It’s one of the oldest questions and one that gets repeated almost endlessly by new practitioners of the sport, but how long does it really take to get a black belt in BJJ? Of course, there’s no real set timeframe for anyone to achieve the highest belt level of the sport and some incredible prodigies have even managed it in as little as three or four years. Olympic boxer Claressa Shields recently claimed that she was aiming to achieve her final belt promotion in two years, although we’ve already explained why that’s simply not going to be possible.
One of the most common answers people will get is that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything, but a black belt isn’t necessarily someone who’s mastered BJJ really, as many will tell you that the learning never ends. Some people will say that achieving a black belt takes around a decade of training, but how accurate is that figure? Does it apply to hobbyists and competitors in equal measure, or is it more applicable to one than the other? Of course, competitors can achieve a level of performance good enough to defeat black belts in a relatively short space of time, as seen by the 14 year-old green belt who ran through three separate black belts in one tournament.
But we know that performance and belt level don’t always correlate, as competitors might be coming into BJJ with a high-quality Judo or Wrestling background, or they might focus much more on grappling for MMA instead. As an example, Robert Whittaker managed to reach the level of UFC World Champion before he was ever awarded with his BJJ black belt. Alongside this, the average person will suffer injuries at some point in their career, or maybe life will just get in the way for some time, but how long will that force them out of action, and how will it effect their journey to black belt in the long run?
Thankfully, we finally have a good answer to the question, and one that’s based on actual verifiable statistics. A little over a year after it’s initial release, BJJ Beltchecker now has 17,046 registered users (at the time of writing) and almost 10,000 of them have achieved at least one belt promotion. Not just that, but 2,102 of these users have achieved the rank of black belt in BJJ, and have earned a variety of degrees after that , all the way up to seventh degree. This includes some incredibly popular figures in the sport like BJJ Globetrotters founder Christian Graugart, Grappler’s Guide owner Justin Scully, Chris Haueter, Thiago Borges, Roy Dean, and Priit Mihkelson.
Beltchecker automatically collates all of the information provided by every verified user in order to provide an average length of time spent at each belt level. According to their statistics, the average length of time taken to achieve a black belt is 12 years and 4 days. Interestingly though, the longest time at any belt is actually at blue belt, where the average is 3 years, 3 months, and 4 days. It’s worth noting that this includes hobbyists and competitors, but also includes some outliers that have spent a decade or more at a certain belt level. With that factor in mind, it seems as though the 10 year answer to how long it takes to get to black belt is actually pretty accurate.