The BJJ Stripe System Explained

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BJJ Stripes: An Introduction

What are BJJ Stripes?

a young BJJ athlete

As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner with several years of experience, I am familiar with the BJJ stripe system. BJJ belt stripes are a system of recognition used by instructors to identify skill level and reward students for their hard work and dedication to the art. When a student is awarded a stripe, it indicates that they have mastered specific skills or techniques and are now ready to move on to the next level.

What is The Purpose of Belt Stripes In BJJ?

Belt stripes in BJJ serve as a visual representation of progress, like a badge of honor on a practitioner’s belt. These thin, colored tapes are added to a practitioner’s belt to signify their advancement within their current belt rank. The purpose of belt stripes is to provide a tangible way for both the practitioner and their instructors to track their progress and acknowledge their dedication and skill level. 

Although the significance of each individual stripe varies from academy to academy, uniformly stripes not only serve as a source of motivation and recognition for the practitioner but also help create a sense of hierarchy and structure within the BJJ community.

The Stripe System Explained

a blue belt instructor teaching young students

How are belt stripes earned?

Mastering the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires dedication, and earning those coveted belt stripes is a testament to your progress and growth. In order to earn belt stripes, practitioners must demonstrate proficiency in certain areas of the art. Each instructor may have their own specific criteria for awarding stripes, but common requirements include technical knowledge, skill execution, and understanding of fundamental concepts. 

Typically, practitioners will have to showcase proficiency in a variety of techniques, such as submissions, escapes, and sweeps during live training. Additionally, practitioners are expected to be good stewards of their academy, and a good, reliable training partner. If your attitude towards training is all about yourself, expect to progress much more slowly.

The Benefits of the Stripe System

In my experience, the BJJ stripe system has provided numerous benefits to both students and instructors. On the student side, the stripes serve as an incentive to progress their training and motivate new commers to work hard and hone their skills. On the instructor side, the stripes provide an effective way to track progress as well as create a sense of community among the cadre. Some critics may say that they are an unnecessary distraction, but in my option anything we can do as a community to motivate each other to continue training is a positive, especially at the beginner level. 

History of BJJ Stripes

The Origins

a bjj black belt talkin gto students

The exact origin of the stripe system is unclear. Legend has it that at the original Gracie Academy, three belts were worn. White to signify a student, Blue to signify an instructor, and Black to identify the Professor or lead instructor. Some say that in the United States, young Jiu Jitsu academies mimicked the more well established dojos that taught Judo, Karate and other traditional martial arts. This is a practice the American consumer was accustomed to, and was easily adopted by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools. Supposedly, it “legitimized” the martial art in the eyes of novices, and motivated new students to achieve the coveted “Black Belt”.


The stripe system has been adopted by most, if not all BJJ schools and it has become an important part of the BJJ culture. In my experience, stripes serve as a symbol of a practitioner’s dedication and progress. To many they are a source of pride, especially at the lower levels.  Some academies have specific curriculum requirements for each stripe at each belt. Other schools require that only a certain number of classes be attended, and others just kind of go by “feel”. Other gyms combine these three standards, allowing the instructors and upper belts to decide when younger students are ready. Each of these systems has its pros and cons. It is my hope that we as a community can continue to reinforce the highest standards for progression.

Frequently Asked Questons

How Many Stripes are on each belt?

The number of stripes on a belt varies from academy to academy, but typically up to 4 stripes can be awarded.

What is the The Meaning of Each Stripe?

The meaning of each stripe also varies.. However, we can use the stripes on a white belt to get a good idea of how stripes are awarded. 

Generally speaking, the first stripe is awarded when a student demonstrates proficiency in a few basic techniques. Hipping out, replacing guard, standing up in base, break falls etc..  

The second stripe is often awarded when a student has mastered the execution of a few basic techniques under limited resistance for each major position. For example, how to escape the mount, attack and pass the closed guard, or attack and escape the back. 

The third stripe is usually awarded to students who have demonstrated a proficiency in a wide range of techniques and have begun to naturally string together techniques into coherent attacks and defenses. 

The fourth stripe is typically awarded to students who have demonstrated a strong understanding of the fundamentals of BJJ and have shown a commitment to their training. They are able to competently attack and defend themselves in every major position, and can effectively transition in between important positions.

How Long Does It Take to earn each stripe?

The amount of time it takes to achieve a stripe will depend on the practitioner’s skill level and the instructor’s expectations. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years to achieve a stripe. At lower belts, the stripes come quickly. If the student has been attending class frequently, the first stripe may come after only a few weeks. However at higher belts, awards are much more sparse. 

Can you earn multiple belt stripes at once?

No, you cannot earn multiple belt stripes at once in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Each stripe must be earned individually, based on the instructor’s assessment of your progress and skill level.

Is it possible to skip belt stripes and advance directly to the next belt rank?

Yes. Albeit rare, students can be awarded belt promotions without the prerequisite stripes if they have shown exemplary performance on the competition stage, clearly outshining their opponents. 

The Martial Source



In this article, we discussed the concept of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu  stripe system and how it is used to track student progress and measure mastery of the martial art. We explored the history of the stripe system, its purpose, and the criteria for earning different stripes. Additionally, we explored the benefits of the stripe system, such as developing a sense of accomplishment and creating a sense of community.

Final Thoughts

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stripe system is a unique way of tracking progress and measuring mastery of the martial art. From providing a sense of accomplishment to fostering a sense of community, the stripe system can be an incredibly valuable tool to have in your BJJ journey. 

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