What is a Stripe?

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there are symbols for progress between belts known as stripes.  You can earn up to 4 stripes before being promoted to a new belt.   Some types of Jiu Jitsu systems awards stripes on white belts, but the Relson Gracie system doesn't. I think it's kind of silly to have stripes on a white belt, but that's just me and what I am used to. Relson Gracie's system begins awarding stripes with a blue belt and not before.

I've been told that stripes are supposed to represent a certain amount of hours on the mats (100+ hours or something like that). However, I don't really think that's the only factor that determines when you earn a new stripe or belt.  I am not a black belt so I am not entirely sure what goes into making that decision to promote someone.  But I've been told it is based on progress and dedication as well as  attitude, contributions to your academy, helping teammates, self defense knowledge, being a good person, being respectful and tournament success.  Each school has a different criteria for earning a promotion. 

Some schools are more regimented than others and have specific areas of knowledge that must be gained prior to promotions.  Whereas other schools are a bit more easy going and they don't have a set formula to determine when a promotion is in order.  Each instructor is different too.

In the Gracie's system (Relson Gracie in my case) you receive four stripes before you are promoted to the next belt level from blue belt to brown.  Once you are  a black belt,  the rules get a little different.  A black belt can have up to 7 or 8 stripes before changing out to the highest of honors that one can achieve, the 9th degree.   Although there is a higher rank than a 9th degree, the 10th degree is permanently reserved to the pioneers of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Carlos, Oswaldo, George, Gastão and Hélio Gracie.

Recently a white belt asked me how long it took me to get my blue belt and how much I trained before I did.  The truth is there is no magical amount of time that it takes to advance in Jiu Jitsu.  Everyone learns differently and I believe promotions are not something to go chasing after.  The point is to learn, have fun and grow.  Just be the best you can on the mats and don't worry about what color or how many stripes your belt has.  It's what's on the inside that really counts. 


  1. Boy oh boy, promotions are funny business. I was ecstatic to receive my blue belt. I celebrated for weeks. I took my belt to the grocery store. I talked about it. The stripes that followed were small eruptions of success, and then...


    Wow, I thought. I know this sounds incredibly goofy, but, I kept thinking, this is REAL. Now I need to look like I know what I am doing. This is not a time to brag, not a time to take it to the grocery store, or be loud-mouthed. This is a time to get down to brass tacks and show Fabio I am actually worthy of this promotion. The excitement of being promoted to purple lasted all of 5 seconds. Ah sigh...

  2. Stripes do seem to vary a lot. At the Roger Gracie Academy, I'm relatively certain they are purely based on attendance, as the ones on my blue have come at fairly regular six month intervals.

    As other academies do things completely differently, I don't put any stock in the four stripes I've got: after all, plenty of no-stripe blues who can beat me up. ;)

    Hopefully I'll get to the stage where I can ignore the colour of my belt as well. Not quite there yet, but it's a goal.

    @Dagney: My first thought when I got my blue belt was "oh shit, already?" I could have happily waited. I'm hoping I feel a bit more excited when I get my purple (which should still be a long way off: nowhere near ready yet!)

  3. Time for stripes makes sense. After all these are all tools for the instructors to keep in mind who's done how much. If an instructor sees someone with 4 stripes, they (should) start paying closer attention to where that player is in their development curve.

    The way I see it, if two people attend the same number of sessions in the same time period and one of them is disproportionately better then it's the isntructor's professional responsibility to bring them up to even.

    The only difference should be time spent on the mat.

    (of course, if a gymnast/judoka walks into a BJJ academy with 10 years of training already under her belt, that's gonna make a difference!)


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