Thoughts on belt ranking

Recently there has been some debate online regarding belt ranking, specifically the coral belt that is awarded to 7th degree black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

It started with a BJJ black belt who was awarded his coral belt by his students.

It escalated into the leaders of two pretty big associations publicly squabbling over the requirements to achieve coral belt.

Last night I discovered that a legend in the BJJ community was awarded his coral belt by his son, from the sounds of it due to relations with his senior family members, and the recent passing of his father, meaning no one else would have been able to award him that belt. I’ll be honest in that I’m not too sure of this myself.

What I do know is that after all of this, I feel like burning my belt.

I’ve worked hard to achieve the rank I wear today. In the grand scheme of things, the belt means nothing more than time and experience on the mat. But I’ve put that time in and, I believe, earned the rank I wear. It’s taken me 10 years what some would do in 6 or 8, but its my journey and I’ll walk it as slow as I want to.

That being said, my lineage is one of many, there are many groups and associations within BJJ, each with its own rules and guidelines. One such group is the IBJJF, which has certain guidelines regarding belt promotion. There are others, like Gracie Academy/Gracie University, from which my rank originates, that have their own guidelines. Some choose to follow the IBJJF, some don’t. Each one has it’s own specific requirement for achieving and awarding rank.

What has bothered me about all of this is that when this kind of mud slinging starts happening online, all it does is break down the BJJ community, not build it up. If there are no strict guidelines on how to award rank that everyone who does BJJ must follow, then how can anyone comment on anyone else being awarded a rank? If we don’t all have to follow one set of guidelines, how can we comment on what constitutes a black belt, or any other belt, from another school or association?

Some time ago I made a pact with myself that unless a situation effects me specifically I will not comment on it online. This week I broke that pact because all of it annoyed me. I won’t be doing that again.

Some days I wish everyone (and I mean f***ing EVERYONE) in the BJJ community would just stop commenting on everyone else’s rank, way of doing things, whether someone deserves a rank or not and just focus on the thing I try to focus on every time I get onto the mats, working hard to be a small degree better than I was the last time.

 

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