There’s quite a fuss any time something extraordinary happens regarding promotions and demotions. People simply work so hard that these occurences are bound to raise quite a few eyebrows – and rightly so.
The latest case is students at the Academy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu promoting their instructor?! The man in question is Todd Nathanson. His website bio reads:
“Originally from Philadelphia, Todd Nathanson began his martial arts training with American Boxing. He furthered his education by wrestling, and then becoming a black belt in Kenpo karate, as well as Kung Fu moving on to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
He was fortunate enough to spend time and train extensively with several members of the Machado family in Tarzana, and became an active competitor with an impressive list of accomplishments.
In keeping with his reputation as a top BJJ sportsman, he displays all the traits of any true martial artist.
Todd began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 1993 and has received a 3rd degree black belt from Jean Jacques Machado (The highest, and only, black belt degree awarded by Jean Jacques Machado).
Out of dedication, he spends long hours on the mat striving to pass on the knowledge of his beloved art to his numerous students at his school in Chatsworth, located in Southern California.”
But a Jean Jacques Machado black belt recently promoted to 6th degree Renato Magno was none too happy about this development:
While it’s hard to question Nathanson’s credentials it’s a very peculiar move to be promoted by own students. What do you think about this move?
Now Jean Jacques Machado, who had given Todd Nathanson his black belt released a statement on it:
What price are you willing to pay to take shortcuts in life? As a martial artist, a coral belt and a practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu for over 40 years, I have dedicated my life contributing to the advancement of the art that I love. It is also crucial to me to preserve its rich history and traditions for future generations.
One of my main focuses is preserving the standards for rank advancement. This is easy to do within the walls of my academies. It’s when students leave or branch off on their own that this becomes more challenging. To achieve the higher black belt levels of the art requires years of dedicated training and always the approval of their instructor. Timelines are not always enough, there are other factors involved that only someone who is already at that level can understand.
The black belt degrees are far more than just stripes on a belt and if you feel entitled to simply put them on you not only disrespect all the hard working black belts who continue to honor and uphold our traditions, you also disrespect the art as well as yourself. That stigma will tarnish the legacy of what ever honest work you actually put in. That is a steep price to pay to simply gratify your ego.
I find it ironic that while some people feel this is no big deal, I would bet the same people would have a completely different response if someone self-promoted or had their students promote them to black belt. To turn a blind eye is to validate this type of behavior and that is something we as martial artists should never allow.
Of course in this world anyone can and will do basically whatever they please, but you can’t call it Jiu-Jitsu. Why? Because Jiu-Jitsu’s power lies in its honesty. If you’re not honest with yourself then you are doing something that goes against the very essence of our art. Good luck with that. #respecttradition