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Thread: Rank

  1. #1
    Jim London Guest

    Default Rank


    This is something I have been noticing a lot lately. Though it is not unique to the Brazilian world (check out the Bad Budo forum for lots of examples). And maybe I should have posted it over in Baffling Budo but...

    This book was written by two people with Purple Belts. They now have Brown Belts and various championships (at rank level). So they are obviously proficient, but there is a real problem here.

    Universally a Black Belt is considered to be some sort of accomplishment and qualification. It is considered bad taste to claim to know anything about a system before attaining at least this rank.

    Now a lot of Brazilians say that a BJJ Purple or whatever coloured belt can beet a black belt from another system so the coloured belt should be respected. This is debatable, and pretty much can be ignored. The ability of the practicioners is not the question, the writers are obviously good fighters. But....

    A student is still a student. It is universal that a Black Belt has attained something. I have attended seminars taught by BJJ Black Belts, they are far better then BJJ Brown Belts.

    If you think you are an instructor of your art, why are you not a Black Belt? I know that some systems are giving out assistant instructorships for study groups (yawn, money-making method #1), this does not make you an instructor.

    The question is: Why did you write this book? Though it has nice production values and flashy pictures, no matter how proficient you are, you are obviously not qualified.

    Just be sticking around you gain some legitimacy, You are both obviously proficient, why did you not wait a couple of year, get the Black Belt, then publish?

    Please dig deep before you respond to this post. Sleep on it. Look into yourself. Examine why you do martial arts. Consider your ego.

    Good luck with everything.
    Jim London.

  2. #2

    Thumbs down Try judging the book on its own merit.

    Geez, chill out a bit!

    I'm not the author of this book, nor am I black-belt in anything, nor am I a BJJ practitioner. However:

    1) Rank structures in BJJ are different to most Japanese arts. Where a BB in a Japanese art tends to denote that you've mastered the basics and are ready to move on, a BB in BJJ denotes that you've pretty much mastered the whole thing. There really aren't that many (legit) BBs in BJJ as far as I can tell. My impression is that a BJJ blue belt is comparable to shodan in Japanese styles

    2) Why does it matter? If the authors had left off their gis, would you be any the wiser? As long as the information presented is good, who cares?

    To quote Royce Gracie, "a belt covers 2 inches of your ass - you've got to cover the rest"

    I can't help thinking that the world would be much better off if we just used elastic to keep our pants up.



  3. #3
    Jim London Guest

    Default Boxing etc:

    I am very interested in this topic as it comes up a lot in other areas, expecially over in Bad Budo.

    Lennox Lewis does not have a black belt. Is he qulified to teach boxing?
    There are no belts in Boxing, except championship ones. There are however coloured belts in BJJ. These coloured belts in BJJ are intended to mean something. They do not have the same value as that in another art. A TKD BB and a BJJ BB are not the same. But neither is a BJJ purple belt the same as a BJJ BB.

    I am glad they published their rank, it makes this discussion possible.

    Rank structures in BJJ are different to most Japanese arts. Where a BB in a Japanese art tends to denote that you've mastered the basics and are ready to move on, a BB in BJJ denotes that you've pretty much mastered the whole thing.
    My point exactly. Why don't these guys wait until they know what they are doing before they publish? I don't see Japanese art Shodans publishing books on their arts, most wait until having attained a fairly high dan rank, some time in, usually many years of training.

    Again, I am sure these guys are talented. They unfortunately do not pass the qualification test. Why take lessons from an unqualified teacher? Why want to teach before you are qualified?

    These are normal martial arts questions, everyone faces them. How we deal with them tells you if we are worth training with. There are enough of these Blue Belt taught clubs out there, they are not as good as the Black Belt taught clubs. It is as simple as that.

    Jim London

  4. #4

    Default Re: Boxing etc:

    Originally posted by Jim London
    There are enough of these Blue Belt taught clubs out there, they are not as good as the Black Belt taught clubs.
    Yep, and there are plenty of karate/judo/kendo/aikido clubs that are taught by shodans, too.

    If you are lucky enough to train under some mega-dan master, good for you. There are plenty of MAists getting good, solid instruction from lower-ranked black belts. (And I wouldn't mind betting that some of it is better )

    Back to the book: as far as I can tell, it is a catalogue of techniques, plus tips and tactics, plus training drills. Bottom line - are the techs shown correctly? Are the tips useful and valid? Will the drills help your training? If the answer is yes, then it wouldn't matter if it had been written by white belts.

    I really think you are getting way too hung up on this belt-colour thing. It doesn't matter.



