MMA legend and BJJ black belt Enson Inoue has been retired from MMA since 2004 (he had a short comeback fight in 2010), but he has recently started training Jiu-Jitsu again after taking a 10 year break from the sport.
Inoue is Japanese-American and hails from Hawaii, but has made his career in the US and Japan. He one of most well known MMA fighters in the world having fought in the UFC, Shooto, and being a major star in Pride Fighting Championships. He has submitted Randy Couture, and faced Minotauro Nogueira, Igor Vovchanchin and many others…Inoue is a long time BJJ black belt(promoted in 1998) under John Lewis. He has also competed in ADCC in a super fight vs Mario Sperry.
In a startling turn of events he decided to demote himself to purple belt.
The BJJ community reacted with a mixture of admiration and non-comprehension.
Chris Haueter, one of the first American Black Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was particularly critical of Inoue’s decision:
We take responsibility and respect the rank appointed to us. Downgrading oneself in rank is not humility, it’s false humility. Jiu Jitsu is bigger than any one person. We will never have complete control of anything let alone our art. We practice, we do not master.
Adapt to your handicaps, be it age, injury, time off the mat or a lack of understanding “the new game” or some new technique.
Respect the professor who ranked you. Unless you promoted yourself, you can’t demote yourself. Drive on. Don’t quit.
Enson released a video where he explained his decision in detail and where he came from. He compared Jiu-Jitsu’s evolution to the evolution of the cell phones. He wants to learn this new Jiu-Jitsu and get back to his old level:
It has been brought to my attention that I may have disrespected the instructor or the group that has awarded me my black belt. By all means the last I wanted to do is disrespect them. I felt the opposite that by respecting them I will refine my technique and the understanding of the art so I can represent them with honor. I didn’t want to go roll somewhere and be so out of the loop that it would put shame on the people who gave me my black belt.
It’s not their fault I dropped off the grid and didn’t keep up with the movement of BJJ. It was my movement and nothing to do with them. I understand that I earned my black belt 18 years ago but let’s be real it’s a different art today. If I were going to close the door of my BJJ career then I would have closed the door as a black belt. But I have chosen to set foot in the BJJ world today, which is almost a whole new art, and I honestly will rank myself as I stand in this era.
I see it like… If I was considered a specialist on cell phones 18 years ago the dropped off the grid of cell phone technology then came back today, can i still call himself a cell phone specialist? No but I can call myself a cell phone specialist of back in the day. Could I know everything about the old flip phones and 18 years later pick up an iPhone and tell you how to use it? I don’t think so. Would you feel right mingling with the iPhone specialist and be able to say your a iPhone specialist too. I couldn’t.
I will forever honor my Nova Uniao black belt via John Lewis and I will always be a Nova Uniao black belt. I will it get promoted by anyone and become their black belt. I will just accept the opinion of a legit black belt of this current era and progress back to a black belt and represent Nova Uniao with honor. Then when someone asked me who gave you your black belt I can proudly tell them knowing I’ve represented them well.
It is in no way because I can’t beat the higher belts but more what I feel is an accurate assessment of my true BJJ level today. I plan to train and roll with the likes of John Lewis, Egan Inoue, Steve Roberto, Jeff Starks, Steve Roberto, Jared Weiner, Baret Yoshida, and all my other Purebred black belts and if they feel I can should move up to brown or even black I will do so. Until then I’m purple.
Again no disrespect intended and if I did disrespect anyone, my sincere apologies. With that said, I would also appreciate some understanding and respect on my decision to do what I feel is proper. It is my journey and I just want to be real.