Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is many things, but easy to master is not one of them.
Students new to Gracie Botany, our BJJ academy in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, are quick to wonder how quickly they can expect to go from novice to black belt. The answer is complicated, and not because it’s a hard question to answer.
Those who train regularly typically earn their black belt in between 10 and 15 years. Talent, dedication and training frequency are all factors that determine how rapidly the achievement is hit. But in almost all cases, it takes a long time.
But that question, though understandable, isn’t the right one to be asking. We don’t train martial arts to get a black belt, we train to learn self defence skikks, to hone our body and, above all, to have fun.
It doesn’t take a decade to achieve those things. If you’re new to martial arts and are wondering what the process of mastery looks like, this guide is for you.
But first, what is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
BJJ is a grappling martial art that takes place mostly on the ground. It’s not at all like Karate and Kung Fu, disciplines you often see referenced in movies, since it teaches no strikes. And it’s different from Judo and Wrestling because it focuses specifically on ground-based grappling, rather than stand-up grappling.
The central tenet of Jiu-Jitsu is that it should allow you to defend yourself against someone bigger than you. In other words, size and strength are not necessary to become a BJJ master.
How easy is it to learn BJJ?
As noted, it typically takes up to 15 for a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to earn their black belt. Compare that to martial arts like Taekwondo and Karate, where black belts are earned after 3-5 years. As those timelines suggest, BJJ is a particularly complex martial art.
But remember the old adage that it’s more about the journey than the destination. Jiu-Jitsu is a journey of multiple stages. You don’t just become an expert one day: your confidence and competence on the mats will increase gradually over a period of years. You don’t have to be a master to be able to protect yourself on the streets.
The first months and years of Jiu-Jitsu are spent familiarizing yourself with BJJ’s common positions (guard, mount, side control, back control) and their variations. You’ll learn to work these positions from both an offensive and defensive perspective.
When you first arrive to class, you’re likely to be confused at the sight of people rolling. You’ll see class mates grappling on the ground, unable to say confidently who’s winning and who’s losing – or who’s doing what to who. Slowly but surely, it all begins to make sense. You’re eventually able to make order out of the chaos.
By the time you earn your blue belt, you’ll have a good sense of how Jiu-Jitsu works – then it becomes all about experimenting and fine tuning.
What are the BJJ belts?
If you’re an adult, you’ll start as a white belt. From there, you’ll progress to blue, purple, brown and finally black. How long it takes to progress to the next belt depends on the person. If you train regularly though, expect to spend between 1.5 and 3 years on each belt.
An important lesson that every martial arts practitioner has to learn, however, is that it’s not the belt that matters. Belts are meant to be a representation of the skills you’ve learned and developed. Focus on developing skills – working on your guard, drilling escapes and practitcing submissions – rather than what belt is next. That way you’ll develop quicker and, ironically, earn your next promotion more swiftly.
Which brings us back to the original question: How long does it take to master BJJ? It takes over a decade, though many black belts will tell you that you really can’t master Jiu-Jitsu, since there’s always something to learn. But the proper question is how long does it take to learn self-defence skills that you can apply on and off the mats? That can be done in a timespan of months rather than years – and it’s a journey you can begin today.
Interested in learning BJJ? Come into Gracie Botany, a martial arts academy in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, for a free trial class.