BJJ Green Belt

Is it possible to achieve the Green Belt rank in BJJ? Yes, it is. But in our opinion only in specific cases. Read our point of view about green belts.

This article presents a viewpoint that may be open to discussion. We want to encourage readers to approach the topic with an open mind.

close up to a green belt of a martial arts practitioner
Credit to: Sally, Flickr

BJJ Green Belt for adults

The increasing number of adult Green Belt competitors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is becoming a concern. Initially, the Green Belt was meant to be a rank for children, coming after the Orange Belt. Nowadays, it is used as a replacement for stripes on a White Belt, or as a stage between the White and Blue Belt for adults. The problem is that Green Belt practitioners compete with White Belts because there is no specific division for adult Green Belts.

In our opinion, the Green Belt should be considered a child practitioner’s rank. If not, it is up to tournament organizers to determine the placement of adult Green Belt competitors.

After researching and visiting various forums, we have found that some well-known schools are awarding Green Belts to adult practitioners, and allowing them to compete in the White Belt division. We find this concerning, especially since the IBJJF recently updated its guidelines for promotion. These guidelines clearly state that only practitioners under 16 years of age are eligible to receive the Green Belt, Green/White belt, and Green/Black belt. Students over the age of 16 must follow the traditional five-belt guidelines (White, Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black).

We have no problem with adults receiving a Green Belt if they are not placed in the White Belt division of tournaments. While we understand that the talent pool for adult Green Belt competitors may not be as deep as other divisions, it should be the competitor’s sacrifice, not their opponents.

If there are so few adult Green Belt competitors that they cannot make an entire division, they should be asked to fight in the Blue Belt division, not be placed in a lower skill level. If instructors choose to allow adult Green Belts to compete, tournament organizers must ensure that the matter is handled appropriately.

It may be more understandable to see adult Green Belt competitors grappling with White Belts in non-IBJJF tournaments such as Grapplers Quest or New Breed. However, in an IBJJF state tournament, it is not appropriate. It is similar to allowing a competitor who came in five pounds overweight to compete in a lower-weight division, providing an unfair advantage.

NAGA should be held to a higher level of accountability than the IBJJF. At the last NAGA tournament, one of our writers arrived the night before to weigh in and was greeted by the entire NAGA staff wearing anti-sandbagging shirts. Yet, multiple adult Green Belts were competing in the White Belt division. NAGA is known to rank its competitors and track sandbaggers to maintain a level playing field, making it surprising that different skill levels were allowed to fight each other.

Ultimately, if neither the academies nor the tournament organizers take responsibility for this situation, it is up to the practitioners to be open with their instructors and tell them when they feel they are sandbagging. We should not be so afraid to lose that we resort to receiving an unfair advantage. Competitors should be willing to fight up-skill divisions and weight divisions for the test and the fun of competing. Winning is great, but losing teaches us the most, helping us evolve our BJJ game and become better practitioners.


We believe that the Green Belt should be considered a child practitioner’s rank, and adult Green Belt competitors should not be placed in the White Belt division of tournaments. We welcome fellow practitioners’ and instructors’ opinions on this topic. Please feel free to share this article and share your thoughts in the comment section.


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