Posts Tagged ‘belt’

I traveled not too long ago to Coronado, CA for some business.  I did some sight-seeing and touring of the area and a few drop in’s.  One stop was Gracie Jiu-Jitsu of La Jolla.  I really enjoyed my experience there.  Here’s a quick review.  If you ever get the chance, go check them out!  Congratulations to Matthew Becker on his recent promotion to Purple Belt!

gjjlj front

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu La Jolla, a small dojo in the heart of La Jolla about 30 minutes from Coronado, California, where I was staying. It was very clean and organized. The mats were not dirty and no one stunk. The dojo didn’t smell like a gym, which is definitely a plus.  Although it was one of the smaller professional training locations I’d been to it still easily fit 10 people on the mat.

I was met by Dione Becker, a Blue Belt herself and the wife of GJJ-LJ’s head Instructor and (then) Blue Belt, Matt Becker.  She greeted me at the door, had me sign the standard liability paperwork and gave me a quick tour of the dojo.  She showed me where the dressing room was.  After introducing myself to a few of the guys, changing, stretching and warming up, I met Matt.  We talked briefly and he then started class.  I caught them in their review week of leg locks for the Gracie Master Cycle.  Matt briefly reviewed the attacks they had covered over the past few weeks, the associated defenses and then paired us up to work through them for the first half of class.  After that we started a round-robin format, where Matt set the timer and we lightly sparred for a few minutes before rotating to the next individual.

I wouldn’t really say I learned a great deal from a technique aspect point of view (although I did get a few good pointers).  He wasn’t teaching, they were reviewing.  What I did get was a unique opportunity to gauge and compare GJJ-LJ’s Blue Belts against other Gracie Academy Blue Belts I’ve sparred with.  Granted, there are many factors here, such as no one was going full out, it’s not a tournament, we’re specifically reviewing and stopping and talking – but the overall impression of the individual was given and learned within that hour.  It would be unfair for me to judge Matt’s teaching style as a whole since it was a review day and he didn’t necessarily get into teaching any specific technique.  He knew what he was talking about and felt very comfortable leading his students throughout the class.

As a whole, I’d say the Blue Belts were all well versed in their techniques.  They were competent, able to flow from technique to technique and defend themselves with ease.  Which is the primary definition of any Gracie Academy Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt.  They weren’t “grippy”, either.  They didn’t grab hold of my lapel and try and smash and pin me relying on physical effort alone.  They weren’t looking to hold a position.  They were quick to release when it became advantageous for them to do so.  Overall, I was impressed with their transitions and movement.

I can honestly recommend Gracie Jiu-Jitsu La Jolla for anyone interested in training.  I can, and will say, with confidence, that they meet the Gracie Academy standard.  Matt’s review of the techniques were the exact same ones featured in the Master Cycle online videos.

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Let’s face it, there are multiple belt systems being used today in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  We’ve got people running around with light blue, dark blue, blue belts with no bands, blue belts with red bands, white belts with blue stripes, and that’s just the blue belts!.  We look crazy!  And yes, I mean WE.  WE are a brotherhood.  It doesn’t matter if you practice the self-defense aspect of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu or the sportsman game of competition style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  WE are not Eddie Bravo or Rorion Gracie so WE need to unite under a system that is simple, easy to understand and still maintains our traditions.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) tried to standardize the belt ranking system some time ago.  A lot of schools use it but most kept what they already had in place.  Why?  I personally believe that it’s tied to money.  The IBJJF want’s you to pay them a yearly due.  To get promoted your school has to pay a yearly due to the IBJJF in order to be recognized by their promotion body.  So, if you don’t have the money to pay and your school does not desire to pay, then the IBJJF belt system of validation becomes irrelevant.  And why should you have to pay?  Isn’t your school already paying affiliation fees to be recognized by their promoting body?  I’m a personal believer in keeping the integrity at home.  Let my instructor and professor judge me and my skill level and promote me accordingly.  I’m not knocking the IBJJF, I’m just not sure we should have to pay them to be recognized or use their system.

