Much like its martial art counterparts, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, categorizes practitioners by their rank which is represented by a specific color.
Similar to the black belts used in karate to indicate expertise, masters of BJJ are considered red belts and intermediate practitioners are purple.
With each new rank comes a new set of skills indicative of both experience and knowledge.
How good is a purple belt in BJJ? The adult belt ranks in BJJ range from white to red, with white being the lowest level and red being the highest. The purple belt is 3rd from the white and is considered an intermediate adult rank in BJJ. The purple belt is representative of a student’s understanding of game strategy, submissions, and technique.
Depending on the amount of time and dedication put into mastering the art of BJJ, acquiring a purple belt alone can take between 3-5 years for some.
Although it is only belt three of the six or eight colors, excluding several of the degrees of color, the purple belt generally indicates a student’s readiness in instructing a lower-ranked belt.
A Brief History of BJJ Belt Ranking
The belt system used in BJJ was installed by Judo founder, Jigoro Kano, in 1907.
When he first introduced the belt system, white, blue, brown, and black were some of the only colors used. In 1952 Carlos Gracie, one of the primary founding members of BJJ developed a belt system specific to the Gracie subset of BJJ developed by his family members.
“There is relatively little published history in English on the development of the belt color system in BJJ. However, in the modern area, the formal color belt system appears to have been adopted by the Jiu Jitsu Federation of Guanabara in 1967.”Source: BJJ Belt System: Everything You Need to Know
The Jiu Jitsu Federation of Guanabara is credited with establishing the first official belt ranking system for BJJ.
After its establishment by Carlos Gracie, the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), introduced more colors and criteria into what is known today as the official BJJ belt ranking system.
The Purple Belt
Some consider the purple belt to be the toughest rank to get through simply because it is the midpoint of the BJJ rank system.
For this reason, the purple belt is generally an appropriate point in rank to consider whether or not continuing with studies is ideal or not.
Many students will either take more time in their current rank, which would be blue, or they may choose to discontinue their studies if they don’t feel capable of proceeding forward to the purple rank.
The purple rank is simply more a less a gauge of whether or not a student has the skill and dedication necessary for acquiring a black or red belt down the road.
The average total training time required for the purple belt is about 4 to 5 years however some students may take more time to fully master the concepts required for the belt.
The IBJJF has set specific criteria necessary for the proceeding to and excelling in the purple belt rank.
Goals of the Purple Belt
Typically a number of factors are weighed in deciding whether or not a student is ready to be promoted to the next belt ranking.
These factors may become narrower with respect to what each belt specifically requires.
Common factors weighed in the progression of a belt rank
- Understanding of BJJ techniques
- Successful outcomes of competition
- Dedication to excel in BJJ is clearly exemplified by the student
- Overall skill level
Because it is the midpoint of the belt rank system of BJJ, students should be well-versed in a number of areas by the time they reach and/or progress through the purple belt.
The general concepts of the sport should not only be fully grasped mentally but physically as well.
Students should demonstrate some form of muscle memory in certain submissions and ground positions.
“Purple belts tend to be more methodical and slower in their approach to Jiu Jitsu because they understand their own game plan. Their techniques string together in a coherent strategy as they face their opponent.”Source: BJJ Belt System: Everything You Need to Know
Strategies and Requirements
Like mentioned before, there are certain goals and factors required and weighed for successfully reaching a higher rank.
One skill that should be demonstrated by a student that has reached the purple belt rank is the ability to seamlessly transition between movements during training and especially during competition.
Core concepts demonstrated by the purple belt
- Game strategy—this concept involves the student’s understanding of game strategy and development. Students should understand offensive mechanisms and how to efficiently use them by developing a plan for competition.
- Submissions—the purple rank is a suitable time for students to start mastering more submissions and successfully executing them in competition as well. Not only is using more submissions in competition a good technique to master but stringing submissions together is as well. Having submission options available in times of difficulty is another reason why chaining submissions together is important.
- Experimentation with techniques—experimentation with techniques is not a bad idea either. Once students begin to feel more comfortable with their knowledge and understanding of the concepts held for the purple belt, they should start training with more difficult guards and positions, as long as they are legal in competition. This rank is more a less a good opportunity to push comfort zones.
As far as age and prior experience go, students must be a certain age and have gone through a certain amount of years of training before becoming a purple belt.
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) requires that students be at least 16 years old when they become a purple belt. The IBJJF also recommends that students have at least two years of training as a blue belt, the rank prior to the purple belt, in order to be considered eligible for a purple belt.
Once a student or practitioner has reached the purple rank, they are then required to train under that rank for a minimum of 18 months, according to IBJJF requirements.
Tips for Progressing at the Purple Belt
It certainly is not required for practitioners or students at the purple belt level to be overqualified experts at BJJ, but it is important to be at least half of that considering is the intermediate rank of the BJJ belt system.
It’s important to understand that qualifying as a purple belt does not make learning and excelling at BJJ easier or better yet more attainable.
If anything, doing so means that training and competing will be even harder now that more advanced techniques have been introduced.
This is why dedication must be demonstrated more than ever at this rank. Once techniques have been improved upon, students should use the purple belt as an opportunity to purposefully train at the required techniques and concepts.
While learning new submissions is part of any new rank, learning how to skillfully and seamlessly transition between submissions is crucial to becoming a good purple belt.
For students currently residing at the purple belt rank, take heed of your newly found freedom and experiment with establishing your own approach to certain movements and grappling techniques.
The purple rank is not particularly concerned with how much you understand but rather what you understand and how you use that understanding to your advantage against your opponent.
BJJ black belt, Eddie Fyvie shares his experience and thoughts on being a purple belt here.
Getting your BJJ purple belt and getting good at Jiu Jitsu can take about the same amount of time, check out our article “How long does it take to get good at Jiu Jitsu?”.