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Ever wondered how long it takes to earn a black belt in each martial art?

Many Americans didn’t know about martial arts until the arrival of Kung Fu movies in the 1950s. Now, martial arts is so widespread, over 18 million Americans have attended at least one training session – with huge numbers attending several times a week (1).

Of those 18 million people, only a small percentage stick with the practice until they get a black belt. Why? Because getting a black belt isn’t easy. It takes years of pain, dedication, and hard work, and not many people are willing to sacrifice that much to master a skill.

In martial arts, practitioners receive a different belt color as they progress with their training. Each color represents a unique proficiency level, and a black belt means mastering the martial art’s basic techniques.

For example, in Taekwondo, students start at a white belt before progressing to yellow, green, blue, red, and, finally, black.

Using belt colors to represent proficiency wasn’t a thing until the father of Judo, Jigoro Kano, introduced it in the 1880s (2). Soon after, other forms of martial arts began using belt colors to rank the proficiency of their students.

Do All Martial Arts Give Black Belts?

Only martial arts that come from the Far East use the belt system. That includes Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, Kung fu, Tai chi, and some others.

Also, each of these martial arts uses belt colors in different ways. We’ve already seen Taekwondo’s order of belt colors before achieving a black belt. For some Judo schools, it’s white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black.

Each martial art uses the belt-color progression system in their own unique way.
Photo credit: New York YMCA Camp, Flickr

For some Karate schools, it’s white, yellow, green, orange, red, blue, purple, and brown belt before black (3).

Compared to other martial arts, Judo and Taekwondo are a bit stricter with their use of the belt system. That’s because the belt is a big part of their history and tradition. So, if you intend to practice either martial art at a serious school, don’t expect to rise in the ranks unless you are consistently dedicated and disciplined.

While getting a black belt signifies mastery of martial arts techniques, it doesn’t mean you are done with your training. You have to keep training to hone and fine-tune your skills. As you hone those skills after years of training, you can earn a higher degree of black belt.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular martial arts and how to earn a black belt within each of them.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black-Belt In Karate?

Karate is a Japanese martial art that was born in the Ryukyu Kingdom. It has various attack and defense styles but generally involves using kick, punch, knee, and elbow techniques. Karate’s more advanced forms include knife-hands, palm-heel strikes, and other open hand techniques.

Karate didn’t begin using Jigoro Kano’s belt system until 1924. To advance from one belt color to the next, a karate student must pass specific tests.

The promotional test typically involves performing techniques before a panel of examiners. Depending on the school and the belt you are trying to achieve, examiners may rate your performance according to your stance, balance, coordination, speed, and power.

If you attend classes twice a week, it’s possible to achieve a black belt within five years. Alternatively, you could attend classes more frequently and earn a basic black belt in three years.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black Belt In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

When it comes to useful forms of self-defense, BJJ is regarded as one of the most effective. Practitioners learn how to defend and take down enemies with grappling moves, ground fighting, and submission holds.

The technique is over 100 years old and evolved from Judo. Many MMA fighters add it to their repertoire because of its effectiveness for resisting attacks from more powerful opponents. That said, we have to point out BJJ is not easy or quick to learn – making earning a black belt in it quite difficult. There is an advantage of starting young!

Developed in the 1920s by the Gracie brothers, BJJ is now one of the world’s most popular martial arts.
Photo credit: Jiu-Jitsu News

BJJ’s belt ranking system is very similar to Judo’s – Practitioners start at a white belt and get a different belt color as their practical skills improve. But unlike Judo, the time between each belt progression is long, and proving you are worthy of a higher rank is one of the hardest in the martial art world.

In other martial arts, to achieve a higher belt, you simply need to master specific skills and showcase your mastery through a demonstration. In Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you have to master skills and impress your instructor with your ability to use those skills. In most cases, this involves participating in real contact sparring with other students and practitioners.

If your instructor doesn’t feel you are worthy of a higher belt, you can’t rise in the ranks. Thus, it can take up to two to five years to earn a blue belt and 10 years of training to earn a black belt. But according to Ryron Gracie, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu master, in a perfect world, “advancement to a black belt should take seven years.” (4) Nonetheless, some gifted students have done it in five years.

