Here is an open letter written by my friend and coach Brian J. Johnson on the meaning of BEING a black belt. My comments will follow below.
"I REMEMBER WHEN A BLACK BELT IN BJJ MEANT SOMETHING!!!...
and in most cases it still does. When I started BJJ the thought of getting a black belt seemed near impossible. In a way that was freeing. "ok well, now I'll just practice jiu-jitsu and strive for improvment beacuse I LOVE JIU-JITSU"! As a result Oct. 27th of 2005 I was awarded my Black Belt ( a complete and total shock! "why are all these people showing up for class"?... I never claimed to be all that bright).
It seems as of late some instructors have well, let me see..."jumped the shark" ( If your not familiar with that refernce I'm sure you can google it ). Now I have been pretty good at staying away from the politics and dramas that sometimes go with having a dojo and I hope that dose'nt change...so I will try to tread lightly.
Students: ask yourself what is more important, having a BB or being a BB. No one say's " I just want to get married". "I don't care who too I just want that certificate" ( at least I hope not). You should strive for a deep quality relationship with someone you truly love and as result you should then get married and get that piece of paper!...ok, ok I realize I am talking to a mostly male audience so I'll put it like this... put a black belt on a turd what do you got?
Coaches: Quality control is up to us! I have learned alot about this in the last year... We should er on the side of having higher standards! I for one am going to re-commit myself to producing the best possible BJJ practitioners I can! I won't get suckered into the buisness of handing out belts to grow a "team" of black belts.
Don't get me wrong it is noble to want to achieve BB, it is noble to award a BB. Let's just make sure that we don't loose sight of what this art is all about!!!!...and make sure that:
A BLACK BELT IN BJJ MEANS SOMETHING!
Please share this with everyone you know that trains, teaches, competes, dreams, loves! the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu."
-Brian J. Johnson
This letter is in response to an individual in the local BJJ community who was just recently promoted to black belt. Out of respect for my coach I will not name the individual here, but any local BJJ cat that is reading this blog knows him, as he has literally bounced from one dojo to another over the past several years. For instance he left our academy about 18 months ago as a two stripe blue belt (he came to the academy about 6 months prior with that rank). After TELLING our coach Brian that he was ready for a purple belt, and subsequently being told "You are not at the purple belt level reflective of my academy yet, but lets work on your game and get you there." by Brian... this individual decided to move to greener pastures.
Now my numbers are not always real solid, but even if I am off by 6 months, this individual went from blue belt to black belt in under 2 years! Now keep in mind I have rolled with this man and in all honesty he is bigger and stronger than I am he usually dominated the positions. As far as submitting... rarely did he nail a submission, and overall his defense was good as I rarely nailed a sub as well. That is me, 18 months ago... a three stripe blue belt. You would think a cat just this side of a black belt would be dominating my rookie ass no!?
I do not understand people. I do not understand why you would want something you have not earned. Why someone would offer something so meaningful and important as a black belt in BJJ, so easily and without merit. Coming from the traditional Chinese martial arts I have dealt with this bullshit for years, and the state (currently swirling the bowl!) of affairs for CMA is due largely in part to similar type practices. Sadly I knew these days would come where belts are handed out like candy.
In the end, if you are reading this, homie I wish you the best! Sincerely! I look forward to seeing some clips of you fighting in tournaments at the black belt level to prove your skills and to shut up critics like me! When I see that day, I will offer my apologies.
Happy Frickin' Holidays,