Do away with the belt system!

Discussion in 'Grappling Technique' started by paulchu, Nov 25, 2005.

  1. paulchu

    paulchu Guest

    I've mentioned this previously on a few threads, and I don't want to necessarily take away from those of you who have earned your BJJ belt, but...

    hypothetically, wouldn't BJJ be a lot better without the belt system? (statements in parentheses are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDojo)

    Why does BJJ have a belt system anyhow? For example, take the Sam Hoger fight in UFC 56. Sammy Hoger is a black belt in BJJ, he went up against a Karate fighter, and Sam was not being very effective on the ground. People like Chuck Lidell have gone up against black belts and have just completely put their ground game to waste with a good sprawl.

    In the case of Muay Thai, there is no belt system, you prove your merit by getting in the ring and taking people on. Your reputation rests on the number of fights you have been in as well as your win record. Or for another example, Combat Wrestling. As far as I'm aware, Takanori Gomi does not have a "belt" in the sport, and yet, he is very good on the ground.

    Reading over some of you guys' BJJ experiences, it seems like you pay for classes, move your way up the ranks, and then you have to PAY someone else to move up to another belt, including people like the Gracies.

    (Belt factory is a derogatory term for a Martial Arts school where there are a relatively large number of grades or belt ranks for students to progress through compared to most traditional schools. Actual martial ability is not a requirement for progression through the ranks in a belt factory, only a willingness to pay the high testing, grading or grade registration fees.)

    Doesn't that sound kinda reminiscent of a McDojo?

    If you're not convinved, what about the fact that the people you usually train with are the people at your dojo/gym. If you are able to beat everyone at your dojo and earn a purple belt, and can't beat anyone who's a blue belt at another gym, what does that say about your purple?

    (If the established schools were impressed by the martial ability of the newcomer during the encounter, then they would, by tradition, be allowed to stay open. If the new school could not defend themselves effectively, they would be disgraced by being publicly defeated. )

    Add to that the whole "Gi/No Gi" argument, where you are relying on an art which largely requires your opponent to be wearing a gi for a lot of your techniques to be effective?

    (These critics maintain that such ancillary activities often become the focus of one's martial arts training at the expense of learning how to implement the techniques in a realistic situation.)

    Take this with a grain of salt and post your comments.
     
  2. VTJas81

    VTJas81 Blue Belt

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    Sam Hoger is a BB on BJJ? R u sure? I think belts are ridiculous too but BJJ will always have its belts. No point discussing. Belts are part of its history and tradition.
     
  3. paulchu

    paulchu Guest

    Right, belts are also a part of the history and tradition of a lot of taekwondo/karate schools too.
     
  4. physicaltherapy

    physicaltherapy Blue Belt

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    I was definitely along your line of thinking over the past couple of weeks. The way I roll, I don't even like the gi or the belt system. I'm a 4 stripe blue belt and I dread putting the gi on. I hate it. I don't mean to get all Bravo on you but I think the gi is a complete waste of time. I get nervous when I get promoted...now I have to defend my promotion.
     
  5. DMcKayBJJ

    DMcKayBJJ Blue Belt

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    A change in belt level is acknowledgement from your instructor that you have improved on your knowledge of and application of BJJ.

    If you guys don't like it, then just keep wearing a white belt.
     
  6. paulchu

    paulchu Guest

    ok o_O
     
  7. BulldogSIX

    BulldogSIX Orange Belt

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    I think the argument could be made for no belts in MMA (and there isn't an official MMA belt system to my knowledge). However, in pure BJJ especially sport BJJ it helps to differentiate between opponents. I think the belt in MMA is used as a way to establish credibility and sometimes its valid and sometimes its not. With the evoloution of MMA you have to be a well rounded fighter and not just great at one thing. Like one of the other posters said he has to defend his promotion when he rolls. I think this is good. It forces him to get better and to continue improving his game.
     
  8. Waxwingslain

    Waxwingslain oiseau rebelle

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    I was given my blue belt - it cost me nothing.

