The Valente Brothers and belts in BJJ

We’re doing some research for a feature in our second issue, and had a talk with the Valente brothers, Pedro, Gui and Joaqim (black belts under Helio Gracie). The conversation (surprisingly interrupted by a call from Royce) meandered down some interesting paths, and we walked away with some additional thoughts on belts, what they signify and thoughts on how they should be applied across the world of BJJ.

  • Part of the purpose of belts is to motivate students to continue learning in jiu jitsu. Promotions provide recognition of milestones.
  • A belt isn’t about who you can beat, it’s about where you are in your personal journey.
  • Natural abilities are an important factor in deciding how a student is promoted. A 20 year old, division one college wrestler will not be held to the same standards as a 40 year old, sedentary parent who first connected with grappling through their child’s involvement in jiu jitsu.
  • The belt system possibly should be removed from sport BJJ altogether (and left only to the martial side).
  • There are better existing models for competition. Tennis and boxing for example. Practitioners are ranked and you move up by winning, but can move down in rank when you lose, too.
  • Belt colors, like BJJ itself, transcend technique.
  • There are no purple belt moves, or black belt moves—there is only jiu jitsu.


A big thanks to the Valente brothers!

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