediate||5-15 yrs old|
|Yellow Belt Group||Intermediate||7-15 yrs old|
|Orange Belt Group||Advanced||10-15 yrs old|
|Green Belt Group||Advanced||13-15 yrs old|
Beginner – White Belt – Age group: Any
Intermediate – Gray Belt Group – Grey Belt with White Stripe, Solid Grey Belt, Grey Belt with Black Stripe – Age Group: 5-15
Intermediate – Yellow Belt Group – Yellow Belt with White Stripe, Solid Yellow Belt, Yellow Belt with Black Stripe – Age Group: 7-15
Advanced – Orange Belt Group – Orange Belt with White Stripe, Solid Orange Belt, Orange Belt with Black Stripe – Age Group: 10-15
Advanced – Green Belt Group – Green Belt with White Stripe, Solid Green Belt, Green Belt with Black Stripe – Age Group: 13-15
How Long Does It Take to Earn a BJJ Green Belt?
To achieve the “green belt with white stripe,” which is the first rank in the green belt group, generally takes between 6 and 8 years of training.
The minimum age for solid green belt is 14 assuming the instructor is following IBJJF guidelines, however a student may be awarded the green belt with the white stripe at age 13.
As such, a student who begins training at age 6 and stays consistent will most likely earn their green belt at age 14.
This will, of course, vary with the student, as skill development and ability to actually perform during live grappling is even more important than the specific time spent in each belt rank.
Two years in each belt group is a “minimum” time, however BJJ promotions are never guaranteed on a time frame.
Do All Instructors Do Stripes?
The specific ranking system between BJJ schools will vary based on the instructor and their relative adherence to IBJJF guidelines.
Since BJJ is not governed specifically by the IBJJF, instructors may or may not award the tape stripes at each individual belt.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see children and adults with one or two tape stripes be promoted to the next belt, even though tape stripes can technically go up to 4 for adults and 5 for children.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of BJJ schools will follow the children’s ranking system of white, grey, yellow, orange, and then green, regardless of how strictly they adhere to IBJJF traditions.
How “Good” is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Green Belt?
A BJJ student at the green belt level is no spring chicken when it comes to grappling.
Green belts will have a firm grasp of jiu-jitsu fundamentals.
They should have several reliable and well-developed escape options from all of the bottom positions in addition to a well-developed ability to play from guard, pass the guard, and submit from top positions.
As mentioned, the typical BJJ green belt will rival the skill and technical proficiency of an adult blue belt.
Depending on the teen’s athletic ability, size, and confidence, a BJJ green belt will likely be able to control and submit bigger, stronger untrained adults.
While this is not an inherent requirement to be a green belt, the skill level a student must demonstrate at the green belt level will be reflected against an opponent of any age.
It is not uncommon for adults to be surprised by the fact that a teenager can defeat them in live rolling despite their strength and size advantage.
Are There Specific Tests for Green Belt Promotions?
Unlike many traditional arts, in BJJ there is no specific test required for each belt promotion.
Some schools do implement testing protocols for ranking up students. However, this is largely at the coach or affiliation’s discretion.
Schools that do tests for belt ranking will typically require a student to demonstrate knowledge of one or several options from a given grappling position to defend, advance, or submit their opponent.
Some schools that test have specific moves or sequences the student must demonstrate on a non-resisting opponent, others may simply require the student to show their preferred option.
Every legitimate BJJ school, regardless of specific testing requirements, will demand that a student be able to apply the skill against resisting opponents.
Students who do well in competition tend to be promoted faster if they are consistently winning at their belt rank, however winning competitions is not generally an absolute requirement for getting promoted, nor does winning a competition at a given belt level automatically mean a student will be promoted.
What Happens When a Green Belt Turns 16?
Generally, a student who has earned their green belt will be promoted to blue belt around the time they turn 16.
Often at this point, they will be on the competitive side of the blue belt rank, and it is not uncommon to see blue belts of 16 or 17 years of age winning major BJJ tournaments against adults.
Remember that a green belt student has already been doing BJJ for at least 6 years, and as such has had far more time to develop their game than many adults who are awarded blue belts after 1-2 years at the white belt level.
What If a Child Turning 16 Isn’t a Green Belt?
Students who turn 16 but have not earned a green belt but are still ranked in BJJ as a teen may be required to spend some time at white belt before earning their blue belt.
The instructor will have discretion with this, and it will largely depend on the skill, maturity, and dedication of the student as to whether the instructor will promote them to blue belt.
I Saw a Green and Yellow Belt at a Tournament… is That a Special Rank?
The ‘green and yellow’ belt is a special belt used at tournaments. It alternates green and yellow to be very visible.
This belt does not represent rank and is used to distinguish competitors during competition matches.
It is used in gi competition when competitors are both wearing similarly colored gis in order for the referee to be able to tell which competitor is doing what and to help track who is scoring.
The green and yellow belt is used at all levels of competition in both child and adult divisions and has no bearing on the student’s rank.
It is either worn in addition to the competitor’s normal belt or is swapped out, depending on the tournament.
It’s generally random which competitor ends up wearing the green and yellow belt, and is typically assigned to the red or blue corner for all matches in the tournament.
If competitors have very distinguishable gi colors, such as a black gi vs a white gi, the green, and yellow belt may not be used in this case.
Again, this belt is strictly to distinguish one competitor from the other in competition and has no bearing on the competitor’s rank or perceived skill level.
Belt ranks in BJJ are an integral part of the process and journey. Nevertheless, the skill, tenacity, athleticism, and competition performance at each belt will always vary greatly from student to student.
BJJ is an art form, self-defense system, and sport. As such, a student’s specific knowledge at any belt level, including green belt, will never be identical to another student of the same rank.
With that being said, rest assured that any student with a green belt training under a legitimate BJJ instructor has an advanced grasp of the concepts and skill applications needed for success in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and has most certainly demonstrated their ability to grapple against fully resisting opponents.
For more BJJ kid related articles check out our Kids section.