What Are the Yellow and Green Belts In BJJ?

What Are the Yellow and Green Belts In BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has managed to hold on to its traditional values and conventional training methods over the decades. A highly important aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the traditional uniform that now enjoys a mandatory status, thanks to the comprehensive IBJJF rule book. According to the BJJ uniform regulations set by the IBJJF, all practitioners regardless of their age, gender, experience, and proficiency are required to wear a Gi and a belt. For belts, IBJJF has also established a comprehensive belt ranking system for both adults and kids. Each higher belt level requires a certain degree of dedication, skill set, and years of training. 

Achieving a belt in martial arts and then progressing towards higher levels is always a motivation factor for practitioners. As it is said, “The one who feels motivated, always does more than what is expected”. Everybody knows the White, Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black belt levels. Have you ever seen BJJ fighters with green and yellow belts and wondered what these belts denote? We are going to discuss the differences between Gi and No-Gi belt awarding and wearing mechanisms and rules with their historical perspective in focus.

1. Historical Start of Belt and Stripe Mechanism

The creator of Judo Kano Jigoro was the first person to introduce the belt and uniform system in Judo. Kano Jigoro also derived the use of straps in Judo in 1914. Japanese martial artist and BJJ pioneer Mitsuyo Maeda was a student of Kano Jigoro. His journey played a crucial role in the creation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Mikonosuke is also credited with the addition of Judo-colored belts around 1935. The Jiu-Jitsu Federation of Guanabara established the first Jiu-Jitsu official belt ranking system. As time progressed, IBJJF and the Sport Jiu-Jitsu International Federation both adopted this rule.

Some think the belt ranking is the demonstration and acknowledgment of physical skills. Others believe that it is indicative of the traditional Jiu-Jitsu rules.

Both views share one thing: It will take time to achieve mastery in sparring, rolling, and fluid execution of BJJ techniques. In recent years, these governing bodies have added more colors to the belt system with more features to recognize progress.

A stripe indicates a higher proficiency level within a belt level. That often happens after the acknowledgment of the mentor. As a benchmark in the student's growth, it is customary to receive four vertical stripes of white on the black edge, but this rule is not obligatory for the academies. A blue belt with four stripes expresses a higher level than the two-stripe blue belt. However, the use of stripes varies according to the preferences of academies. Some academies don’t award any stripes.

2. The Competition Belt Allows Referees to Score Matches

The concept is used in BJJ competitions. One competitor will often be given a yellow/green striped belt, while the other will still wear their regular belt. This means that one competitor will be given two stripes, and the other will only wear one. The score-checkers will find out which belt matches which competitor before the game. Because the Gi covers most body parts a sweatband is not an option and it may not be easily visible. 

The use of a yellow and green belt in competitions becomes more essential when two athletes are wearing the same color Gi. The first BJJ athlete that gets summoned gets a green and yellow belt. The referee then puts on a matching green and yellow wristband on the right wrist. Whenever the athlete wearing a yellow and green belt scores a point, the referee uses the right hand to score for that athlete. If the athletes are wearing different colors Gis then it becomes slightly more confusing; however, one of the athletes will always map to the referee’s right hand depending on the color of the Gi. For example, by a rule in the IBJJF competitions, an athlete wearing a blue Gi is always on the referee’s right-hand side, while an athlete wearing a white Gi is on the referee’s left-hand side.

When an athlete is wearing a black Gi, he can be on either side of the mat or referee, depending on his opponent’s Gi color. In the system where athletes’ GI colors determine their positions on the mat is not entirely infallible. Therefore, to establish a more reliable system, it is preferred that one athlete at random always wear a green and yellow belt.  

3. Are Green and Yellow Belts Also Used in No-Gi BJJ Competitions?

Are Green and Yellow Belts Also Used in No-Gi BJJ Competitions?
Photo Credit: John Danaher - Facebook

When it comes to distinguishing different athletes on the mats in competitions and keeping track of their score points, many people also wonder whether the same system of green and yellow belts is followed in No-Gi BJJ competitions as well. A quick answer to that question is no.