    Trying to live up to it is improving my game. Thinking about the purple is good motivation.
     
  9. blindgod

    blindgod Blue Belt

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    A few thoughts:

    1. My understanding of the belt system was that it was originally introduced in Judo in order to pair up people with roughly similar abilites, knowledge, and experience in competitions. Somewhere along the line, mystical levels of attainment were said to come from being a certain belt, such as a certain level of respect to be given. Rather than respecting a person for his abilities, with the belt only as a visible indication of those abilities, the abilities part of the equation mattered less and less to the point where people of rank expect respect regardless of any ability.

    Of all the martial arts I've personally come into contact with, BJJ is the only one that maintains something close to the original idea of belts as a sign of ability. That being generally the case (there are always exceptions), this is a better way to pair people in competitions than the method based on time that some no-gi comps use. Saying someone has been training in BJJ for two years is vague and gives no indication of ability or experience.

    Imagine two people, both having trained for two years and get put into the same division. One has done no previous grappling and can only train 2-3x/week. The other wrestled for 8 years before doing BJJ and is able to train 10-12x/week. In this case, though there is considerable difference in mat time, there can be no issue of sandbagging; both have been doing BJJ legitimately for two years.

    But if this were done by belts (if the judging was done using the same criteria), the two should not be in the same division. One would be in white or maybe blue, the other might very well be in purple. Granted, there is no set requirements for grading, which is a whole other argument.

    2. The idea behind belt factories and McDojos is that they grade people based more on money issues than on the abilities of the people being graded. While some MAs seem to have this more than others, it is always up to the instructors whether or not this is the case in their school. Of all MA that use belts or something equivalent, BJJ is the least in this area. Many people think this will not last, but I think it's up to those involved to keep it this way. My point is that when people complain about McDojos, it's almost never the case that they're talking about BJJ. I personally have to deal with it alot more in TKD (which is the other art I do aside from BJJ).
     
  10. jjmuaythaiguy

    jjmuaythaiguy Brown Belt

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    Aren't there schools that do not use belts?

    In Hawaii there are so many schools that do not use the belt system and others that do. Its up to you to choose which school you go to.

    Aren't there any schools in the mainland or the rest of the world that do not use belts?
     
  11. Dude, belts are for rank, there's gonna always have to be rankings amongst fighters, whether it's a belt in BJJ, or a top-ten ranking in MMA. To not have belts and rankings would totally mess up the order and assignment in competition. People of blue-belt experience would be fighting people of black-belt experience, Giant Silva will be eligible for a title-shot because there's no ranking. It's just not fair and retarded to even think of not having belts.
     
  12. paulchu

    paulchu Guest

    bulldogsix - yes, belts are there to differentiate between ranks... but read what i wrote about belt colors amongst different schools. there is also a thread on this very forum that asks "what color belt do you wear at a new school" a good amount of people said "white." that kinda implies that the people who go to new schools have to start over, or at least respect the school's different method of instruction. which means a purple belt or whatever belt might not be worth anything at another school, but instead you can only carry over your abilities.

    waxingslain - yea, that purple belt gives you motivation to keep training at your school. the one you pay money to go to... hence the mcdojo analogy. who's the governing authority? The Gracies?

    immortal-bjj - not fair and retarded to not have belts? muay thai has no belt system, and it is a very old and very respected art. thanks for reading what i wrote before posting.
     
  13. BulldogSIX

    BulldogSIX Orange Belt

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    I don't know man. From what I have seen BJJ is pretty good about maintaining the integrity of the belt system. Yeah, you have to pay to take the test in some cases. I have seen other people get awarded their belt after doing well in competition. I have never heard of anyone starting over if they go to a new school in BJJ though. I am not saying it's a perfect system but it is a relatively fair one that serves to motivate and differentiate between skill levels.
     

