Earlier this week we reported on a case of students promoting their black belt professor to the rank of red and black belt.
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.
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
To which Roberto Atalla, leader and founder of Rio Grappling Club , who is know for his straight talking and No BS approach, felt compelled to denounce a hypocrisy :
This week I came across 2 posts from a famous coral belt and his student who wears a sixth degree, both complaining about a guy who undeservingly got a coral belt. Funny thing is that neither have followed the IBJJF standards, so what moral ground do they have to shame others when they clearly have disrespected the only valid criteria in our sport? Hypocrisy grows rampant in our sport.
I remember a sentence from Bob Marley that says, before you point your fingers, make sure your hand is clean. Worth reminding them that if others are cheating, they also are.
On June 6, 2011 in a private ceremony held at the Rickson Gracie Academy in West Los Angeles, Machado was promoted to a 7th degree red-and-black belt.
According to Ibjjf belt guidelines, you need 31 years at black belt to qualify for coral belt, which means that Jean Jacques is only due his coral belt in 2020.
Here’s Machado’s response:
My name is Jean Jacques Machado. I recently turned 50 years old. I was privileged to be born into a martial arts dynasty. From the moment I was able to walk my training in the art that would become my life’s work began. I did not realize it at the time, but it was very clear my journey was going to be different than the average student of the Martial Arts.
Jiu-Jitsu surrounded my life growing up. Training with my brothers and cousins, learning from individuals who went on to become Jiu-Jitsu legends and the almost daily ritual of listening to the stories and wisdom that my uncles, the great Carlos Gracie Sr. and Helio Gracie would instill in me, I never found myself lacking motivation or inspiration to face the challenges life would put in front of me.
I went on to create my own legacy in the art. I eventually became an instructor, achieving numerous achievements in the arena of competition, and in time became the head of my own organization. Jiu-Jitsu has given me so much, but one of the greatest lessons I ever learned was that I need to always give back to Jiu-Jitsu as well.
Through the work of myself and my family, literally millions of people around the world now have the opportunity to learn, compete and make a living teaching this amazing art. I have contributed and donated much of my time to give back, often without financial reward or public acknowledgement of any kind. However, on my 50th birthday I was awarded a certificate of recognition from the Mayor of Los Angeles recognizing my efforts in contributing to the economic growth of the city in which I call home. Much like my Coral Belt, which has been the subject of debate, these are accolades I do not aspire for, they are merely a consequence of my work.
It is important to point out that at the time I was awarded my Coral Belt, the timeline to achieve that rank was 25 years at the Black Belt level. I would like to not believe it was because of my promotion, but I did find it ironic that an evaluation was made shortly after and the timeline changed to 30 years. In addition, my years spent as a Black Belt were far, far different than the average Black Belt. Nevertheless, to this day I still consider it one of the highest honors of my life when the man I refer to as Master, the great legend Rickson Gracie, tied it around my waist.
It is easy to speak negative or critical of others when you are not in the spotlight. Those who have achieved nothing, or contributed nothing are incapable of understanding the work and sacrifice of those who laid the foundation through their blood, sweat and tears. It is because of our work that you get to enjoy training or making a living in the art that we helped give to you.
To my peers, students, friends and fans throughout the world I will always be Jean Jacques Machado to you.
To the very small faction of critics, it’s Master Jean Jacques Machado.