I’m not asking anyone to pay to adopt this system.  If your affiliation says that you’re a purple belt, that’s good enough for me.  It’s not my place, or the IBJJF’s for that matter, to issue you rank.  What I’m asking is that we unite under a belt system that we can all understand and use.  If your Professor says that you’re a purple or brown belt, that’s fine by mean.  Just don’t be the fool that wears a purple belt with a red band that’s 10 inches long.  I did not spend any time working on the kids belt system.  I think that Jiu-Jitsu is a valid sport for children, and the children’s belt system needs to be addressed, I just haven’t devoted the time to doing it… yet.

In developing this system, I relied heavily on the Gracie family and history; I think you have too.  Even if you don’t agree with the origins of Jiu-Jitsu, you have to admit that the Gracie family did play a major influence in what is today’s concept and application of Jiu-Jitsu.  You can read about Helio Gracie’s belt system as recounted by Relson Gracie and the difference in the Gracie blue belts from the Valente family to learn more about the history involved.

My Vision for what the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt Ranking System Should Look Like. Click the Image to Open a PDF Version with More Details.

There are five tier levels to the belt system.  The Practitioner, the Instructor, the Professor, the Master and the Grand Master.

The Practitioner:  The Practitioner is your everyday, run of the mill, Jiu-Jitsu student.  He comes to class, he participates and learns, and progresses accordingly based on his skill level.  As he furthers along, he helps his fellow student’s learn.  There are five different belts that the Practitioner can earn:  white, light blue, purple, brown and black.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  Blue, purple and brown will have 10 cm black bands.  The black belt does not wear the 10 cm red band until after two years.  The highest rank attainable by the Practitioner is 6th degree black belt.  An example of the black belt Practitioner could be the driven competitor who does not own an academy, or a professional MMA fighter.

White Belt with Proper Spacing in Between Degrees

The White Belt:  The white belt is the first belt worn by all students who begin their journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  The white belt does not have the 10 cm black band.  The white belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to the light blue belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch black stripe, with .5 inch spacing in between each degree, with the first degree starting one inch from the tip of the white belt.  The minimum requirement for promotion to blue belt is one year as a white belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Blue Belt:  The light blue belt is the second lowest rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  It indicates a strong understanding of the fundamentals and a basic understanding of some more advanced techniques.  A blue belt should have the ability to properly defend oneself.  The light blue belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The blue belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to purple belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to purple belt is two years as a blue belt and be at least 16 years old.

The Purple Belt:  The purple belt is an intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals, a solid advanced technical understanding and a developed idea of strategy and tactics (i.e. two moves ahead).  The purple belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The purple belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to brown belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to brown belt is two years as a purple belt and at least 18 years old.

The Brown Belt:  The brown belt is an advanced intermediate belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamentals and advanced techniques.  A personally developed strategy and tactical base have been formed.  The brown belt has a 10 cm black band which starts one inch from the tip of the belt.  The brown belt student will earn four degrees prior to promotion to black belt.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with .5 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .5 inches from the tip of the black band with each stripe being placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to black belt is one year as a brown belt and at least 18 years old.

The Black Belt:  The black belt is an advanced belt.  It indicates a mastery of the fundamental and advanced techniques.  Technical savvy and strategy are the norm.  The black belt does not initially have the 10 cm red band.  The black belt student will earn three intermediate degrees prior to promotion to the black belt with red bar.  Each degree will be a .5 inch white stripe with a .5 inch spacing in between each intermediate degree, with the first intermediate degree starting one inch from the tip of the black belt.  After one year the red bar will be added and the black belt student may earn up to six degrees.  Each degree will be .5 inch white stripe with .25 inch spacing between each degree.  The first degree will be placed .25 inch from the tip of the outside edge of the red band with each degree placed subsequently inboard.  The minimum requirement for promotion to 1st degree is two years as a black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 3 years up to 3rd degree black belt.  Requirements for subsequent degrees is 5 years up to 6th degree black belt.  The 6th degree black belt is the highest attainable rank for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

