Rank & Promotions

Rank & Promotions


Understanding Rankings

Here at Refuge BJJ, we follow the IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) guidelines for ranking. The IBJJF rules have minimum age requirements for their ranks and also minimum 'time spent' requirements for competitors (only at the juvenile and adult levels). This system helps keep BJJ from having 10-year-old black belts walking around the streets. 🚶

Per IBJJF rules, students age is determined by birth year (current year - birth year = age). We like to say that everyone's BJJ birthday is January 1st. 🎂

Each practitioner begins at white belt. Children (under age 16) follow a different color sequence from juvenile and adults (ages 16+). A full rule book on the graduation system is available here.

Beyond the age and time spent requirements, HOW a student moves through the ranks is at the discretion of their professor. Keep reading to find out how Refuge BJJ evaluates our students 👇


Each belt can earn four stripes (all stripes are white color regardless of rank of the belt). A professor may choose to promote you without receiving all or any stripes. Stripes are intended to show progress at your current rank. Curious how you are progressing? Feel free to ask your coach what YOU can be working on to advance to the next level. (HINT: the answer will be different for each person!)


After showing proficiency at your current rank, your professor will promote you to the next belt! For kids, sometimes belts are skipped if a student has shown great proficiency and skill level in a short matter of time. For adults, IBJJF rules require spending time at each rank prior to a promotion.

Key Evaluation Criteria

- Technical Skills -

This is the ability of a student to replicate and understand the techniques they have seen in class. Coaches are evaluating retention and knowing the 'WHY' we move the way we do. This should be exemplified in their drilling and rolling.

- Attitude -

Jiu-jitsu is more than just technique. It is about discipline, commitment, and leadership. Are you focused? Are you respectful to your coaches and teammates? Do you give 100% in training? One of our favorite things to see is when new students make the transition into experience students and begin to become teachers themselves- helping out team mates in class, ability to train with someone at a lower level by meeting them where they are at, and showing kindness to those who are struggling.


Coach Kanani's 1st stripe in 2011
Coach Kanani's 1st stripe in 2011

- Consistency -

An average student will spend between 125 to 175 classes at each rank before showing proficiency in their belt level. For a student that trains consistently 3-4 days a week, it would take about a year to accomplish completion of their classes. Based on athletic ability or prior experience, a student may progress faster or slower than the attendance guideline.

- YOU- 

You. What a weird category right? But your coaches are evaluating your personal abilities. Natural athleticism, the personal challenges you have (or haven't) overcome, goals that you have shared with coaches. Do you plan to be an IBJJF World Champion, the future head of a Youth BJJ program, a future gym owner and head instructor or proficient and confident in your self-defense skills? Your journey is unique and your evaluation will be unique. 🦄



Ask Your Teammates

Peter, Gavin, George, & Cesar were each recently promoted.  If you want more insight on the promotion process, ask them about their jiu-jitsu journeys and hear firsthand how much work and effort they have put in on the mats!






George & Cesar

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