Yes, you can get a black belt in BJJ without competing, and there are pros and cons to this. In this post I’ll talk about whether you can and should get a black belt in BJJ without ever competing in a tournament.
Black Belt Competition Requirements
Black belt is the hardest belt to get in BJJ, but there are no official black belt requirements in BJJ.
Therefore every dojo is free to decide whether they think competition is necessary to get your black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Most gyms value competition but they don’t make it necessary to get your black belt.
However, whether you compete probably influences how long it takes to get your black belt in most BJJ schools.
If you’re unsure about whether a black belt is expected to compete in your gym, just ask your instructor.
Does your BJJ School Value Competitions?
To have a healthy BJJ scene, it is important that everyone can train in a space that fits their needs.
There are schools that are only focused on competition, and there are schools whose main focus is on self-defense or jiu jitsu for MMA.
These schools can, of course, both be very high-level and successful.
The question is: do you have a preference for one over the other? If so, what is it?
Some schools are very sporty, with many competitors, and they are great. But there is a place for schools with a different focus as well.
So if you already know that you want to get a black belt in BJJ but you don’t want to compete you should choose a school that focuses on the other aspects of BJJ.
Can You Get a Black Belt Without Fighting?
No, to get a black belt in BJJ you absolutely need to show that you can fight (at least on the ground).
If you don’t show this in competition, you need to show it in sparring in class.
Testing whether your techniques work against a resisting opponent is the main differentiator between a black belt in BJJ and a black belt in other martial arts.
Why You Should Compete Before Getting a Black Belt in BJJ
BJJ values competition highly, because it is an excellent tool for the development of your skills.
It’s the ultimate test of your techniques. Do your techniques work on a fully resisting opponent?
And competition also tests out if you have holes in your game, because you roll with people that you don’t normally roll with.
And you don’t get second chances in competition, so you test: if it really came down to it, would I hit my techniques when I need to?
Competition is also a mental test for yourself: can you stay calm in an actual fighting situation?
The true meaning of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is that you can fight very well (or at least to the grappling portion of fighting extremely well).
And there is no better way to prove this to yourself and your coaches than to perform in competition.
Why You Should Get a Black Belt in BJJ WITHOUT Competing
Again, the vast majority of people who get black belts in BJJ will have competed in tournaments.
But there are many people who get black belts in BJJ without competing in tournaments, and have good reasons to do so.
Here’s some reasons why some people want to get a black belt in BJJ without competing:
Earn your black belt without getting injured.
It’s not that you will necessarily get injured competing in BJJ. And you can also get injured in a regular class.
But competing in BJJ is a whole different animal. There’s a lot of pressure to perform. And sometimes guys go really hard, and someone gets injured.
For example, I went to a local tournament and saw a much bigger guy do a judo throw on a smaller guy. The sound of them hitting the ground was so loud that the whole floor looked up to see what happened. That guy didn’t get up for more than 10 minutes, I think he broke some ribs.
I also had a friend of mine dislocate his elbow because he was in an armbar and he didn’t want to tap. Stupid, of course, but that’s what happens to some people when they feel that competition pressure.
And check out this video below. This is just a local tournament, and one guy decides to snap the other’s ankle. I personally think he shouldn’t have done that, but you can’t control who you fight at a tournament.
You can injure yourself in a regular class. But you are much less likely to get injured competing in BJJ.
If you want to earn your black belt without getting injured, then you should get a black belt in BJJ without competing.
Earn your black belt without obsessing over your A game
What I dislike the most about doing competitions is that it requires me to focus on my A game for several weeks or months leading up to the competition.
So that means that I’ll be trying to make the techniques that I’m already good at even sharper so that I can hit them in competition.
I like this from time to time but I don’t want to do this all the time.
I value having a very broad understanding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, so I want to set a lot of time aside to work on things that I am not good at.
That’s why I often take a few months off of competition.
And for people that never want to focus on creating a strong A game it may be a reason to never compete before getting a black belt at all.
Earn your black belt without competition stress
Competitions are incredibly stressful for the majority of people.
I never sleep well the one, two or three days before a competition.
If you have a very demanding job or other big stressors in your life already, you might not want to introduce extra competition stress to your life.
Maybe Brazilian jiu-jitsu is just what you do to relax in your free time.
In that case you definitely don’t want to compete just to get your black belt in BJJ.
Most coaches will be appreciative of this.
So dDo You Have to Compete to Get a Black Belt in BJJ?
So you don’t need to compete to get a black belt in BJJ, but in almost all cases you do need to spar. And some schools might require you to compete. So ask your own instructor what the black belt requirements are at your gym.