Gracie Academy Blue Belt Instructor with 1st Degree

The Instructor:  The Instructor is a student who does more than show up for training.  These are the practitioners who have a true passion for the sport, are engaging, outspoken, and have a really strong understanding of the fundamental techniques and can clearly, concisely explain and demonstrate them to fellow students.  The minimum requirements for an Instructor are:  1.)  Be at least a blue belt;  2.)  Be at least 18 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in the students respective affiliation;  4.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 5.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Professor or higher.  Note:  The Professor need not physically be on site.  For example, an Instructor could have his own affiliate academy under his Professor’s academy in a different city.  What’s important is that the Professor and Instructor have open dialogue to assist the Instructor in conducting training in accordance with their affiliations guidelines.

The Instructor will follow a slightly different belt system.  If beginning their instruction at the blue belt level the Instructor will be awarded a navy blue belt, darker in color than the standard light blue belt to be worn by Practitioners.  After blue, the colors will match those of the Practitioners until the black belt.  If promoted to black belt as an Instructor they will be award the black belt with the red bar.  The Instructor will wear two additional .5 inch white stripes on the outer edges of the 10 cm band to distinguish themselves from Practitioners.  Time in rank and age requirements remain the same for promotion.  If at anytime an Instructor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Instructor status shall be removed and the Instructor will revert back to Practitioner status.  As with the Practitioner, the highest rank that may be achieved by an Instructor is the 6th degree black belt.

The Professor:  The Professor is an experienced Instructor and Practitioner.  The minimum requirements are:  1.)  Be at least a black belt for two years;  2.)  Be at least 21 years of age;  3.)  Successful completion of an Instructors course in their respective affiliation;  4.)  Successful completion of a Professors course in their respective affiliation;  5.)  Current certification in first aid and CPR;  and finally, 6.)  Direct supervision and tutelage under a Master or higher.  If at any time a Professor fails to meet any of the listed requirements the Professor status shall be removed and the Professor will revert back to Practitioner status.  The highest rank that may be achieved by a Professor is the 9th degree Grand Master.

The Master:  The Master is a Professor who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  A 6th degree black belt Professor is eligible for promotion to 7th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 6th degree black belt.  A 7th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 8th degree red and black belt after 7 years as a 7th degree red and black belt.

The Grand Master:  The Grand Master is a Master who has met the time in rank requirements for promotion.  An 8th degree red and black belt Master is eligible for promotion to 9th degree red belt after 10 years as a 8th degree red and black belt Master.  The 10th degree red belt Grand Master is reserved for the originators of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and will not be awarded as a form or respect, honor and appreciation for their contribution the gentle art.

In conclusion, I realize I might be rocking the boat here.  Who am I to tell any one to fix their belt system?  I’m no one, really.  However we have to be honest with ourselves.  People are calling for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to become an Olympic sport, but we can’t come to terms with how we want to identify players in the sport.  This is a simple fix that, if WE as a brotherhood can set aside the personal and political feelings between affiliations, can make happen.  Leave your responses and let me know what you guys think!

There’s an old quote that says, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”  I say bring it on!  2011 was a great year for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and we’re counting down the top 10 events that helped shape the year!

10.  BJJHQ – Offering you one great deal a day, BJJHQ is probably one of the hottest deals going for Jiu-Jitsu gear.  However, their significance isn’t their gimmick – it’s their representation of the market that’s important.  We’re talking about a website whose sole purpose is to make money selling Jiu-Jitsu related products.  Not a website who is selling you techniques or is a representation of a specific breed of Jiu-Jitsu, but a third-party sales company who is making money by simply selling merchandise.  If a company can make money only selling Jiu-Jitsu gear then it’s definitely a major mile-stone for our sport and is a great sign of things to come!