  5. #5
    Jim London Guest

    Red face Bad Budo

    Rant, Rant, Rant....

    Sorry folks, but you are giving the same responses we see from the Sacharnoski crowd over in Bad Budo. His students charge forth and make comments like ::: It's effective / It works for me / Its not your art so you can't judge / what is your qualifications anyway bub? / etc etc.

    I would like to hear from the authors.

    I really think you are getting way too hung up on this belt-colour thing. It doesn't matter.
    Unfortunately it does, or we wouldn't use them. It holds up our pants well is an often told anecdote, but having that BB put around your waist is a very proud moment. As you get older, it does become less important, something about maturity.

    It is sort of like getting hung up on the PHD thing. When you go to University you like to train with someone who is qualified to teach.

    If the final answer is that a BJJ Blue belt is qualified to teach then hey, we can all start opening clubs willy nilly. It isn't that hard to get a Blue Belt, train for two or three years (some people take longer), get the belt, leave your instructor and open a club.

    Again, look inside yourself. To be an instructor requires a certain level of ego. You must believe that you have something that others do not. You must believe that your way is better then that which is taught by others. This isnt a slight on anyone, if you do not believe these things you wouldn't teach. You can be the best student in the world. The greatest fighter ever seen, but still not be able to teach.

    Ok, now I am up to .03 cents.
    Jim London

  6. #6
    Tim Cartmell Guest


    You ask valid questions, here's my response. First of all, Mike and Shojin have already covered the bottom line, regardless of our rank, the question is can practitioners learn useful techniques and strategies from the information presented? We believe the answer is yes. We could have waited a couple of years and published the book after we received black belts, and with the exception of posing for the pictures in a different colored belts, the information would have been exactly the same.

    Why did we write the book? Well, to make a profit. And because there is a paucity of written material on BJJ in English; although there are a few excellent books, none of them are situation specific. Since the guard is such an important position in sport BJJ, Ed came up with the idea to focus a book entirely on that single position. Our underlying criterion was that someone with absolutely no background in BJJ could study the book and with some practice, actually learn to apply the techniques.

    So Jim, you have a black belt in some style of (I'm assuming) Japanese Ju Jitsu. I'd be interested to know how long it takes to earn a black belt in your style. In most style I've encountered, other than BJJ, it takes three or four years to Shodan. We have been practicing BJJ almost eight years. So if you want to make comparisons with other styles, we'd be what, second or third degree black belts by now? The point is as the other gentlemen pointed out above, belts aren't the only (or often the most important) benchmarks of skill. We make no false claims about our rank or level of ability, we were purple belts when we began writing the book, and felt we had enough experience to present the basic techniques in a manner that could be understood in print.

    Finally Jim, I appreciate the opportunity to address the issues you raised, we knew it was coming. But as for the 'bad budo' comparison reference, well, unless you've practiced BJJ for a number of years and have some competitive experience, you are not qualified to judge from our book whether we are qualified to write it or not.

  7. #7
    Jim London Guest

    Default thoughtfull

    Hi Tim,

    Thank you for the reply. I am very glad to see that you are forthright about your ranks.

    In the style of Jiu-Jitsu I studied it takes about 6 years to BB. Some people take longer, as much as 10. Nidan is a minimum of two years after Shodan, I dont know anyone who made it in the minimum, usually 3 or 4 years. So in my style of JJ you could be a Shodan after 8 years, if you are really good you could be a Nidan at that point (not many people do this). The style contains a number of very good people that have trained for 20-30 years who are 3rd and 4th dans.

    What really matters is the number of hours spent with an instructor correcting your technique and making you better. On average the people I trained with from Brown to Black spent about 25 hours per week with an instructor helping them out. Over the period of a year this totals about 1300 hours of instruction time with an instructor. This does not include tournament time or extra training time together.

    One of my (a very occasional one) instructors was also a BJJ BB, though what I learned was not BJJ I am fairly sure I can judge what I see in a book. The stuff on your website is fairly good. I do not believe myself competent of creating better so am not in a position to criticize the content.

    The following criticism is what bothers me. I do not think it really applies to you, but your part of this system so you take some of the heat.

    There are many BJJ clubs out there who have BB visit them once every three months for a weekend seminar. On that weekend they get about 15 or 20 hours of instruction and correction. Then they use books / tapes / study group to try to become better. So with 80 or so hours of instruction received in a given year they turn around and teach. They also enter competitions against similiar people to polish their technique, probably the best thing they could do. What these people should be doing is take a couple of years and go and train with the instructor at his dojo. People have been doing this method for years. Get the quality time in, put in the 1000s of hours with an instructor.