In No-Gi BJJ, athletes do not wear any kind of belt, even if the purpose of the belt is not to reflect a fighter’s expertise, skill level, and rank. To ensure that the referee does not mix the scores of the two No-Gi athletes, lime green or green and yellow colored ankle bands are used in No-Gi. Only one of the athletes wears an ankle band that matches the color of the referee’s wristband. When the athlete wearing the special ankle band scores points, the referee raises the hand with the matching wristband to indicate that the athlete has scored. If the referee gives points with the other hand, it means the other person scored, which makes it easier for the scorekeeper to keep track. 

4. Meaning Of Yellow and Green Belts In BJJ

The green and the yellow belt are not official ranks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Instead, they are used to differentiate among competitors at tournaments.

Green belts will donate excellent competitors of the tournaments. Because sometimes they volunteer to coach for teaching the children's classes, green belts also indicate the progression within a belt color. Sometimes, students of this rank will be already in training for adult classes.

In most martial arts, the yellow belt is the second level, while in jiu-jitsu it is given to intermediate practitioners between the ages of 7-15. A green belt has a high level of technical ability, they can be promoted to an adult blue belt by turning 16.

Although they might not be as physically strong as adults. The belt is only used if two competitors wear the same colored Gi. In No-Gi competitions, it is not uncommon to see players wearing colored bands around their ankles. This is because the points are awarded to the correct person.

5. Why The Green and Yellow Belt aren't Always Worn

The IBJJF uses green and yellow competition belts in its official competitions. Smaller regional competitions tend to have a more casual tone.

6. Advantages And Disadvantages of Belts

Advantages And Disadvantages of Belts
Photo Credit: Choke Sports

Although wearing the green or yellow belt can have advantages and disadvantages, it is an IBJJF condition. It must be worn at tournaments with high-profile players like the World Championships and Brazilian Nationals.

6.1. Pros

An opponent will find it difficult to open your lapel if the second belt is worn over the other strap. The belt gives the wearer an advantage because it makes it much harder to execute their techniques involving grabbing onto the Gis.

6.2. Cons

Wearing the competition belt comes with significant disadvantages. While wearing two belts can prove to be exhausting during heated competitions on the mats, they can also serve as an additional handle for your opponent. A belt grip is preferred for guard players to sweep their opponents. Two belts can make it easier for your opponent to execute sweeps.

7. All Contestants Use the Green & Yellow Belts

The problem is that smaller competitions might not use the green or yellow belt. But higher-level competitions make it a prerequisite to wear colored belts. Referees cannot afford to get confused or give points to the wrong competitor. The distinction between the green and yellow belts is crucial. 

8. Alternatives To The Competition Belts

The competition belt can be removed. There must be a solution to every problem but rules cannot be altered or tampered with. The belt was created to help avoid making mistakes, so it shouldn't be a problem. This could be solved by placing one of your competitors in the green or yellow belt and giving them the option to remove the central belt.


BJJ practitioners always wear the Gi and Belt proudly. This may be considered disrespectful towards the art if they take it off. However, practical implications aside, most people would agree with this rule. Competitors would likely prefer practicality to tradition when competing for just a few minutes. That is especially true if flexibility in rules allows them to perform well and removes any potential disadvantages.

9. Do Kids Have to Wear the Yellow & Green Belt

Kids are not often required to wear referees' belts, especially young ones. Because they are less experienced with complex movements. The yellow and green belts are often worn by kids aged ten and beyond. However, kids’ yellow and green belts are different. According to the IBJJF kids’ belt system, there are separate yellow and green belts; however, belts with yellow and green stripes do not exist in kids’ BJJ.

