How Many BJJ Black Belts Are There?

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A row of BJJ black belts

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It feels like the numbers of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, and black belts are growing by the millisecond, so it’s easy to wonder how many BJJ black belts there are out there.

New black belts are awarded more often as more and more people enroll in new schools all over the world.

Surely there are now more Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts than ever before. But how many?

How many Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts are there? The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation has over 4,000 registered black belts in their database. Difficulty arises when trying to pinpoint the percentages of black belts who are registered versus black belts who are not registered. Assuming that as few as 1 in 10 black belts are registered, there are over 40,000 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts with the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). This number could triple to accommodate black belts from other schools, raising the number to 120,000. 

It’s not easy to pinpoint an exact number, as there is no centralized location that holds records of awarded BJJ black belts.

But there are organizations, like the IBJJF, that try. We’ll talk about the estimated number of BJJ black belts, as well as how one is earned and what types there are. 

How Are Brazilian Black Belts Counted?

IBJJF is just one organization of many, which forms part of the problem when trying to pin down the total number of black belts.

There are a growing number of schools, and each school must eventually graduate deserving students to black belts. 

There is no unified system for this process — you’re not working your way to a driver’s license or a certificate.

Getting a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an achievement that isn’t necessarily documented with anything more than the belt.

According to Rener Gracie: 

  • Only 10% of new practitioners will even make it to earning their blue belts. 
  • Out of that 10%, a mere 1% will continue on to a black belt. 
  • One in a thousand white belts will go on to become a black belt Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

IBJJF tries to function as something of a governing body for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academies, but the majority of schools remain uncertified.

There are close to 3,000 academies between the IBJJF and Gracie schools in the US alone. Assuming even five black belts belonged to each gym, there could be 15,000 in the US alone.

How Long Does It Take To Earn A Black Belt?

Conventional wisdom says that earning a black belt takes at least ten years.

That being said, the minimum age requirement is 19-years-old, so it can clearly be done in less time. If you’re laser-focused on earning your black belt, you will get it done in less time.

There is no cut and dry rule for how quickly students can advance. That is up to you and your teacher.

There is a reason most gyms want students to be a certain age and to have had their brown belt for a certain length of time: it’s possible to advance too quickly. 

Earning a black belt is not always about advancing; it’s about learning and understanding.

The journey is to be appreciated, not hurried through. Students can become so fixated on achieving their black belt that they forget what they started for in the first place.

Some say 10 years, some say 12, but it’s really up to you.

You don’t want to move so slowly that you’re barely learning anything, and you don’t want to move so fast that you have no time for the art form. The black belt isn’t going anywhere.

Do Black Belts Ever Quit?

It might seem crazy that someone would work for over a decade to earn the right to call themselves a black belt, then hang up their gi — but have been known to check-out.

Not everyone is willing to keep up the lifestyle once the climb is over, and the summit has been reached. 

Sometimes practitioners lose motivation when the big goal is reached.

It’s very simple to understand the progression from white belt to black belt, but it’s difficult to envision a future with no more concrete goals to steer towards.

Quitting isn’t exactly commonplace in the community, but the number of black belts is affected by not only how many students reach the rank of black belt — but how many black belts actually maintain that rank.

‘How many black belts are there’ means how many are still functioning as black belts and showing up to roll.

What Are The Types of Black Belt?

There are ten degrees possible.

The most advanced degree is only awarded to those who have elevated the art form, such as the Gracie family.

The tenth-degree black belt is red, and it’s said that if a black belt cannot be awarded till a student is 19, then a red belt cannot be awarded till a student is 67. It’s a long climb!

Stripes are awarded to a student as they advance through the degrees of black belt. 

High-level black belts might be awarded a new coral belt — red and white colors — which is confusing given they are still a ‘black belt’.

The coral belt may be awarded to those who have achieved a seventh-degree black belt, but there is no standard for these promotions.

Not every school is the same, and some students may find that there is no additional belt offered once the black belt is achieved. This is yet another disparity between schools and organizations in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. 

Every school awards a black belt to a deserving student, but this is where the agreement ends.

Black belts are the be-all, end-all for some schools, while they are almost the beginning for others.

What Are The Best Places For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu In The US?

  • Los Angeles
  • Las Vegas
  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • San Diego

Much of the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is kept between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the United States.

The entertainment industry and the mixed martial arts industry are crucial parts of the puzzle for BJJ. 

From the humble origins of the art form in Brazil to the explosion brought on by the internet, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has managed to firmly establish itself where people will notice.

The best cities for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — the cities where you will find the most black belts — are the biggest and most popular cities. The truth is that nearly every city over 100,000 people will have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school.

Ideally, you will have plenty of options to choose from, but you will at least have an option or two.

Masters tend to open up schools in places where they think people will show up, so the most cosmopolitan cities are often chosen.

If you don’t live on the west coast and if you don’t live in a huge city, you will still be fine. 

Do a quick search for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms, and you might be surprised.

You don’t need the top-rated gym in the country; you need some good mat-space in a strip mall building. Imagine you’re in Sao Paulo.

Further Reading

I hope we did a good job answering, how many BJJ black belts are there for you.

If you’re new and wondering how long it takes to earn your first belt promotion in Jiu Jitsu, check out our article “How Long Does It Take To Get A Blue Belt In BJJ?”.

This is a very comprehensive market research study on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you’re interested in the community as a whole or on the business side of things, this is for you.

This is the list of registered black belts if you’re curious about the organization or the process.

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