The blue belt in BJJ is perhaps the most important promotion because it’s the first belt you’ve earned and signifies you are no longer a beginner. While the black belt is the ultimate goal for someone new, it’s something too distant. The blue belt is the first major milestone, and one of the most commonly asked questions is how long it takes to earn it.
Earning a BJJ blue belt takes between 1 and 3 years. The time depends on many factors, mainly training consistency and frequency. Furthermore, belt promotions are subjective and decided by the instructor based on his personal physical, technical, and behavioral requirements for students, so there is no exact timeline for everyone.
Finally, earning your first colored belt is a fantastic feeling, but you must first put in the work and time. Here is a typical progression and what you can do to speed things up a bit.
The BJJ Belt System
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt system consists of five belts (not counting the coral master belts), and these are white, blue, purple, brown, and black. The small number of belts means a lot of time between each, which is why the BJJ belt system is known as one of the hardest to climb.
Promotion to the next belt does not happen with a test like in other styles like karate and judo. Only the academy instructor can decide when he will promote a student, and there are only rough guidelines provided by the IBJJF concerning the minimum time you must spend at each rank.
Only a higher belt rank can promote someone; usually, black belts do promotions. Brown belts can do the job if there is no black belt at the academy, but they can elevate students only to their level.
Still, formal testing can take place in certain academies, especially for the lower blue and purple belts, where the criteria are basically the same as otherwise. Still, the promotions happen on a particular day in a more formal testing environment.
In addition to the five primary belts, there is a degree system of up to four stripes on each belt to ease the gaps between each color. Not every academy uses them, but they indicate smaller steps toward the bigger goal, and many people like receiving stripes.
The colored belt system provides a clear path of progression and offers a tangible goal in front of you. A common criticism of the system is that a belt cannot encompass all the skills and abilities of a practitioner, and there are people at the same rank but with very different skill levels.
This may be true, but the belt still provides something to strive for and a well-deserved reward for years of effort.
Now that we’ve seen how the BJJ belt system works, it’s time to focus on the first big goal and promotion each practitioner dreams of- the blue belt.
How Long Does It Take To Get a Blue Belt in BJJ
For most people to earn a blue belt, they need somewhere between 1 and 3 years of training, with 2 years being the most common timeline. But the main factor behind this is the training frequency you put in.
Most beginners train 2 or 3 times per week, around 10–12 sessions per month. This way, you will train 120 times per year, making the blue belt journey last about 2 years. Some people achieve it quicker, others slower.
These numbers are very subjective. Promotion depends on technical, tactical, and behavioral factors unique to each person, and no one can tell you exactly how much time you will need to meet all the requirements.
Even with the same training time, you may overtake your peers by putting in more effort each time you hit the mats. So don’t worry too much about how much time it will take, but how you will spend it and make the most of it.
BJJ Blue Belt Requirements
Unlike many other martial arts using a belt system, you must meet no set of requirements in a test to be awarded the higher belt.
Many karate styles, for instance, have a test a couple of times a year where you must be able to perform certain techniques and do a certain amount of sparring. In BJJ, there is no such thing, at least in general, and only the instructor can decide when to promote you to a higher belt rank.
This means the requirements you must meet can vary a lot from academy to academy, but you can still find some common things in most places.
You should be conditioned enough to last a few 5-minute rolls with people of different levels. If you must stop and take a break halfway through the first or second round, you are surely not ready for a blue belt. This often depends more on staying relaxed and not tense the entire time than actual conditioning.
Instructors will look at your ability and skills in the basic positions. You should know how to work from an open guard and be well familiar with side control, mount, and back control both offensively and defensively. You don’t need to know 10 ways to get out of each position at this level, but good orientation in each is a must.
Adequate defense against the most common submissions is another thing you should do before you get a blue belt. Stringing positional and submission transitions together indicates that you might be ready to enter the blue belt ranks.
And most importantly, your instructor will judge your mindset and behavior. After a year or two of training, you should be able to roll calmly and not panic when caught or reversed. Conversely, taking your time when on the attack and conserving energy are good signals that you are on the right path.
Behavior may be less valued everywhere, but in my experience, most places still value the traditional code of conduct. BJJ academies remain a place with a more classical ethos and values.
Or, in simpler words, you need to show respect to those higher in rank, help those lower in rank, and not be a bully the first time you get the opportunity to smash someone who joined a couple of weeks ago.
Key Points To Follow On the Blue Belt Path
Consistency And Frequency
At this and every other point in your BJJ journey, the most important thing is to be consistent, and this applies not just to BJJ but to everything. As a white belt, it’s important not to miss sessions because you will miss crucial pieces of information.
Each position and move builds on the previous one, and if you miss too many sessions, you will feel lost the next time. This process eases up in the higher belts, but while building the foundations, there are no shortcuts.
Make a schedule and stick to it religiously. Of course, life throws curveballs at us all the time. Still, unless there is something significant, you should always carry on with your plan to attend the 2 or 3 classes you have set as a goal.
But if something happens, like family or work engagements, and you cannot train as much as you want, don’t despair. But at this point, while you don’t have solid fundamentals yet, any prolonged breaks will be detrimental regardless of the reason. If you want to progress, you will have to adjust and find a way around it.
Many gyms have morning classes, so this may be a solution for you. Another thing you can do is do solo training. If you have some small space where you can place some mats, solo drills are an amazing way to work on your conditioning and improve basic moment patterns simultaneously.
If you want to speed up your improvement process, doing some strength and conditioning outside of the gym is an excellent idea. Running, lifting weights, or doing calisthenics will also improve your BJJ game, and they can be done on your personal schedule without worrying about the set times when classes are held.
If you manage to squeeze in 2 BJJ sessions and 2 more conditioning and solo drills per week, I can guarantee you will reach the blue belt much faster than if you skip the homework.
The second big factor next to mat time is your mindset while you are there. You need to be 100% present and concentrate on the instructions you receive and when attempting them. Many techniques will not click immediately.
The brain works in such a way that it often needs some time before new skills and knowledge can be applied. Do not worry about that. Focus entirely on the task; your body and mind will adapt when ready.
The second mindset advice I can give you is to understand what you are as a white belt and not put too high expectations on yourself. Regardless of previous athletic or martial arts experience, BJJ is a different beast, and you will need time to get used to the new skills. Higher belts will smash you effortlessly, and this is normal.
Adjusting your expectations and setting realistic goals is great. Don’t expect to tap him out if you roll against a purple belt. But you can aim to escape mount, not give your back, or survive an entire round without getting submitted (or at least a couple of times).
If you have been around, are already nearing the blue belt promotion, and are rolling against a newcomer, you will have other goals. Lock in a technique that has eluded you. Or force yourself into bad positions and try to escape. The key I to have realistic expectations, depending on your partner, and set goals that will let you grow.
If I can summarize the white belt mindset into a single sentence, it will sound like this: Show up on the mats consistently, listen to your coach, work diligently and without slacking, and be respectful to everyone. Do these, and the time to become a blue belt will not matter so much because you will have enjoyment even as a white belt.
Nobody likes to be a beginner at anything, and getting the blue belt signifies you are well on your way to becoming an intermediate grappler. This is why people often ask how much time you need before you get promoted.
The answer is somewhere between 1 and 3 years. This is a large gap; only your personal conditions will determine when you finally reach your first big goal in BJJ.