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The first formal acknowledgement of our progress in BJJ is the stripe. A stripe on your belt lets your teammates know you’ve made it through the initial challenges of training, you are aware of most of the basic techniques of BJJ, and you’re on your way to continued improvement in the art. But what do the stripes actually mean?

BJJ White Belt Stripes Meaning

The simplest definition of a stripe on a white belt is: an acknowledgement that you’ve made it about 20% of the way to blue belt. If you have 2 stripes, you’ve made it about 40% of the way there. 3 stripes: 60%, and if you’ve got 4 stripes, you’ve made it about 80% of the way there.

How Many Stripes are in a White Belt?

There are a maximum of 4 stripes on a white belt. Some instructors are more diligent than others at giving out stripes, so it’s not unusual to see a 3, 2, 1, or no stripe White Belt get promoted to Blue Belt. That said, there are a maximum of 4 stripes given to White Belts before their promotion to Blue Belt.

How Long to get White Belt Stripes in BJJ?

It usually takes 6 months to 2 years of consistent training to become a Blue Belt in BJJ. Since a stripe represents about 20% of the way to blue belt, it takes anywhere from 5 weeks to 5 months of regular training to earn your first stripe. If you have a strong background in wrestling or Judo, it will probably take you closer to 5 weeks. If you’ve never participated in an athletic activity before, it will probably take you closer to 5 months. If you don’t train consistently, it’s likely to take much longer than 5 months.

How Many BJJ Classes for First Stripe?

A common questions new students ask is how many classes they need to take to earn stripes or belts. This question assumes that merely showing up to class is the only thing needed to earn a stripe. Stripes measure ability, not attendance. While showing up to class regularly is necessary (if not the most important thing) to get a stripe, actually being able to perform the techniques against resisting opponents is what earns you a stripes.

White Belt with Black Stripe

Occasionally, you’ll see a white belt with black stripes rather than white stripes. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu white belts come with a black tip. White stripes are placed on the black tip and are easily visible. However, some students have white belts that don’t have the black tip — usually these belts are from other martial arts they’ve done. In this case you can’t see the white stripes against the white belt, so many instructors use black tape on these white belts. On adult belts, the color of the stripes have no meaning, they’re just a function of aesthetics / visibility.

Stripes vs Degrees

In BJJ, degrees are only awarded to black belts and above. Each degree takes 3 to 10 years of training as a black belt to receive. Stripes are awarded to white, blue, purple, and brown belts and can be achieved in months. Even though it sounds cool, there’s no such things as a 3rd degree purple belt or a 2nd degree brown belt. It’s a purple belt with 3 stripes and a brown belt with 2 stripes.

Some advice on stripes

Receiving a new stripe or belt is validating. It’s an external acknowledgement by your instructor, your teammates, and the larger Jiu-Jitsu community of your skills and abilities. It’s also the least important thing to focus on when trying to get good at Jiu-Jitsu. If you want to improve quickly, focus on fixing your mistakes, adding techniques, sparring with tougher opponents, and making friends at your gym. If you do that, you’ll be more likely to come to class regularly and stick with your BJJ training. In doing so, you’ll improve much more quickly than you would by constantly worrying about what the 2 inches of fabric around your waist looks like.

A huge thank you to the readers of Washington City Paper for voting Groundworks BJJ as the best martial arts classes in the DC!

Many academies, Groundworks included, have rules that set behavioral standards. While rules are helpful because they create clarity on what behaviors are expected and acceptable, they tend to focus on what to do and not do. In addition to a few rules, Groundworks has a set of principles that define our gym’s culture. Rather than telling students what to DO or not DO, our principles provide our students and instructors with a north star that guides them on how to BE in various situations they’ll find themselves in. It’s up to each student to interpret the principles and how to apply them in their training and in their lives.

Clean - We respect our training partners by showing up to practice with our body and gear washed and smelling good. We prevent skin infections by not letting anything that touches the floor touch the mat and by sanitizing the mat after every training session.

Tough - Jiu-Jitsu is a fighting art and in order to excel at it you must have hard sparring rounds where you are pushed slightly beyond the limits of what you thought you could handle. Doing so builds physical, mental, and emotional toughness.

Gentle - Learning happens more effectively when we feel respected and cared about. We look out for one another’s well being, give one another the benefit of the doubt and assume ignorance over maliciousness when there’s ambiguity in someone's actions.

Responsible - There is a hierarchy in Jiu-Jitsu based on ability, knowledge, and belt rank. The higher we are in the hierarchy, the more responsibility we have to help newer students and champion Groundwork’s culture.

Technical - We strive to use leverage and position over our physical attributes: weight, strength, and speed. In tough, competitive sparring it’s necessary to use our physical attributes, but when not engaged in competitive rounds, we focus on using our technique. This has the added benefit of allowing athletes with very different physical attributes to train with and learn from each other.

Safe - We respect the tap. When training with a less knowledgeable opponent, we let them know when they’re in danger and don’t recognize it. When training with a smaller or weaker opponent we moderate our use of weight and strength. When socializing off the mat, we avoid words and actions that might cause a teammate to be uncomfortable coming to class.

Growth Oriented - Jiu-Jitsu is a skill that can be learned and improved over the course of our lifetimes. We improve a little bit each training session and strive to always be a little better than we were the previous day, week, month, year.

Competitive - We regularly have tough, competitive sparring rounds with our similarly skilled teammates. We improve our confidence in our Jiu-Jitsu by competing in tournaments outside of the academy.

Inquisitive - We ask questions of ourselves, our teammates, and our coaches. We experiment and try new techniques and training methods. We actively seek out the gaps in our knowledge and ability and look for answers on how to close them.

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