How Long Does it Take to Learn Jiu-Jitsu? (Self-Defense to Pro)

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There can be a number of factors that come into play when learning Jiu-Jitsu. Fortunately, Jiu-Jitsu has quite a bit of technicality which means it’s more dependent on the amount of sweat than any genetic factors.

On average, working out 2 or 3 times a week for 3-5 hours, you can beat most untrained opponents in a 90 day period. Another 90 days and you will be able to compete against training peers. Training at this rate, the average fighter can gain a black belt in 10 years.

How you train greatly impacts how you might progress. Focus on skill acquisition and not on the color of your belt. Be sure to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Learn the fundamentals and engrain them into muscle memory. When you don’t understand something, go and watch videos online. Find different variations.

Once you feel like you understand the logic behind the technique then go back to the mat. Be sure to set goals and create a schedule for yourself. If you have a busy schedule be sure to find sections of the day where you can add 30 minutes of solo drills or strength and conditioning.

A lot of academies section training at different belts into blocks of 16 weeks. So a good goal would be to plan out a 16-week schedule but be sure to talk to your instructor. The better you can learn fundamentals the more intuition you will have when learning new techniques. This means that new techniques will come quicker and the learning curve will decrease. Train with all types of belts. Do not just limit yourself to training with higher or lower belts. Be sure to know when to tap. When starting out don’t underestimate your opponent. When training with other fighters it can be hard to know if they will stop before they hurt you. Tap when you think they have you in a submission. As you learn your body’s limits more then you can be more stubborn and hold out longer.

Perspectives on Learning Jiu-Jitsu

In combat sports, you can re-invent yourself completely in a 5 year period of time.

John Danaher

There are 3 mainstream ways of looking at training for Jiu-Jitsu. And how to do so effectively. Obviously, all three are to be used; however, it’s good to draw lines between the different views in order to understand when to leverage each method.


This comes down to spending as much time as possible running drill after drill. It’s all about practicing in varying intensities until you become proficient. Muscle memory is the game and this method is very time-consuming. The major downfall to this is that it is time-consuming plus it requires intentional practice. If a certain move is learned incorrectly it may take twice as long to fix the mistake as it did to learn the incorrect way, to begin with. Another downside is that you have to do this with every technique including every variation.


This is when fighters practice their skills by placing themselves under pressure. The idea is that fighting under real-world pressure will create a more reasonable example for your brain to understand how and why to use techniques.


In this perspective, fighters tend to look at the logic behind why a certain technique is being used. Understanding the underlying concepts from specific moves allows fighters to potentially decrease the amount of time needed to run drills.

Fastest Black Belts

The fastest time to black belt fighters involves a lollapalooza of contributing factors. Some have a natural talent or ability like being naturally flexible but a lot of them just had an obsession with getting better. They were driven and had a ‘figure it out’ mentality. They found different ways to train like setting up home gyms to train 5 times a day. They spent lots of time on the mat. This includes running solo drills and sparring with partners. They had world-class instructors. Regardless of whether or not you want to become a world champion, it is helpful to look at what they are doing. Look at their conditions and processes and see what you can pull to implement for yourself. Below is a list of some of the fastest times to earn a black belt.

FighterTime to Black BeltPromoted to Black Belt ByCountry
Travis Stevens18 MonthsJohn DanaherUSA
Caio Terra3 YearsReyson Gracie/Paulo StrauchBrazil
BJ Penn3 Years 4 MonthsAndre PederneirasUSA
Mads Burnell3 YearsChris HaueterDenmark
Geo Martinez3 YearsEddie BravoUSA
Gabriel Moraes3 Years 6 monthsGuto MonteiroBrazil
Mike Fowler3 Years 6 MonthsLloyd IrvinUSA
Lloyd Irvin3 Years 6 MonthsLeo DallaUSA
Fabiano Scherner3 Years 11 MonthsMurilo Bustamante/Luis DuarteBrazil
Richie Martinez3 Years 11 MonthsEddie BravoUSA
DJ Jackson3 Years 11 MonthsLloyd IrvinUSA
Orlando Sanchez4 YearsJose OlimpioUSA
Vitor Ribeiro4 YearsAndre PederneirasBrazil
Gunnar Nelson4 YearsRenzo GracieIceland
Nic Gregoriades4 YearsRoger GracieSouth Africa

Average Time to Belts

The famous Jiu-Jitsu trainer, John Danaher, has said that all it takes to get a black belt is to show up and put in the time. This means that anyone can get a black belt by showing up to class. There are good black belts and bad black belts. Although Jiu-Jitsu belts have a reputation for being difficult to get, treat them as a heuristic. Much like school, don’t let your grades distract your real education. Don’t learn to pass tests. Learn for understanding and long-term retention. It’s not about training it’s about intentional training.

White0 Years
Blue2 Years
Purple5 Years
Brown8 Years
Black12 Years


For beginners, Jiu-Jitsu can be thought of as an alternative to staying healthy with the added benefits of being able to defend yourself in a street fight. Jiu-Jitsu may also come with a sense of camaraderie. How quickly a fighter progresses depends on a number of factors that need to be decided by each individual. 

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Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a huge fan of both BJJ and MMA. Jiu-jitsu is my biggest passion, and I’ve been training it for more than 5 years. I have recently been promoted to a purple belt. In this blog, I will be giving you tips on how to improve and how to choose the best BJJ equipment! Learn More