9.  Jiu-Jitsu Delivered to Your Door – Jiu-Jitsu Magazine, a publication coming out of California, is making its mark in the states.  Due to the development and recent acceptance of the iPad, NOOK, Kindle and other e-readers the magazine and newspaper markets have taken a hit.  Again, it says a lot about where our sport is for a publication to make it in today’s economy.  Grab a subscription to this and expand your game!

8.  The UFC in Brazil – In 1993 the Gracie’s created the UFC in an effort to show the world that they had created the best defensive combat system in the world.  In 2011 the UFC went to the Gracie’s home country for the first time in history!  MMA is probably going to be the first truly international sport because people all over the world love to watch other people from all over the world getting their arms broken.  And the UFC is going to deliver!

7.  Earn Your Degree Online with Gracie University – The Gracie family has done marvels with growing the sport and the science of Jiu-Jitsu online.  Love them or hate them, odds are, you’re watching their videos.  They’ve also inspired others to create their own online training programs.  The difference between the Gracie’s and everybody else is that they are willing to promote you based on video evaluation.  Not only can you put on your Blue Belt at home, you can add a stripe to it!

6.  The Honey Badger Don’t Care – Fellow blogger, jitz roller, and artist Meerkatsu may have had his biggest break out in 2011 with the introduction of his Honey Badger rash guard.  It’s taken off like wildfire (so much so that I can’t even get my hands on one to review, hint hint…).  It’s turned into the “hot” item for BJJ all across the internet and developed itself into a brand, Honey Badger Fightwear.  He did it right, too, by pushing through a noted and professional company like Tatami.  I expect to see Honey Badgers on gi’s in the near future.  Personally, I think an Octopus could take a Honey Badger any day…

5.  Attack of the App – With the invention of the Android, iPhone, iPad and every other mobile device there has come more apps than one can count.  Thrown in that mix are some pretty impressive Jiu-Jitsu apps.  I’m a big fan of the Mobile Black Belt series by Gracie Barra Black Belt “Bill” Aparecido Faria.  Quick, easy techniques to watch if you’ve got 5 minutes to kill.  Another favorite is access to my Gracie University account via their mobile site.  You can make fun of those who learn watching YouTube, or you can add those tools to your toolbox.  Me?  I have more than one Black Belt in my pocket.

4.  The Match that Never Happened – Supposedly going to be the Superfight of the Decade, the Eddie Bravo vs. Royler Gracie rematch caused more stirs, murmurs and rumors than a hooker in the White House.  Set for ADCC 2011, the always cost conscious Gracie managed to put this one to bed by refusing to roll for riches.  Cash up front had to be provided or the event was to never happen.  And it didn’t.  Bloody Elbow does a good break down of events here.

3.  Grandmaster Dr. Pedro Valente Sr. – Anytime you get a new Red Belt thrown in the mix, especially in Jiu-Jitsu where it’s incredibly hard to get promoted anyway, it’s worth pointing out.  It took Pedro Sr. 58 years to put Red around his waist.  That’s a lot of time shrimping on the mats.

2.  Doing the Twist in the UFC – The Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung hit the first Twister in UFC history!  That’s sick!  There are a lot of haters of Jiu-Jitsu in the MMA market but every time Chael Sonnen gets tapped out or somebody does something like the Twister on national and international television it blows the doors off of BJJ schools everywhere!  This technique was so smooth and so sick that it got breakdowns from Eddie Bravo and the Gracie brothers.

And the winner is…

1.  André Galvão Wins… Again! – Black Belt Galvão won his weight class and the absolute at the ADCC 2011.  That’s pretty impressive.  If you didn’t know who André Galvão was from his many other championship wins, you better take note and figure it out now.  Anyone who can defeat Pablo Popovitch and Rousimar Palhares on the big stage is worth watching down the road. The ADCC rematch between Eddie and Royler didn’t play out, but Galvao gave us plenty to watch and be thankful for.