9.1. BJJ Kids’ Yellow Belts

BJJ Kids’ Yellow Belts

There are three different ranks at the yellow belt level: 

  • Yellow-White
  • Solid Yellow
  • Yellow-Black 


To earn the first belt at the yellow belt level, kids have to train consistently for at least three years and acquire different grappling skills. By the time children reach the yellow-white belt level, they become capable of combining different positions and techniques to curate a self-defense strategy. At the yellow belt level, kids focus on learning the flow between different positions and movements, they focus on transitioning from one maneuver to the next seamlessly. They also become capable of anticipating their partner or opponent’s moves and can think of their counterattack strategies ahead of time. With the approval of their instructors, yellow belts are also allowed to observe athletes training in advanced classes and learn skills that might not originally be taught at the yellow belt level. 

9.2. BJJ Kids’ Green Belts

BJJ Kids’ Green Belts

Much like the yellow belt level, the IBJJF-approved kids’ green belt level also comprises of three different belts: 

  • Green-White
  • Solid Green 
  • Green-Black 


The kids’ green belt level or group is the final rank for kids, and after reaching the green-and-black level, kids can focus on transitioning to the adults’ BJJ belt system, which is also approved by the IBJJF. Green belt is the highest rank that a kid can achieve after years of training in BJJ. Green belts have immense knowledge about the principles and applications of different fundamental positions and submission techniques. At this level, some kids also start drilling advanced techniques that are taught at the blue or purple level; however, these teachings depend solely on the instructor’s discretion. Additionally, kids who acquire green belts also participate actively in different tournaments. After entering the adult BJJ belt system, the main priority of the green belts is to sharpen their grappling skills, improve their game, and secure victories and medals in the IBJJF juvenile and adult tournaments. 


Just like a black belt in the adult belt system, the green belt takes at least 10 years of consistent training. Therefore, only those children who start training jiu-jitsu at a very young age manage to reach the green belt level. Once kids turn 16, they automatically get transferred to the adult belt system, where they may start training directly at the blue belt level, depending on their skills, existing belt rank, and the instructor’s recommendation. 

10. Should They Revoke the Green & Yellow Belt Rule?

Some argue that the belt can be more detrimental to the practitioner. However, if the opponent can use it to win the match, that could be considered unfair. Others argue that if the belt was not worn, it could make it more difficult for the referees to adjudicate competitions and lead to confusion or wrong decisions.


The problem is that many people would argue that taking down your belt rank is disrespectful to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tradition.


An extra belt is not bad. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu martial art is highly focused on respect, and all practitioners should protect and respect the traditions.

11. Are There Green and Yellow Belts in the Adult BJJ Belt System

In the official IBJJF adult belt system, there are no yellow, orange, or green belts. It has been observed that most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners quit training at the white belt level after practicing for less than a year. To ensure the retention of students in BJJ gyms and academies and to motivate them, some BJJ academies have adopted the yellow, orange, and green belt levels before the blue belt level. This belt has been adopted by the IBJJF kids’ BJJ belt system as kids who are at orange or green belt levels get directly promoted to the blue belt and do not have to start from the white belt.

This method of belt promotion is adopted by Gracie Barra and its affiliated schools. Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, along with their affiliated BJJ academies also award yellow, orange, and green belts to practitioners. The BJJ community has conflicted views on this belt promotion system, as they believe that many of the promotions are now based on how many classes attended, instead of the skill set and grappling proficiency of the practitioner. On the other hand, some BJJ practitioners appreciate this initiative because a yellow or green belt symbolizes knowledge and training of about five to six years. On the other hand, white belt reflects a lack of knowledge and expertise in BJJ which can eventually become quite discouraging for practitioners, considering a white belt needs to train for at least two years before he gets promoted to the blue belt level. 

12. Final Words

In conclusion, the history of green and yellow competition belts is a side note with little to no significance. For those curious, the competition belt is primarily used by IBJJF to differentiate one competitor from another. Awarding the stripes of green and yellow belts encourages novice practitioners to get the taste of belt promotions and can work and be a great catalyst for the continuance of their BJJ journey.

Photo credit: @bjjtribes

Related Readings

Reading next

Gabriel Gonzaga - UFC Heavyweight Champion
Gabriel Gonzaga - UFC Heavyweight Champion

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.