    I am glad you have written this book and are willing to come out in its defence. When I can convince the pocket book boss to let me I will likely purchase it. I like to read as broad a range on Jiu-Jitsu as I can. As you pointed out their are not very many good books published in English.

    I am going off line for awhile so any further response will take some time.
    Good luck with your projects.
    Jim London.

  8. #8
    hector gomez Guest

    Default What a black belt meant back in the day


    Originaly black belt once meant something and I really think that the whole notion of a time frame was non existent in the old days,you either had the skills to be able to wear a black belt or not regardless of wether you trained for 20 long years.

    That whole notion is gone today as most styles and systems outright tell you it takes 4 to 5 years or 8 years whatever the case may be,in bjj there is no time frame as you might never reach the black belt level regardless of the time put in.

    The notion that the black belt is just a basic level has to be a new world idea because in the old schools black belt meant mastery something I am proud to say bjj tries to keep intact.

    Hector Gomez

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
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    Default Re: What a black belt meant back in the day

    Originally posted by hector gomez
    Originaly black belt once meant something and I really think that the whole notion of a time frame was non existent in the old days,you either had the skills to be able to wear a black belt or not regardless of wether you trained for 20 long years.
    Just to note that the "black belt" is still a recent thing in the martial arts as are dan and kyu grades. The concepts of black belt would have been introduced even in Japan around the same time as jujutsu was introduced to South America.

    The meaning and value of a belt colour is surely totally dependant on the value assigned by a particular style. I don't think you can compare rank value between styles, particulary when styles are from different countries.

    That being said I think that after eight years training (in anything) it would be a bit early to write a book on the topic. Even so as the authors are open and honest regarding their rank and experience I feel that any judgement of their work should be reserved purely based on it's content.

  10. #10
    Jim London Guest

    Default Comparing of Black Belts


    I am not sure there is a traditional notion of what a BB means. The whole idea is still fairly new as these things go. The Judo guys (Kano really) that popularized the Dan-Kyu system and created the idea of a BB as someone that has "mastered the basics." I have no objective way other then direct competition to rate different belts from different styles, even then you get into these gigantic 'rules' debates. (eg a fight on concrete vs a fight on a mat)

    We have all seen the UFC and Pride, we know how effective the high ranked BJJ guys are, if you've missed this easy lesson please tune back in. This is also not the point I am trying to make.

    The better styles and clubs still do not link a BB to time, my quotations were for averages. The better instructors still hold the BB to a high standard, yes there is a lot of crap out there too. That is why you have to question these claims.

    Every system has to set a standard for what is considered to be a qualified instructor. I, for one, do not consider a Blue Belt who has attended 80 hours of seminars in the last year but runs a study group as a qualified instructor. But it really isnt up to me, and this seems to be the common run in BJJ these days. In my opinion, this is a good way to make money but not a good way to learn a martial art.

    Universally though a BB seems to convey that someone is qualified to pass on the art to students, be it Aikido/kendo whatever.... This does not appear to be what is going on in BJJ. BJJ has appeared to lower the bar of what constitutes an instructor. So what if a Blue or Purple belt is a good fighter, he is still not qualified within the confines of his own system, or are they?? There are tons of examples out there of Purple and Brown belts from JJ defeating instructors of other styles, this is not the argument. (eg go see kung-fu vs BJJ at, it is worth a laugh)

    The one thing I missed in the author's bios is a mention of BJJ instructor qualification. If they do have this, may I suggest that they add it to their BIO, it may alleviate future questions. Possibly in the FAQ explain that coloured belts can teach classes, provide a letter on the website from their instructor explaining that they have this permission.... All of this would clear up the qualification issue.

    Judo used to have a seperate exam to become an instructor, not all BBs passed the exam, though a few Brown Belts did now and then, I am not sure this still goes on but it may.

    Jim London.

  11. #11
    hector gomez Guest

    Default Honestly speaking


    No Offense to anyone but who cares,I don't really care if a guy has a white belt with yellow pokodots on it,If he can teach me something and I believe I can learn from him that's all that matters to me.

    Example,the old adage is we can all learn from even a white belt,this issue only becomes an issue for those that really care about ranks to begin with otherwise my only interest is on learning and progressing.

    As mentioned above there are many great fighting arts that do not adhere to any ranking system and they do just fine without them boxing,wrestling,muaythai,etc.

    If the belt issue prevents you from learning anything from the two authors go ahead and ask them a technical question pertaining what it is they do,if you can't learn anything from their replies then your theory is valid but if they can constanly answer your honest questions then your argument all of the sudden becomes childish imo.

