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.