Also, you can’t get a BJJ black belt unless you are 18 years or older.

What’s interesting about BJJ is the significance of a black-belt in comparison to some of the other martial arts listed here. Where in some martial arts, earning your black-belt is not enough to warrant the title of ‘expert’, in BJJ, due to the strict emphasis on sparring and the work/time it takes to reach it, a black-belt is a title that is given a lot more importance.

How Long Does It Take To Earn A Black-Belt In Muay Thai?

The direct translation of Muay Thai is Thai boxing. It is one of the national martial arts of Thailand that involves using clinching and stand-up striking techniques. It is most popular for its use of all eight limbs (elbows, fists, knees, and shins) for defense and attack.

Muay-thai stands among the most physically demanding martial arts out there – given the uniquely diverse and deadly set of weapons its practitioners are able to employ.

Of course, your own experience can be tailored to your needs, giving you the freedom to place whatever level of emphasis you’d like on the most rigorous aspects of training such as sparring.

With six months of dedicated training, you can become proficient enough to use Muay Thai in combat. To become a Kru (instructor), you’ll need about five to seven years of training.

As we stated, it’s mostly martial arts from the Far East that use the belt system. As such, Muay Thai doesn’t use belts to indicate a practitioner’s proficiency. But some people use color-coded armbands (prajits) to intimidate their opponents or for good luck.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black-Belt In Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that didn’t start until the 1940s. It is effective for combat and uses various jumping and spinning attacks, including head kicks.

Modern Taekwondo has many styles, and its various associations use different belt ranking systems. Before 1959, Taekwondo schools (kwans) were not standardized, and each kwan had a unique approach to training students.

Taekwondo students start at the junior rank color belts, consisting of white (the lowest) to red (the highest). Depending on the school, the most senior belt for this category may be brown. From there, you can enter the territory of a black belt, which consists of nine degrees (dan). The higher the degree black belt, the higher your mastery of Taekwondo. (5)

The promotional test for rising to a higher belt varies between Taekwondo schools. In most cases, a school will simply ask students to showcase practical executions of Taekwondo techniques.

According to the International Taekwondo Association (ITA), “a student who attends class at least three days every week, with each class being at least one and one-half hours in length” can become a first-degree black belt or first Dan (Il Dan) black belt in as little as three years (6).

Taekwondo Black-Belt Degrees

The first black belt you get after mastering all the basic Taekwondo techniques is the 1st Dan or 1st Degree Black Belt. If you keep practicing, you can achieve higher black belts in the following order:

  • 2nd Degree Black Belt – Dedicated practitioners can get this belt after a year of practicing as a first Dan Black Belt holder.
  • 3rd Degree Black Belt – After two years of practicing as a 2nd-degree black belt, you can achieve this belt. Practitioners with this belt can open their own dojo to train and advance students.
  • 4th Degree Black Belt – You can get this after practicing as a 3rd-degree black belt for three years.
  • 5th Degree Black Belt – Achieving this means you’ve become a Master and have, in some way, improved Taekwondo. You can achieve it after practicing as a 4th-degree black belt for four years.
  • 6th Degree Black Belt – It takes 5 years of practicing as a 5th Dan Master.
  • 7th Degree Black Belt – It takes six years of practicing as a 6th Dan Master.
  • 8th Degree Black Belt – Achieving this means you’ve risen from Master to Grand Master status. It takes seven years of practicing as a 7th Dan Master.
  • 9th Degree Black Belt – A higher level of Grand Master status that you can achieve after practicing for eight years as an 8th degree black-belt Grand Master.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black-Belt In Aikido?

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that teaches practitioners self-defense, as well as philosophy and religious beliefs. Also, unlike other martial arts that focus on doing maximum damage to opponents, Aikido focuses on self-defense without hurting an opponent.

Where fighting styles such as krav maga are indeed self-defense-oriented in their nature, they focus on techniques that are intended to cause major harm to your assailant. Aikido, within the same parameters, is intended as a means of incapacitating your foe while maintaining a level of control that allows you to avoid doing them serious bodily harm.