    Hector Gomez

  12. #12
    Jim London Guest

    Default White Belt Teachings

    Yeah, you should have a beginners mind as the Zen instructors say, always learn from everyone. But I will repeat myself again so that you can understand. The ability of the authors is not my problem.

    The entire world is built on the idea of qualification and expertese. Yes an engineer could potentially learn a new math trick from an untutored person, or in fact someone with little or no education could have great insites. This does not by any stretch of the imagination imply that I would have anyone except a qualified engineer design my car. Let alone someone that was not qualified to teach, teach anything. If you turned up to University and the professor was a high school drop out that won a Math contest, would you stay in the course? (I predict a contrary reaction to this one) As you can no doubt guess, I would choose not to risk taking that course, though I might sit down and talk to him over a beer. In life and Martial Arts one has to be very carefull what you learn.

    If this qualification system did not exist you would have large building built by non-architects, BMWs by non-engineers. You can go ahead and live in these buildings, or buy these cars, I won't.

    Now if in BJJ the rank to be an instructor is not BB, then what is it? For nearly every other Japanese heritage style (those that use the Dan-kyu (coloured) Belt system) the BB constitutes a rank at which one can instruct. There are always exceptions, is BJJ one of these exceptions?

    That is the point, are the authors certified? IF they are, how? By whom (I am guessing Moriera)? Was there an exam? How many hours of instruction have they had? Or are they some sort of Martial Genius and figured out BJJ without or with little instruction? If they had a BB these questions would not get asked. If these questions are answered the rest of the discussion is moot.

    Do not be offended by having your qualifications questioned. This is part of being a martial artist. If ever (not-likely) I publish a book, I would expect any of my claims to be questioned.

    Good luck in your future.
    Jim London.

  13. #13
    Ed Beneville Guest


    Jim London,

    Your problem seems to be that we lack the credentials you believe requite for teaching martial arts. I do not share your faith in credentials. If I did I would not have made the book. You gave an example that you would not take a University course from a high school drop out. I say why not if the guy is good. To my recollection, Eric Hoffer never finished high school; he eventaully taught at Berkely. He was great because of what he did. No one read his books (e.g. the True Believer)on the strength of his credentials -- he was a former migrant crop picker and longshoreman. Should he have waited until he had a Sociology or Philosophy PhD before he penned his first work? Would you have walked out of his class and dissed his books on the basis of his background?

    I am not terribly concerned with traditional martial arts attitudes on this sort of thing. I knew there would be people who had a problem with our credentials. So be it. If you don't think we have anything to offer, then don't buy our book. Your competition will smile.

    That being said, the information in the book is accurate and extensive. The quality of the material speaks for itself. To date everyone who has reviewed the book has given it excellent ratings. If the fact that you are not getting it straight from a sixth degree blackbelt is a problem for you, then again, so be it.

    As communicating in print goes, we just might be blackbelts...if I only I new where to apply for my certificate.

    Should I go on?

    Last edited by Ed Beneville; 15th October 2002 at 07:56.

  14. #14
    'renso Guest



    I had a hard time passing a linear algebra and discrete maths exam lately. I would not have done it just studying the cryptic textbook I had, nor with the incredibly abstract lessons of my role teacher (rumored to be a kind of a math genius, and I must say he fits in the role very well)...

    But I had this friend of mine studying with me, quite talented, who could explain me the stuff in simple words and straight to the points I couldn't get, because the teacher, evidently, couldn't imagine someone NOT grasping those underlying concepts automatically. So my buddy was a better teacher than the professor.

    It's as simple as that in my opinion. We have already enough frauds, scams, self proclaimed sokes in the Bad Budo section to debate about. Credentials aren't of the essence in this situation, in my opinion.

    Also consider that we are talking about PRACTICAL issues. A n-th dan instructor could maybe tell you about the philosophical values of softness and flowing, but we all know there's a long long way of hard practice before those concepts become "incarnated" into us. First there's practice, and the book is about practice.

  15. #15
    Jim London Guest


    Hi 'renso

    Good anecdote. And it pretty much addresses my example exactly.

    Nothing in the martial arts replaces a good teacher. Someone who has been through it all already for you. Nothing is better then long hours spent with this teacher correcting and improving your technique.

    Best of luck in the long run to people who do not do this. For those of you following the "study group" model. Take a year or two off and go and train at one of the full time BJJ academies. You will be better for it. Those that take this time will be better then those that dont. If certification is not important to you, go and fight someone that has earned a BB in full time study, you may be surprised.

    Jim London

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