The Ultimate Guide to Rank Up Your BJJ Belt: Brown to Black

The Ultimate Guide to Rank Up Your BJJ Belt: Brown to Black

1. Introduction to Belt Rank System - Brown to Black

1.1. Brown Belt

The brown belt level is of significant importance in the world of jiu-jitsu. It is the highest colored belt and is seen as the only challenge between a BJJ practitioner and the highly-coveted black belt rank.

The brown belt level is well-respected as the journey up to this rank is no piece of cake. Promotion to the brown belt level requires at least five years of untiring efforts. Therefore, it is believed that all BJJ students/competitors who have sharp jiu-jitsu skills and have developed a command over their individual BJJ strategy can become a brown belt. This rank requires grueling training and years of fighting experience usually acquired through competitions.

Hence, the brown belt level signifies mastery and the possibility of becoming a black belt.

2. Brown Belt Expectations

The brown belt is considered an “almost-black-belt” status. Though brown belts are not as effortless in their movements and accomplished in their skills, the bar to test their skills is no less than the black belt's prowess. Hence a brown belt must meet the following expectations:

  • Deep knowledge of all BJJ principles, techniques, positions, and how to execute them.
  • An effective defense and escape strategy.
  • Ability to attempt successful submission techniques on less experienced fighters and students.
  • Ability to quickly devise an attacking game plan and execute it in a competitive environment.
  • Ability to understand and counter the opponent’s attacks and strategies.
  • Ability to train other students practicing at the lower belts.

3. IBJJF Requirements to Become a Brown Belt

Almost all brown belts are the participants of the IBJJF tournaments. Per the IBJJF rules, a BJJ practitioner must fulfill the following criteria to be worthy of a brown belt:

  • The jiu-jitsu practitioner must be at least 18 years old.
  • He/she must have practiced the combat art for a minimum of 18 months at the purple belt level.
  • Upon promotion, the student must remain a brown belt for at least one year.

4. Brown Belt Basic Essential Training Techniques

The brown belt level is the amalgamation of all the lower belts. Everything you learned at the colored belts comes together in the form of a brown belt level. The only difference is that you are quicker in your responses and have sharper skills.

The BJJ brown belt curriculum emphasizes the technical concepts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A brown belt is taught to combine different individual positions and techniques and develop a unique system that is difficult to comprehend and counter for the opponent. Another way to describe the brown belt level is that it is a “revision phase” in the lives of BJJ practitioners. They get to re-learn the already learned concepts in greater depth. Therefore, the switch from purple belt to the brown belt is not just a change of training agenda but a complete mindset shift.

Grappling & Body Movements The body movements of a brown belt should be effortless. Rigid movements and “hiccups” are not tolerated at the brown belt level.

Body Positions

Guard Positions At the brown belt level, it is important to understand the order and use of different guard positions. A brown belt should also be able to distinguish which submission technique works best with a particular guard position.
Closed Guard Brown belts are experts at attempting successfully closed guards, rendering their opponents immobile. They should also know how to apply an effective submission technique from a closed guard to defeat their opponents. Attacking from a closed guard should reflect a brown belt’s BJJ prowess and control.
Open Guard Brown belts already know how to adopt the open guard position. But they should also master other variations of the open guard and submission techniques that work best with them.
Half Guard All brown belts should follow the principles of the half guard position and must demonstrate an effective strategy built around this guard. 
Mount Position The mount is a powerful position and can leave the combatant in the bottom position completely immobilized. The brown belts must learn to dominate their rivals from the mount position.
Back Control The back control skill of a brown belt is well-developed to a point that it is considered lethal. A brown belt is capable of pairing different back attacks and can even apply strangleholds and chokes from this position.
Side Control For a brown belt securing a submission technique from the side control position should be effortless. The art requires striking the perfect weight distribution/pressure balance. With side control, a brown belt can also maintain control of the opponent.
Turtle A brown belt should be able to adopt different body positions to easily counter the turtle attacks. A brown belt also knows why his opponent is attempting a turtle and which directions he can adopt to fail the attempt.


Other than the basic submission techniques, a brown belt should master several advanced submission techniques such as:

Leg Lock A brown belt must know when and to what extent the leg locks are allowed in the Gi style jiu-jitsu tournaments. If applied correctly (especially from the mount position) a brown belt can base his whole game plan on this technique and also secure a win.
Kimura A lethal submission technique, it is a powerful weapon in every brown belt’s arsenal.
Inverted Armbar The inverted armbar is an extremely popular and effective technique, mostly used in the No-Gi style of jiu-jitsu. If you get yourself in a safe/controlling position, executing an inverted armbar should be easy and rewarding.
Bicep Slicer Bicep slicer is a ruthless submission technique and not entirely legal in the BJJ world. A brown belt should be aware of the legit use of this technique. Through proper practice and technique set-up knowledge, you can tap your opponent within seconds.
Omoplata Master this finishing shoulder lock for a foolproof submission strategy.


A brown belt should know how to sweep to pin the opponent to the ground and earn sweep points in competitions.


The brown belt level is all about calculating the right time to defend and attack. As a brown belt, you need to know how to escape the side control, mount, back, and turtle guard. Look for the “loopholes” in the opponent’s game and secure your submission.

