The Controversy Over Belt Stripes - alldaybjj

The Controversy Over Belt Stripes

There’s no real documentation of when stripes were formally introduced into the belt ranking system in Jiu-Jitsu. Many academies award stripes as a form of intra-belt recognition of progress and skill. Stripes are not used in every academy, nor are they always applied consistently.

I’ve heard of academies that award stripes, don’t award stripes, or don’t award stripes after a specific belt rank (i.e. purple). In my experience, I’ve trained at academies that award stripes and one that leisurely awarded stripes (only because promotions were not consistent). I also know of academies that award stripes based on time (and not always skill level), also known as “participation” stripes to the cynical.

Those who have been around BJJ long enough, and have been through enough promotions, have formed their own opinions on whether stripes are a good or bad thing. I’ve talked to a few people and here’s the consensus of some points about why stripes are good and bad:

Stripes provide motivation to keep on training. This is especially crucial at the white to blue belt and also blue to purple transition. White and blue belt is where people tend to decide whether or not BJJ is right for them and they tend to quit more easily than their purple and brown belt counterparts. Stripes provide people with an idea of how they are progressing, regardless of whether they actually recognize that progress or not because it’s such an early stage of their BJJ.

While stripes provide motivation, they also can breed ego and comparing oneself against another. Getting a stripe signifies a hierarchy in the same color belt rank. As stated earlier about stripes not being awarded consistently (participation time vs. skill improvement), if one person outranks another of the same belt, does that mean that that person is better than the other or has the right to tell them what to do? We can definitely argue that point. But when I see a person who outranks another of the same belt color (because they have been training longer, not because they are technically better) what to do (and the advice is wrong), it tells me that ego is very present and can lead to issues in the future.

Stripes take away from the training and promotion experience. While stripes do provide motivation for us to keep on training and improving, it also provides the individual with the expectation that after a certain amount of time, they should be getting another stripe or the next belt. Rather than focusing on training, they focus on the promotion. For example, a white belt who recently received their 3rd stripe stated that he/she has been training for 2 years already and should be getting their blue belt already… especially after the recent promotion of some of their white belt peers to blue belt. (insert face palm here) Getting promoted to the next belt should be a surprise and when it is, it can be a very emotional time for us. When it is expected because you’re “on deck” for the next belt, it takes away from the surprise of an important milestone in your journey. As a brown belt now, I actually prefer not to receive stripes because I know when I get my black belt, it’s because my professor believes that I am ready and it should be a surprise… I shouldn’t expect the time is coming sooner than later based on the stripes I have on my belt.

After hearing different sides of the coin, I prefer the idea of awarding stripes to white and blue belts but not for purple and brown. What are your thoughts and why?

Lea Young

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