How Long Does It Take To Learn Judo?

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Judo is a martial art that combines strength, speed, and flexibility. If you want to master Judo, you’ll need to practice regularly.

Typically, it takes 2 to 3 years to learn a decent level of Judo. It takes this long because of the number of Judo throws and submissions you can learn. Your dedication to the sport will also be a deciding factor.

Judo has one of the longest belt progressions among all martial arts. This is one of the main reasons that make learning Judo a challenge. 

Learning time for Judo belt levels

Performance is the main criterion for belt promotions. A Judo practitioner typically knows 15 different techniques for each belt. 

You need to know 15 strategies to change from white to yellow. Another 15 is required to go from yellow to orange. 

The Judo Belt System was developed by Jigoro Kano in 1907 with colors white and black. It was in 1935 that the colors yellow, orange, green, blue, and brown were added.

White belt

Judo white belt illustration
Buddy23Lee and Spoxjox, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

White belt representing purity and simplicity is the universal belt color. It is given to a novice or a beginner Judoka. 

Those who are wearing this are in the process of learning the fundamentals. The white belt is the lowest rank that a Judoka can achieve. 

A martial art belief says that every student starts with a white belt, then gradually darkened color from all the sweat, blood, and tears in training.

Yellow belt

The United States Judo Association (USJA) system takes 2 months or 15 classes to get a yellow belt. 

United States Judo Association Logo
Sangimino81kg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The country you are in and your instructor makes a huge difference in the acquisition of belts. When a Judoka is awarded 5th Kyu, they will be allowed and expected to wear a Yellow belt.

To be promoted from white belt to yellow belt, you need to know 15 techniques, including the following: 

  • Knee wheel
  • Advanced foot sweep
  • Propping drawing ankle
  • Major hip
  • Major inner reap
  • Major outer reap
  • Floating hip
  • Shoulder throw (1 or 2 armed)
  • The upper four quarters hold
  • Shoulder hold
  • Side for quarters hold
  • Scarf hold

Orange belt

Judo Canada’s curriculum states that an adult has to attend 40 practices to be an orange belt. This is approximately 35 weeks (almost 9 months), assuming perfect attendance.

The orange Belt symbolizes the sun. The orange Judo Belt is still considered to be a beginner level. In this stage, the student is preparing for further development. 

Brusselsshrek wearing their orange judo belt
Brusselsshrek at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In Judo, the orange belt represents the student’s courage, strength, and willingness to face challenges head-on. 

Similarly, in Karate, the orange belt signifies the student’s progress and hard work toward achieving their goals. 

An Orange belt Judo practitioner should be able to perform the following:

  • Ukemi (falling correctly) in all four directions (front, back, left, and right)
  • should be able to execute six throws in total, including foot, hip, and hand throws
  • should be able to perform judo techniques according to the rules of the dojo

A judo practitioner who does not possess these skills may not be allowed to wear an orange belt.

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Green belt

Per USJA, it takes 5 months to acquire a Judo green belt equivalent to 38 classes. The variety and depth of judo training are known to this Judo practitioner.

The green belt recognizes a student has become a judoka. It symbolizes the development of a seed that emerges upward to become a plant. 

The student, like the sprout, is evolving into something bigger.

Students must accumulate competition points as soon as they achieve the green belt level to receive a grade.

To take the green belt test, a student must execute a physical requirement of 40 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and 40-squats. 

A judo green belt being thrown
Lance Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The green belt is the fundamental level of Judo knowledge and physical ability.

A green belt Judo practitioner should be able to perform the following:

  • 6 throws from the same side gripping (right vs. right, left vs. left) and 2 from opposite side gripping (right vs. left, left vs. right)
  • 6 combination techniques
  • 2 defense against throwing attacks
  • 2 grips and a throw from each
  • 2 grip breaks
  • 2 holding Techniques
  • 2 strangulation techniques
  • 2 joint techniques
  • Matwork techniques

Blue belt

It takes 6 months for Judokas to achieve a blue belt. A blue belt in Judo requires a student to have attended a minimum of 72 classes. 

In addition, the student must be able to physically perform 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, and 50 squats.

Students must study and perform several sets of the nage no kata as they advance to the blue belt. This classic kata provides a summary of Judo’s core concepts.

The blue belt examination requires double the knowledge required of a green belt. 

Once a blue belt is achieved, the judoka can begin to work toward their brown belt.

For Kelowna Judo Club, the following are Judo moves that a Judoka must learn to be a blue belt. 

  • Sumi-gaeshi
  • Soto-makikomi
  • Uki-otoshi
  • Tani-otoshi
  • Utsuri-goshi
  • O-guruma
  • Hane-makikomi
  • Sukui-nage

Brown belt

The average time it takes to reach the brown belt is 3-5 years. This is for the Judokas that practice 2-3 times a week and participate in a few competitions yearly.

Other organizations require 90 classes and can perform 75 push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches.

Brown Belt Judokas are expected to have a good understanding of what Judo is. They must also contribute to the Judo community in some way.

They can contribute by working as a technical official, a referee, and more. 

