Achieving a black belt rank in BJJ is the ultimate goal of every student. If you are a beginner just starting, you might wonder how long it will take to become a BJJ black belt.
Students with average talent may expect to earn a 1st-degree black belt in BJJ after a minimum of 10 years of consistent training. However, most practitioners need close to 15 years to obtain a black belt rank. This is only in case you are dedicated and passionate and not making big breaks on your journey.
But why does it takes so long to master the art of BJJ? Can you do it in less time? What can you do to speed up the process? Let’s find out!
How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In BJJ?
On average, it takes between 10 and 15 years for a dedicated student to reach a black belt rank in a legitimate BJJ school that embraces strict promotional criteria. No one can come up with a fixed time frame because the progression depends on many factors, such as:
The BJJ math is simple: the more time you spend on the mats, the faster you learn and progress through the ranks. However, hitting the gym five times a week for 10 years straight is mission impossible for most people.
No matter how dedicated or passionate you are about the training, there will be times when you will have a hard time managing your life and training.
This is why consistency plays such a significant factor in how long it takes to get a black belt in BJJ. A person who trains 2–3 times a week can’t progress at the same rate as the one who attends classes 5–6 times a week.
As in all other sports, some people possess a natural talent for grappling, which enables them to progress faster. They have superior genetics and athleticism and can adopt knowledge much quicker. Some people can compensate for the lack of talent with hard work, but talented students tend to rise much faster overall.
Quality Of Coaches
Talent and consistency mean nothing without a good instructor who can pass down the knowledge. A good instructor understands BJJ’s technical, physical, and mental aspects. They are adaptable and know how to get the most out of your talent and potential.
Why Does It Take So Long To Get A Black Belt in BJJ?
BJJ is a technically complex martial art, and it is impossible to reach a high level of proficiency in a short period. People also refer to it as a “human chess match” because there are so many variables and techniques to learn.
And on top of that, Most legitimate BJJ schools stick to the high criteria. In some way, they are proud that reaching a black belt rank in BJJ is more impressive than in other martial arts—even similar ones like Judo.
Here are some of the key reasons why it takes so long to master BJJ.
Promotion Is Not Standardized
Overall, BJJ progression is less standardized than in other martial arts. There is no belt testing and a specified set of techniques you must learn and perform in front of the board of examiners.
The promotion in BJJ is based on the subjective opinion of your primary instructor.
The progress is harder than in other martial arts because BJJ is rooted in the practical application of techniques. Students engage in sparring right from the first day of training. Their progression is solely based on their performance on the mats against fully resisting opponents.
For years, instructors will closely monitor your role with other students and promote you to a higher belt when they spot you have reached a required skill level for a specific rank.
There Is A Lot To Learn
BJJ is among the most complex martial art systems. Students need to learn dozens of takedowns, trips, throws, positioning on the ground, and how to apply chokes and joint locks.
They must know how to manipulate the opponent’s weight, re-direct the energy, and maneuver in specific positions. On top of that, techniques are continuously evolving, and learning never stops.
It Takes Time To Build Experience
Developing a required level of athleticism and learning how each technique works does not take 10 years. However, knowing how to apply these moves and strategies against the fully resisting opponent does.
You may understand how to place an armbar. But to do it in a real fight without even thinking about it, solely relying on your instincts, is a different story.
And to do so, a student needs to stamp each move deep into their muscle memory and learn to recognize all the patterns during the rolls.
Stamping techniques into the muscle memory requires years of drilling and repetition. You must spend many hours sparring to develop timing, reactions, and instincts and learn all the patterns.
It takes years to develop a connection between the muscles and the mind so that you can naturally chain the BJJ moves together.
Each BJJ belt rank includes a specific set of techniques and moves you must master to perfection, and each one requires years of practice before you can move to a higher one.
What Can I Do To Get A BJJ Black Belt Faster?
Spending as much time as possible on the mats is the best way to speed up the process. Consistency and dedication without making big pauses from training and competition is the fastest way to a black belt. Whether this means you will get it in 8 or 10 years depends on many other factors. Following are some of the other good tips:
Have Grappling Experience
People who come into BJJ from conceptually similar martial arts, such as Judo, Sambo, or Wrestling, are already much ahead of “normal” students. They are already familiar with most techniques, have the required athleticism, and can adopt new techniques faster and get to a black belt sooner.
This is notably true for Judokas because BJJ originates from judo, and the two arts share similar techniques. So when a black belt judoka transitions to BJJ, they don’t start as white belts. They get instantly promoted to a blue belt and usually only need a little time to reach a purple rank.
Fully Dedicate Yourself To Training
Speeding up the process comes at a certain price, and you must sacrifice a lot of your free time to achieve your goal. On average, students who attend classes 4 times a week and work on their form outside the gym may expect to earn a black belt in 8–10 years.
However, if you hit the gym 5–6 times each week, regularly compete, and attend open mat sessions, you might do it in less time, about 6–7 years.
Competing in tournaments is not a requirement to progress from one belt to the other in BJJ. Many great grapplers, such as John Danaher, have never competed in matches. However, competition enables you to rise and mature faster than students who never compete.
Competitive students have a clear goal in sight and know what steps they need to take to achieve it. This motivates them to work harder and spend more time on the mats. This ultimately results in faster progression and belt promotion.
Can You Get A BJJ Black Belt in Less Than 5 Years?
You will unlikely earn a black belt in less than 8 years if you are not among the few exceptional talents. To achieve this in 5 or less years, you must possess a unique talent and an experience in a conceptually similar martial art such as Judo or Wrestling. But not just an average experience, an elite, Olympic-level experience.
Ultimately, it all depends on your performance on the mats against other people of similar or higher ranks. If you are a talented grappler, submitting people all the time, even the ones above your rank, of course, you will progress faster.
And if you are doing this continuously without being stuck at certain levels and at the same time competing and winning prestige tournaments, you might reach a black belt in a short period.
However, only a few people have achieved this, including BJJ and MMA legend BJ Penn, who got his 1st-degree black belt after 3 years of training.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Black Belt in BJJ
Achieving a black belt in jiu-jitsu is a dream of every student. It signifies your journey, hard work, sacrifice, time spent on the mats, blood, pain, injuries, and everything you need to go through on your journey. However, you shouldn’t be too obsessed with belt progression. Instead, enjoy the experience.
BJJ takes a lot of time to master, between 10–15 years, and you can do little to achieve it in less time. Learning BJJ is not about the belts. It is about adopting the knowledge, growing both as a person and athlete, and letting the art improve your life.