What’s Your Real BJJ Grade?
So in the same vein as my last post, I am going to beat my usual procrastination (the same procrastination that has a half dozen blog post drafts in my unpublished folder) by just writing what I want and publishing it straight away, without the usual half dozen re-reads and re-writes.
So tonight the topic of belt grades came up in an interesting way. Without going too deeply into our conversation during our jiujitsu debrief (do all schools perform this post class ritual of beers, more beers, discussions, more beers and converstions on whatever comes up?). Tonight started off with our own version of a Gracie Breakdown of Ronda Rousey’s magnificent win over Cat Zingano.
btw, Damn that girl is amazing and I personally can't believe how much misogynistic jealousy / disrespect she gets all over the place?! Just concede already that she is god damn great at what she does!? I think (for no educated reason whatsoever), she would probably get more respect were she less good looking. BUT ANYWAY.....!
The topic soon moved on to local BJJ school / student politics and out of that came my question. Do you (think you) deserve to be whatever belt you currently are?
1). I currently feel this topic is somewhat apt to me personally, as I have recently felt a need to question the validity of at least one of my 2 stripes even. I was reminded tonight that I started training at Auckland BJJ almost 18 months ago. In those 18 months I have missed the better part of probably a year in total. (Thanks for that CTHD2). I attained 2 stripes in that time and at the time of receiving my second stripe, I feel I probably amassed the necessary techniques to a semi competent enough level to receive them, maybe.
However I no longer feel I have retained those few skills and techniques to the same level since being away, so a valid argument can be easily made that I no longer fully deserve to be at the grade I currently am.
What do you think?
2). Being as naive still as I have always been, I didn’t realise how common the practice of sandbagging was in JiuJitsu. The practice of purposely not progressing to the next level of belt grading, in order to appear less qualified or pretend you have less ability than you actually have, to gain a greater advantage when competing in a tournament.
I guess in reality it’s akin to the practice of cutting weight in other combat arenas. Which itself is not frowned upon by most and typically accepted as “just part of the sport”. However I don’t really agree when it’s performed by “white belts” competing against white belts.
I suppose when “everyone does it” it means that no one is really a white belt in the white belt division and it evens itself out. Right? Danny is really a blue belt in a fair world, but he’s fighting Stephen who is also 6 months past his time to move up to blue. So it is in actual fact a fair match up yeah?! Except that Sione is fighting John, who are also both 12 months deep into their 4 white belt stripes at a best case scenario. All seems fair I guess, to a degree….
Except, the rest of the pool who fought and didn’t make top 4 are majority comprised of actual, true, white belts. White belts that did ok maybe? against these other “white belts”. Or possibly didn’t do so well!? Possibly got dominated and demoralised!? Might feel like they are not as good as they thought they were when compared to these other “white belts” from other schools!? That lost (had stolen), any opportunity to obtain a medal in their division, by students who by al rights, should really be, maybe getting dominated and demoralised in the blue belt division?
I know this sounds like sour grapes from personal experience or just the plain whiney moanings of someone without a competitor’s spirit. I accept that totally. I agree that some people need to be tested against better people in order to grow. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “No one ever rose to low expectations” or another one fairly relevant to this topic, “Only steel sharpens steel”.
I am not moaning from personal experience though, just to be clear. I haven’t competed even once yet. I will! But not until I’m 12 months deep into my 4th stripe 🙂 Kidding
But my concern is this. As the white belt level, which as heavily blogged about in numerous articles all over the internet, is the grade at which the largest majority of students quit their BJJ journey. Should this practice not be regarded as possibly one of the many contributing factors for this unfortunate phenomenon?
Just asking a question that I’m interested to hear opinion on.
Personally, ultimately, I care very little I suppose. I am on my own journey and whatever happens, however long it takes, I will continue to plug away, pursuing my technical development and one day maybe satisfying my own personal Jiu Jitsu goals. Whether that be my Black Belt, or just my own satisfaction of being able to hold my own against most others on the mats. I just think it’s an interesting topic is all.
Additionally, the practice of sandbagging belt grades, appears to be something not exclusive to individuals, but also to schools instructors too. I guess it’s good for business to have more “winners” at your school.
However I suspect there is no better bragging rights for a school than for your instructor to hold tournament wins over the instructor of another school. But with so much on the line, I suspect we won’t be seeing that in Auckland for while…..at least not until the next generation of instructors move up. I understand injuries and age probably prohibit such things these days anyway.
So until next time I manage to get on here and spout my own flavour of drivel….
Roll on 🙂