To qualify for a brown belt, you must be able to execute the following:

  • Set five of the Gokyo No Waza
  • 2 defenses against hip throws
  • 2 gripping and a throw from each
  • 4 holding techniques
  • 2 joint locking techniques
  • Groundwork entry techniques
  • 10 combinations
  • 2 defenses against foot sweep.
  • 2 variations of the strangulation techniques
  • Groundwork escapes
  • Formal and basic techniques

Black belt

On average, it takes about 10 years of dedicated training to achieve this level of expertise. If a person trains Judo just once a week, they can expect to get their black belt in a minimum of 15 years.

In some organizations, you must attend between 100 and 120 classes to earn a black belt in judo. You must also be able to complete 100 push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. 

This shows that black belts are not simply handed out – they must be earned through hard work and dedication.

Black belt Mick Cutajar judo competitor throwing an opponent
Eva Rinaldi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Judo black belt requirements vary significantly among organizations and countries. Still, generally, they are in a neighborhood of the following:

  • You need to be a brown belt before taking the sho dan exam
  • You need to be at least 14 years old. Must have practiced judo for at least 100 hours in the previous year
  • In terms of competitiveness, there is also a requirement for outstanding accomplishments
  • Has extensive tatami experience and is at least capable of doing Nage no Kata, Go Kyo-No-Waza, and Ne-Waza techniques

Paneled (red and white) belt

Judokas can wear the red and white belt in 10 years’ average training time. This belt may be worn by practitioners with a 6th, 7th, or 8th-degree black belt.

In Europe, a red-white paneled belt may also be worn by judokas who have earned the 6th Dan.

The paneled red belt is the entrance to the highest rank in Judo, the solid red belt. This stage prepares you to ascend as a top-tier Judoka. 

To have a paneled red belt, you must first get through all belt colors, levels, and degrees. You’re expected to have excellent decision-making skills during a match at this stage. 

Your decision-making can be evaluated by how well you choose the techniques you perform. 

At this level of your Judoka journey, you already know enough to teach others your knowledge. Coaching inferior Judokas will also help you improve your craft more. 

Red belt

10 years of average waiting time is needed from black to solid red belt. It will take that long because the black belt has several degrees, including the paneled red belt. 

The solid red belt is the highest rank a Judoka can achieve. Being able to wear a red belt is the ultimate dream of a Judo specialist.

It is expected for a red belt to have a high level of understanding regarding all the Judo techniques. The Judoka must exhibit mastery in performing those moves. 

With this knowledge of the art, a red belt is 100% qualified to pass down their wisdom to lower-ranked Judokas. 

Achieving a red belt is extremely rare. Even the number 1 modern Judo athlete, Teddy Riner, is not yet a red belt. Riner is a 6th-degree black belt. 

Riner was the first male Judoka to hold 10 world championship golds

How long does it take to learn basic judo?

It would take a year or two of continuous Judo training to learn the basics of Judo thoroughly. Then you’re expected to be a yellow or orange belt, depending on your learning speed. 

You might be wondering why the basics need to take that long. Everyone needs to know that learning is different from just knowing.

Learning is when you grasp the techniques well and when it’s the perfect time to execute them properly. 

On the other hand, knowing is simply having some knowledge about a move. You don’t know how to use it efficiently during a real-life situation. 

If you know the basics of Judo, you’re already one step forward in real-life self-defense scenarios. 

Learning the basics needs time. This is because the fundamentals are just as important as the cool moves you see in movies. Without the basics, those moves wouldn’t be possible. 

Is Judo challenging to learn?

Judo is difficult, just like any other martial art. Its focus on throws and joint locks makes it harder to learn. This fighting style leans more on technicality and fight IQ than pure strength and power. 

One thing that makes Judo harder to learn is the variety of moves you can master. There are a total of 68 Judo throws you can learn and over a dozen of submissions. 

This variety of moves allows numerous techniques you can do for specific situations. For example, there are Judo techniques for short Judokas

But on the bright side, this level of difficulty makes Judo interesting. It makes Judokas put undeniable amounts of effort into learning the sport to its full potential. 

How long does it take to be decent at judo?

It will take roughly 2 to 3 years of consistent Judo training to be decent in the sport. But keep in mind that this is just an estimate. It can be longer or shorter depending on the Judoka. 

Suppose you’re a beginner Judoka passionate about learning techniques and studying the game outside the gym. In that case, 2 years is enough to be decent. 

At this pace, you might reach the orange belt in no time. You’ll also achieve more tourney medals to help you in future promotions. 

But, if you train once a week and take Judo for granted, it’ll take you longer than 3 years to be decent in the sport. 

Remember, the three main ingredients for progress are consistency, dedication, and passion. 

Can you teach yourself Judo?

You can’t learn Judo all by yourself. As we know, Judo is a partner sport that focuses on throws and locks. How can you perform a throw or a submission alone, right?

Let’s say you have a dummy you can practice on. Yes, this is good, but it’s not as good as having a real partner. Dummies don’t resist and perform counterattacks.

If you get accustomed to this training style, facing a real opponent will be a nightmare. 

What you can do is watch a YouTube video tutorial on the basics of Judo. This way, you’ll have a good grasp of what you’ll do during actual Judo training. 

You can also read the internet about Judo’s submission game. Doing this will give you the knowledge you need about the things you’ll learn in the future. 

After doing these things, it’s up to you to decide if you want to be a Judoka. If you do, you can go to your nearest Judo academy and begin your martial art journey.

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