Practitioners accomplish this by redirecting an attacker’s momentum or using joint locks to disarm opponents. With a major emphasis on leverage and balance, Aikido also uses various throws to take down opponents.

For a martial art like Aikido, it’s easier and quicker for people to get a black belt if you already have belts from other fighting styles. In that scenario, you can get a black belt in as little as two years.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black-Belt In Judo?

Judo is a Japanese martial art that uses grappling and ground fighting. After taking down an opponent, Judokas (judo practitioners) typically end the fight with joint locks or chokes.

Getting a Judo black belt is tough, but those people who fully commit to learning the art can get a first-degree black belt in three to six years. But note that in Judo, getting a black belt isn’t just about dedication, but also innate talent. It’s why some people work hard, and, yet, can’t get a black belt until after 10 years.

The Japanese martial art Judo is characterized by its emphasis on leverage and efficiency.
Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi, Flickr

How Long Does It Take To Get A Black-Belt In Krav Maga?

Krav maga is a popular fighting system developed by the Israeli military using a number of different aspects of some of the world’s most widely-used martial arts.

Known for its tremendous efficiency in the pursuit of incapacitating an opponent, krav maga places a very noticeable emphasis on real-world scenarios and as a result, it is seen by many as one of the most effective martial arts around.

On average, a new practitioner should expect to train for around two or three years to reach a level of proficiency that would be considered ‘black belt level’ but depending on the school, sometimes the usage of actual belts can vary.

What is the Easiest Black Belt to Get?

For many people, earning belts isn’t about self-defense or mastering the art. It’s simply about bragging rights. If you are one of such people and are wondering, “What is the easiest black belt to get?” you could just buy one.

How? Several unscrupulous schools award belts and certificates as long as you are willing to pay.

But if what you are looking for is how to become a proficient master within the shortest amount of time, we recommend joining a school that follows a strict curriculum. It also helps if you choose a form of martial arts you find enjoyable.

There are top-notch Taekwondo, Judo, Karate, and other martial arts schools that offer such opportunities. All you have to do is attend classes often and commit fully to learning the techniques. It takes significant effort, but with dedication, you can be the proud owner of a well-earned black belt within a couple of years.

It’s important to remember that when it comes to the pursuit of any type of martial arts training, like anything in life, it is the journey that matters most. And while sure, the idea of having a black-belt is certainly appealing, a healthy attitude towards learning and training will allow you to reap the benefits to a greater extent than a colored belt ever could.


How long does it take to earn a black belt in mixed martial arts?

Depending on the martial art you choose, earning a black-belt could take anywhere between three and ten years. A lot of factors come into play when you’re moving through the various belt-ranks, ranging from natural athleticism and aptitude to the frequency of your training sessions. Though there’s no one correct answer that works for everyone, once you begin your journey towards black-belt status, you should be able to better gauge how long the road ahead of you is. MMA, however, doesn’t involve a belt system – making it more of an amalgamation of different styles than anything else. The best fighters at the highest level are highly skilled in several different martial arts.

How much does it cost to get a black-belt?

Aside from the cost of a membership to the gym, school, or tutor that you select, some martial arts gyms do require a monetary fee in order to take the test to secure your black-belt. Though most schools are reasonable with this fee, one must be wary in order to avoid the extortionately high rates that are often sprung on budding martial artists as they edge towards black-belt level. Doing your research ahead of time is incredibly important. Know who you’re dealing with before committing to a gym or tutor and no matter which route you end up taking, be prepared to work hard in the pursuit of your ultimate goal.

Can you get a black-belt online?

While the option of training solo has never been easier, you can’t substitute those hours spent on the mat with a live opponent. Though techniques can be drilled and worked on from the comfort of your own home, the entire experience of learning and mastering a martial art requires you to physically situate yourself in a gym alongside athletes who can teach you hands-on. Sure, there are sites out there who claim to offer online courses, but as a general rule of thumb, be wary of these and understand that legitimate schools of martial arts require your physical presence.



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