How I Promote Students in BJJ

With our bi-annual belt promotion celebration getting closer, I have had many students ask me how and why I decide to promote people to a new belt. The process of promoting students in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been historically arbitrary. There is no published set of guidelines or worldwide standard by which instructors rank their students. The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation offers only a chronological guideline under which students should be promoted. 

I put a tremendous amount of time into deciding who to promote every six months. It is not a process that I take lightly. I make a list of all of my students, and outline each individual’s positive attributes and shortcomings. I order bright new belts and a roll of tape, and wait for the promotion just as excited as anyone else. It is an important day. Because it is so important, I thought I would finally put the rough promotion criteria that I have in my head onto ‘paper.’ 

Imagine that you’re being graded on a set of attributes. The student earns corresponding points for having one of the following attributes. Now, I don’t think someone’s rank can be summed up by a set of points, but I think it serves as a loose guideline for how I make decisions regarding who to promote. While there are intangibles and other variables to consider, I would like to see students who are close to being promoted score around a 70 (in proportion to their current rank):


technical knowledge: 25
total hours on the mat: 20
live application (sparring): 15


competition experience: 10
mental toughness: 10
dedication & consistency: 10


athleticism: 5
strength: 5

In the future, I'm going to break down what each of these individual points means to me. For now, I've got to get to a tournament! Our next promotion day is Sunday November 15th at 11:00am. We will have a big open mat followed by promotions. Please mark your calendars!