4.1. Other Variations of Techniques & Positions

Attacks & Escapes Guard Positions & Passes Mount & Standing Positions Submissions & Escapes
X-Guard Attack Brabo Guard Gift Wrap Mount Kimura
Collar Guard Lasso Guard Monkey Mount Leglocks
Butterfly Attack Worm Guard Middle Mount Omoplata
Reverse Muscle Sweep Octopus Guard Lapel Takedown Bicep Slicer
Rat Guard Attack Pocket Guard Counter Takedown Calf Slicer
Turtle Attacks Deep Half Guard Low single Leg Takedown Armbar
Truck Lapel Guard Scissor Takedown Knee-bar & Toe-hold combined
Clock Chokes Lockdown Half Guard   Submission Counters
Turtle Bottom Escape Turtle Guard   Knee on belly Escape
Countering Guard Pulls Guard Pass   Bottom Hook Escapes
Back Attacks Submission Passing   Knee Side Escapes
Body Triangle Arm Trap Pass   Submission Chains
Twister Body Lock Pass   Side Control Bottom Escape
Knee on Neck Deep Half Pass   Submission from Side Control
Side Control Attack     Mount Bottom Escape

5. Brown Belt Test Requirements

To become a brown belt, five to eight years of training and a minimum of 750 classes are required. In addition to these, many other factors play a role in your belt promotion including your competence, behavior, dedication, regularity, and the inclination of your instructor.

Other than these requirements, a student must pass a brown belt test. Below is the list of skills that you must demonstrate to be a brown belt:

5.1. Submissions

  • Five submissions from the mount position.
  • Three submissions from the side-mount.
  • Five submissions from the guard.
  • Two submissions from the knee-in-the-belly position.
  • Two double attacks.

5.2. Self Defense

  • Two ways to defend the guillotine choke while standing.
  • Two ways to defend the guillotine choke on the ground.
  • Two ways to defend the headlock technique while standing.
  • Two ways to defend the headlock technique on the ground.

5.3. Throws & Takedowns

  • Four leg throws.
  • Two double legs.
  • Two single legs.
  • Six hip throws.

5.4. Passing the Guard

5.5. Half-Guard

  • Demonstrate three sweeps from Half-Guard.
  • Demonstrate three half-guard passes.

5.6. Sweeps from the Guard

  • Demonstrate four different ways to sweep your opponent.

5.7. Escapes

  • Three ways to escape the mount.
  • Three ways to escape the side-mount.
  • Three ways to escape the rear mount.
  • Three ways to escape the knee-on-belly.

6. Timeline to Promotion (Purple to Brown)

The brown belt level demands a certain amount of mastery and maturity.  For this reason, IBJJF requires you to train for at least five years. Some purple belts train for seven to eight years before they get promoted to the brown belt.

Hence, it can be safely said that promotion to the brown belt rank depends on the amount of training, skill, and inclination of the head coach.

7. Black Belt

The black belt is the highest rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It signifies expertise not only in the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu but also in technical skills and a life-long commitment to BJJ.

7.1. Black Belt Essential Training Expectations Techniques

Once you pass the test and become a brown belt, your training for the black belt begins.

7.2. Timeline to Promotion (Brown to Black)

It takes about three to five years for a brown belt to become a black belt. Most practitioners dedicate 10 to 15 years to BJJ to acquire the black belt status.

7.3. Tips to Rank Up from Brown to Black Belt

Becoming a black belt seems like a distant dream. But with dedication, it becomes an achievable goal. Here are some tips to set your trajectory towards the BJJ black belt.

Determine Your Why Power

You have spent more than five years practicing BJJ. By now you should know what is the purpose behind your goal of achieving the black belt. Purpose gives substance to a lifeless goal. Perhaps you want to open your own BJJ academy or compete at the black belt level to achieve the respect and love of the BJJ community. Whatever is your “why power,” once it's set you will definitely achieve the black belt.

Time Yourself Realistically

Once you have determined the purpose, give yourself a realistic and achievable deadline by which you must accomplish your goal. A brown belt can achieve the black belt level with three to five years of intense training. Give yourself the same amount of time and see if you too can become a black belt.

Be Consistent

Don’t burden yourself with overly-ambitious training goals. Make a plan and stick to it. It is better to take it slow rather than hastening and then abandoning the training. It is true that the black belt level demands maturity but enjoying the process is equally important.

Seek out Other Black Belts

Observing and collaborating with other black belts in your BJJ training institute can help you hone your skills further. Your practice partners can help add a new perspective to your BJJ game strategy.

Train More

If practicing at the gym is not enough for you to make the progress you desire, either put in extra hours or start practicing at home. Whatever you learn in class, don't wait for the next day to practice it. Practice it in the evening at home or at the gym after class hours.


The best way to sharpen your skills is to compete in real-life settings with equally accomplished fighters. Competitions are the best teachers and they will help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses. You can work on your weak points and see what works and doesn’t work for you.

Keep Going

Remember, black belts are champions and a champion never gives up. It might take you longer to achieve the black belt status compared to your fellow grapplers. But don’t let that dishearten you. Have faith in your abilities and you will eventually get to that level. As they say, you only lose when you give up!

8. Takeaways

The brown belt rank is a remarkable achievement, as once you reach this point you are ready for the black belt. If you have mastered all the essential training requirements and have developed a deep understanding of the philosophy of jiu-jitsu, then nothing can stop you from becoming a black belt. Keep training hard to convince your coach that you are indeed ready for the next big promotion.

Photo credit: @atosjiujitsuhq

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