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Last week, I started to go to a new BJJ academy after a while without any training. When we started rolling, I asked to the guy that was rolling against me for how much time he was training. Since he is a white-belt with no stripes, I was expecting an answer like 3, 6 or 9 months.

So, the guy answered 3 years!

I was a bit surprised with this answer! Then I asked why he was training for so much time as a white belt and he answered that he is training to compete in tournaments.

I think this is a bit unfair.

Obviously it is going to be much easier for a guy that has the knowledge of a blue belt to win against a real white belt.

I always read about the minimum time to stay training in a belt, but what about the maximum time? Is there a maximum time one can be training in a belt?

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No, there is no maximum or minimum time limit.

There are several organizations that claim to be the governing body of BJJ, but none of them are official. (One overbearing organization, the IBJJF, actually tries to force people to pay them for belt registration!) There are countless tournaments and pro invitationals with different rule sets (legal submissions, points, round time, etc.) Many have their own belt time and age requirements, but few of these "official requirements" are actually respected by BJJ or MMA gyms. The decision to promote someone is 100% up to the coach, regardless of time. One of my favorite examples of this is when BJ Penn was promoted from white belt to black belt in 3 years. The IBJJF threw a huge fit because it didn't fit their criteria. BJ Penn went on to win a world championship.

Someone that claims they are purposely staying at white belt is likely making excuses for their lack of training. Their coach probably just doesn't think they're ready to be promoted. I would immediately question his "training to do tournaments" reason. White belts can start competing almost immediately. Since YOU PAY to enter the tournament, and don't win any money at white belt, there is no incentive to "sandbag" at white belt. Not to mention the fact that crushing people at a white belt tournament makes everyone roll their eyes. You pretty much get to do that once, and your coach needs to make a decision about promoting you. Every BJJ coach I know would be embarrassed to have one of their white belts continue to win gold medals for an extended period of time.

In the case you're talking about, 3 years isn't at all uncommon. 2 years is a normal time from white to blue when you're training about 3-4 days per week.

  • Thanks for the answer! I agree that is a shame to keep winning gold medals as a white belt for a long time. But, unfortunately, some people prefer to win this way rather than evolve as a fighter. – El M Nov 20 '18 at 11:37
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    @ElMynx Fortunately that doesn't really happen much. Anyone that trains enough to crush white belt tournaments probably craves a challenge. And anyone sticking around too long and beating up white belts would start to get noticed by other coaches, and banned from tournaments. Many tournaments even have a "you can only win one gold at white belt" rule. Some tournaments give you two. – coinbird Nov 20 '18 at 15:19
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We train Royce Gracie style BJJ (non-competitive, self-defense oriented, with a mix of MMA), and out of respect to him the organization heads decided to only hold promotions when he comes to the country to hold a training seminar once a year. The flip side is, if you don't go (and it is expensive and a couple hours' drive away), you don't get promoted.

We have plenty of 2, 3, or even 4 year white belts because of this. It's a decision I personally disagree with, and I think eventually the organizers will have to move to promoting at different points, but it does take the focus off of belts and stripes and means that people are really evaluated on their skill and experience alone.

So at least in our organization, the answer is there is no time limit at all.

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    Thanks for your answer, @BIU! And I totally disagree with this promotion rule too. But, at least it is a non-competitive approach. Probably we will never find a guy training for personal-defense in a championship. But, 4 years as a white belt can be very frustrating, specially if you miss the seminars for some reason. – El M Nov 26 '18 at 15:52
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According to the US Grappling rules, the only time "time in belt" counts is in No-Gi competitions.

Adult and 30+ No Gi Skill Levels Skill levels are determined by time spent training in any comparable grappling art. Any wrestler with extensive experience (3 or more years in high school, or any collegiate experience) must enter at least intermediate no-gi. Judo, Sambo, and MMA experience count the same as BJJ.

Adult Divisions (Men and Women)
Novice: Up to 9 months (white belts only).
Beginner: Up to 2 years (white belts only).
Intermediate: 2 – 5 years, or blue belt.
Advanced: Over 5 years, or purple belt and above.

30+ Men
Beginner: Up to 2 years (white belts only).
Intermediate: 2 – 5 years, or blue belt.
Advanced: Over 5 years, or purple belt and above.

Juvenile (ages 4-17) Weight Classes
Brackets for competitors aged 4-17 are made using the Madison Bracketing System. There are no preset weight classes for children and teens. At the end of weigh ins, the children and teens will be sorted by weight. Brackets will then be made by grouping them into sets of 4 or 8 (depending on turnout). Juveniles will be divided by weight, experience, and age (whenever possible). Using the Madison system means children and teens will no longer cut weight since they won’t know the weight classes in advance.

Juvenile (ages 4-17) Skill Levels
Beginners: Up to one year of training any grappling art.
Intermediate: Up to three years of training any grappling art.
Advanced: Over three years training any grappling art.

Any Juvenile that has been awarded a blue belt (adult level) must compete in the Juvenile Advanced skill level, regardless of time training. Juvenile blue belts can also compete in the adult blue belt and adult intermediate or advanced no gi divisions.

Juvenile division skill levels are commonly combined. US Grappling manually creates juvenile divisions, and sorts competitors by age and weight, and then by skill to ensure that matches are safe for all competitors.

That said, the techniques that can be used are limited by belt. For example, for BJJ Gi competition:

  1. The only submission below the waist that is legal for white, blue, and purple belts are straight ankle locks (AKA straight footlock).
  2. Kneebars, figure-four toeholds, and compression locks (AKA “slicers”, “crushers”) are legal in brown and black belt divisions only.
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    These are the rules for a small organization called "US Grappling." They are not the governing body of BJJ, as one does not exist. – coinbird Nov 19 '18 at 21:59

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