What Army rank would a BJJ belt equal?

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As a veteran of the armed forces (Army) I sometimes wonder what rank a BJJ belt would equal in terms of knowledge, technique and experience. I have often played around with it in my head and this is what I came up with.

White Belt – No Stripes -Basic Trainee/ 1 Stripe – Private – E1/ 2 Stripes – Private – E2/ 3 Stripes – Private First Class – E3/ 4 Stripes – Specialist or Corporal – E4

As I am a four stripe white belt I am knowledgeable enough to hold down the fort for a limited amount of time, but lack some essential skills that could make it a little dangerous for everyone involved.

Blue Belt – No Stripes – Sergeant/ 1 Stripe – Staff Sergeant – E6/ 2 Stripes -Sergeant First Class- E7/ 3 Stripes – Master Sergeant – E8/ 4 Stripes – Sergeant Major or Master Sergeant/Sergeant Major -E9

I would say that the blue belts that I have been around have (had) the toughness to handle most of the newbies and long time vets in the white belt ranks,  at the least.  They can be trusted to lead the students for extended periods of time. The three and four stripe players have considerable experience to stay the course and can train people for extended periods without any guidance. But at some point they will need further direction so that they and those below them can advance.

Purple Belt – No Stripes to 1 Stripe – 2nd Lt./2 Stripes -1st Lt./3 Stripes – Captain/4 Stripes – Major

In the army most of the Lieutenants are named XOs (share the second in command spot) of a company of about 50 troops. Captains are usually named COs (commanding officer) of about 100 troops. I have noticed a tendency for many purple belts to open their own schools in many cities and they have well trained students who compete well against  students trained in Black and Brown belt schools. They are usually able to exist on their own with casual guidance.

Brown Belt – No Stripes to 2 Stripes – Lt. Col/3  to 4 Stripes – Colonel

Lt. Colonels and Colonels are entrusted with hundreds and sometimes thousands of troops. At this time it is only a matter of time before they receive that revered status of General. Most BJJ practitioners will never reach the brown belt level and there is ‘massive’ respect for those who reach this rank.

Black Belt – No Stripes to 1 Stripe – Brigadier General/ 2 Stripes – Major General/ 3 Stripes – Lt. General/ 4 Stripes – General

Many who hold this rank oversee the total development of our art. They visit schools to provide guidance, lift morale and show their confidence and support in those they mentor. It is always an extremely big deal when they visit an academy. There is often a level of mysticism associated with those who achieve this position or the rank.

These are my thoughts on the subject. I would love to hear someone else’s opinion on the subject.

You can also check out my writings and research at Psychology Today: Communication Central

14 thoughts on “What Army rank would a BJJ belt equal?

    Radamez85 said:
    January 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I was in too, i never really gave any thought to rank in the military and how it would relate to the BJJ lifestyle.
    But if i had to put my 2cents in…
    i would eliminate the commissioned side of things in bjj, because in my opinion bjj is all blue collar, and in my experience in the military ,Officers most of the time arent blue collar, and would also delagate to the NCO (Non commissioned officers)

    my school doesnt do stripes but…
    i guess:
    white = pv1 pv2 pv3
    blue = sgt ssg
    purple = sfc
    brown = 1sg, msg (first sergeant, Master sergeant)
    black = csm

    i look at it that way.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    January 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Interesting take Radamez85. I believe a strong argument could be made that way. I think some officers would disagree with you though.

    Caleb said:
    January 21, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Very cool question! I’ve no military experience so I am curious to see what others say…

    Conan said:
    January 21, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I was CO of a LRRP unit, but would say my experiences as an officer were not the norm. I really like your analogy though. Given the differring educational paths between enlisted and officer, I would tend to agree with Radamez85. The speed bump I see is that the military skill level of a 2LT is not greater than CSM. Having said that, the way you presented the progression, it certainly makes sense.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    January 21, 2009 at 8:50 pm


    I agree it may have to fit the circumstance. I served in an artillery unit and our XO was pretty hands on. At times I wished he would have “relaxed.” Also from observing my father’s experience as an officer in the 82nd airborne I noticed the grind he faced (field duty, parachuting all the time and training).

    That is a good point about the 2Lt. That would be hard to get around. Maybe it could be tweaked to a former E-4 to E-6 who returned to college or went through OCS. Or someone who went through a military academy.

    The only other thought I have on the 2Lt and Purple belt is that this seems to be the stage where new responsibilities are entrusted with the ranks that would not normally be foisted upon a blue belt or NCO. I know certain blue belts have experience, training and know how beyond their rank but without the rank to go along with it certain privileges would be withheld. This is a very grey area.

    Adam Adshead said:
    January 31, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Brilliant Seemingly very fitting!

    Love the analogy and explanations too!

    Seems spot on to me.

    Adam Adshead

    Donovan Galicinao said:
    February 20, 2009 at 4:41 am

    You can’t compare a 2LT to a CSM. The 2LT is worse than a white belt. We called them butter bars. I was an intelligence SFC, 10th Special Forces Group.

    Donovan Galicinao said:
    February 20, 2009 at 4:43 am

    I’m sorry about the butter bar comment, but it’s true.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    February 20, 2009 at 7:08 pm


    That split in between top Non-Coms and the beginning officer ranks was the toughest to reason my way through. As you can see I avoided Warrant Officers all together. to go off on a tangent, their depth of experience is mind-boggling and they deserve higher rank and pay in my book as well.

    But technically, the top Non-Coms still have to salute the ‘lowliest’ Lt. So that’s my ultimate excuse.

    Tony said:
    May 8, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I agree with pretty much everything except for the way you framed the quote that most BJJ practitioners will never reach the Brown Belt level. While it is true that most will not, it kinda indicates that it is a close to impossible feat which it’s not. If a student is willing to put in the time and has the desire to achieve this level of competence it’s there for the taking. Unfortunately many students get frustrated when they dont jump a belt color overnight and end up giving up. ANYBODY can become a Brown Belt, or even Black Belt for that matter, it’s just a matter of how bad they want it.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    May 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm


    You’re right.

    I don’t think it’s an impossible feat at all. Just in my experience as a military child and my corresponding time in the military people who achieved the rank of Lt. Col and Colonel were those who dedicated 14 or more years. In my experience with BJJ most new people only stick around for a few classes. I don’t have the numbers but I ‘think’ most never reach blue. The attrition rate is atrocious. So my assertion that brown and black belts are revered or respected stems from their dedication to the craft not the impossibility of obtaining that rank.

    I believe anyone can do it. But it takes a special person to serve 20 or more years in the service (or a basic stint). And it takes a special person to spend 5 to 10 years to earn a brown or black belt in BJJ.

    Georgette said:
    January 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Whoa… very interesting analogy!

    jiujitsu365 said:
    January 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Thanks Georgette,

    It was just a random thought I had one day and followed to its conclusion. I was surprised that so many people found it interesting (or took issue with it).

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    December 22, 2012 at 2:37 am

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