The revered black belt, a sign of seniority, mastery, and expertise in martial arts, is a prestigious rank to hold. If we don't count the the coral and red belts, then a black belt is outright the highest honor any BJJ practitioner can hope to achieve.
Many eager jujitsukas often set their eyes on this distinguished rank, excited over the prospect of one day being an expert in the martial art. But just how attainable is it? Is it something that anyone can get in a matter of three years? We'll be tackling this topic here.
Can You Get a Black Belt in Just Three Years?
The quickest answer is one you probably don't want to hear: no, you can't get a BJJ black belt in three years.
Although this has been achieved by some noteworthy exceptions, those people are exactly that: exceptions, prodigies or stellar athletes who were already martial arts experts even before they started training in BJJ.
To give you a quick idea for this: the fastest black belt achieved in BJJ thus far is an honor that belongs to Travis Stevens, who earned the prestigious title after only an astonishing 18 months of training.
Stevens, however, was already an Olympic silver medalist in judo, a martial art that has close ties with BJJ and possesses a significant overlap in their techniques and principles.
Pair that with the fact that he's been training in martial arts since he was six, as well as that he received his instructions from Brazilian jiu-jitsu by the legendary John Danaher, and it starts to make sense how he managed to pull off an incredible feat like this.
Others who have achieved the prestigious title in record time include Gunnar Nelson, who accomplished this after just four years. Nelson is an Icelandic professional mixed martial artist who was trained by Renzo Gracie.
If that last name is familiar, that's because it should be. Renzo Gracie is a member of the renowned Gracie family, the family that founded BJJ itself.
BJ Penn is another noteworthy case. Famously referred to as "the Prodigy," Penn received his black belt after only three years at the impressive age of 20.
Trained as well by a member of the Gracie family, Ralph Gracie, Penn made a name for himself when he became the first American--and indeed, the first non-Brazilian--to win a BJJ black belt in the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
Setting Reasonable Expectations
It's not that I'm actively discouraging you, but proper goals do need to be set. There are more fingers on your hands than there are people who have nabbed a BJJ black belt in just three years.
The focal point is that getting a black belt will be incredibly difficult. It's a lofty goal to aspire towards, and if you want one, you'll need to be committed to BJJ and ready for consistent practice. Doing so with as much regularity as you can manage will help ensure steady progress.
The second thing to keep in mind is to temper your expectations. Even with consistent practice, black belts will still take years upon years to achieve. The minimum you can expect is 10 years, but the average jujitsuka will require more time than that--about 12 to 15.
To put into perspective, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, abbreviated as the IBJJF, has only about 7,000 certified black belts in their registry out of the millions of people in the world who practice BJJ.
Granted, their registry doesn't include every black belt in the world, since some are no doubt unregistered. But this should still give you an idea of the kinds of heights you're aiming for if you're gunning for a goal like this.
This will be a decade-long endeavor at minimum, so you may struggle to keep yourself motivated. Set proper goals that'll help you keep focused and success-driven. Allow yourself to feel pride for edging closer and closer to achieving them, no matter how small of a step you might have taken.
How to Get Your BJJ Belt Faster
If you're still eager to get that black belt, then there are several things you can do to accelerate the process. They won't slice off entire years' worth of training and experience, but every little bit counts for getting that well-respected title.
Some of the things you can do include attending Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminars all over the world. Though you should trust your instructor and understand that he knows best, learning from other instructors who are just as good is an excellent way to broaden your horizons.
Also feel free to watch or read up on different Brazilian jiu-jitsu books, instructional videos, and studies whenever you're not in your dojo. There are tons of excellent resources from well-established instructors that can help you improve upon the techniques you've learned.
If you'd like to, you can even buy additional equipment so that you can train at home. While BJJ is a contact sport first and foremost, there are still exercises you can do to help with your technique, or even just to keep you fit so that you don't wear out as fast in the dojo.
Unlike other contact sports, Brazilian jiu-jitsu doesn't demand you be large or powerful. Regardless, physical fitness will still definitely go a long way for you.
Why You Should Attend Tournaments
One of the best things you can do for yourself in your BJJ career is to attend tournaments. Don't get me wrong, sparring is a great way to test your mettle against other jujitsukas, but tournaments will catalyze that competitive drive in you and push you to reach new heights.
There are few satisfactions that can compare to seeing yourself slowly climb up the ranks in tournaments, and it's a satisfaction you deserve to witness firsthand in your BJJ journey.
These kinds of events are held multiple times a year. If attending them is an option for you, then keep track of when these tournaments are happening and prepare ahead of time.
And if you're not the competitive type, then don't worry. You don't even need to compete, just attend! Even simply watching tournaments will allow you to observe and talk to highly skilled jujitsukas and learn from their techniques. The feedback you receive from them will be invaluable.
Black belts are a huge goal to set for yourself. Getting them won't be easy at all. It won't take three years, or five, or maybe not even 10. It's an enormous endeavor that will require a massive time investment and tons of commitment.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't try though. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an extremely fulfilling combat sport that has so much to offer you: from valuable self-defense skills, to a vibrant community, to teachings that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life.
If you want a black belt, then you'll need to be ready for the sweat, pain, and hardship that'll come with it. You'll be investing so much of yourself into this goal, but it's a worthy one.