By Gabriel Necula
There have been shady cases around the world where people got promoted too fast, achieving higher belts without having the skill set, knowledge, attitude, maturity to match the respective belt. Contrary to some people’s belief, this practice is indeed very bad for the sport and for the local BJJ community.
I’ve seen people who had the skill set (maybe due to a strong Judo background) but did not really have the passion for Jiu-Jitsu, fly through the ranks and by the time they got their black belt, did not comport themselves like how a BJJ black belt should: to be an ambassador of the sport. Josh Barnett, who is a catch wrestler, was basically given his black belt by his instructor. He explains on his Facebook page that he was awarded a BJJ black belt without having ever worn a Gi or trained any BJJ…
Yes, I have a BJJ Black Belt, But it’s not what you think.
First off I don’t train in BJJ, I almost never put on a gi (Only to teach or help Erik assist), and I stick by my training in Catch Wrestling and it’s concepts. When I step on the mats of Metamoris or in the UFC cage, I am walking in on the back of my Catch Wrestling style. I don’t practice a bunch of guard work, sweeps, or limit my submission work to any BJJ derived conceptual rule base. I don’t do BJJ. Period. However…
In 2009 Erik Paulson, endorsed by Rigan Machado, presented me with a Black Belt in BJJ. I was Incredibly surprised and a bit shocked, see I have never, NEVER trained in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I didn’t start out a simple white belt and work my way up the ranks and eventually grind into a black belt. But there is a method to the apparent madness here.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 reasons why this practice is a bad one and needs to disappear.
5.You risk breaking IBJJF rules and thus your student will not be able to compete in IBJJF tournaments.
IBJJF has a required minimum time spent at belts higher than blue, in order to ensure people don\t get promoted too fast and certain belts get diluted in value. If you promote someone too fast, not meeting the requirements you risk making that student ineligible to compete in IBJJF tournaments, thus his competitional ambitions might be in danger. More information about the IBJJF graduation system can be found here http://ibjjf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/IBJJF-Graduation-System-v1-ENG.pdf
4.It’s disrespecting your other students and all the students from the local community.
If someone is promoted to a higher belt, on reasons that do not include his skillset, performance, BJJ progress, attitude, maturity etc, other students in the academy will be upset and they will feel their effort is not recognised by the head coach, while students in the local community will have a bad opinion of the head coach who did this, as the student you promoted will, most likely, be judged on his performance.
A belt is not just someone’s level in rolling. It’s also knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu, how they treat their team mates, attitude, if they are mentally mature for that belt level, if they understand the BJJ code of conduct, mat time, loyalty, competitions etc…
3.It’s bringing bad reputation to your academy and yourself
The academy will get a bad reputation because of this, depending on how big they are it might even affect their sales . BJJ communities these days are very active on Facebook and information travels fast. This is daunting for your academy because it will be branded as a weak one where belts are gifted and not earned, worst case scenario, your academy might be branded as a McDojo !
Your students are a reflection of you so anything they do or how they act will affect your image. That’s why it is important to take your time, to probably educate a BJJ practitioner so that they reach the requirements for the next belt.
2.It will make the student feel humiliated when they don’t do well when testing themselves in competition
If the student doesn’t have the skill set to match his belt color, he will be beaten by other competitors who actively prepare for competitions and have a better skill set. This will make that student feel humiliated and perhaps it might even discourage him from sparring altogether.
TV Chef Anthony Bourdain is a great example of someone who has earned his belt and put in his time: BJJ Blue Belt after 2 years of training & after losing 30lbs!
1.It dillutes the value of the belt overall in the community.
Generally, belts in BJJ are earned quite hard, compared to some other martial arts these days. This means that the belts have a value. For instance, if a country only has 3 black belts, but those black belts have approximately 10 years each of BJJ, then 5 more appear who only have 4 years each, then the general “meaning” and “value” will decrease.