  14. I haven't heard of any person going to another school and having to start from white again, we didn't do that to a blue-belt who came to our academy from a machado school, or to a blue-belt who came to our academy from Jacare's school. And Muay Thai may not have any formal belt rankings because it's not a formal martial art like karate or whatever, but it is true that varying from gym to gym, muay thai school's tend to have their own private rankings with their students... http://stickgrappler.tripod.com/mt/kk25.html. So my point, rankings are very important and it's stupid to get rid of them.
     
  15. flyingknee16

    flyingknee16 Brown Belt

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    i'm a no gi bjj fighter, but i think the belt system is great . . . because when i tap out colored belts i feel good ;)
     
  16. blindgod

    blindgod Blue Belt

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    I'm a little confused by the McDojo comments. Only a school can be a McDojo, not an art since it is an instructor that makes it so. Like I said before, a McDojo is a school that places money before integrity. What this often means is that students who pay to test are passed even if their abilities are not up to the level that they should be; that's sort of the hallmark of a McDojo: students with ranks that they paid for but don't have the ability to deserve.

    Charging students to train is not a sign of McDojoism and neither is charging students to test (though both are seen at most McDojos). If you charge a student to test but determine if they pass or not based on their abilities, the school is almost certainly not a McDojo. And some instructors do not charge people to go up in rank.

    I'm curious how you feel BJJ schools are McDojos.

    As for people who have no belts being good on the ground, what difference does that make? The belt or rank should be a reflection of ability, not the other way around. It's merely a representation.

    It's like IQ. The number of your IQ is a measure or a representation of your intelligence, it is not intelligence itself. If a person who is mentally retarded has a high IQ, having that high IQ does not make them any smarter. A high rank in martial arts without ability (possibly through a McDojo) is just like that. Having the belt doesn't make them any better. And a person who is very intelligent but has never had an IQ test is still intelligent, but has no measured IQ. Just like a grappler who does not work within a system that uses belts.

    Besides, having a belt in BJJ means that you have a belt in BJJ. It doesn not mean that you have a belt in grappling. It means that an instructor feels that you have attained a certain level of proficiency in a specific style of grappling as interpreted and taught by that instructor.
     
  17. Oktavius**

    Oktavius** Brown Belt

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    Hard to call, belts in bjj can be a real hinderence and cause a lot of discontent. There are no real markers to define when someone is ready for there next belt so it generally goes on time on the mat unless the student is very exceptional. But it does help with competitions to place ppl into a group where there skills are similar.
    Biggest problem is lots of school are satelite clubs without a black belt instructor, so these guys must pay through the nose for seminars to get there belts. It is misused in a lot of cases.
     
  18. Te(V)plar

    Te(V)plar Black Belt

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    Ridiculous. Just because karate and kung-fu are shit doesnt mean BJJ has to do away with belts.


    They are a nice motivation to work hard. Furthermore, belts are as much a responsibility as they are a reward. You might not understand what I mean, but hopefully in time you will.
     
  19. paulchu

    paulchu Guest

    i started thinking about this from this thread:
    http://www.sherdog.net/forums/showthread.php?t=307683

    Hence the McDojo comment.

    I know a lot of Thai people who will disagree with that comment very much. And yes, they do have a ranking system within the school... but being the best in your school does not mean you'll survive at another gym. Any respectable Muay Thai gym should have a good Thai fighter with plenty of experience under his belt instructing, so when the instructor ranks your skill, it's given according to what the experienced player knows. But looking at the Royce qualifications, anyone with a Blue Belt under his system can theoretically teach.

    http://www.sherdog.net/forums/showthread.php?t=304325
    As Oktavius said, there are no real markers to define when someone is ready for the next belt. A lot of organizations include things like personality and loyalty into the equation... there is no definitive way to give out belts. And with the explosive growth or BJJ as a sport and so many schools popping up left and right, wouldn't BJJ be preserved more as a sport if the belt system were gotten rid Of?
     
  20. blindgod

    blindgod Blue Belt

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    Possibly. Or there could be created a set of standards for becoming a higher rank. But I don't think many people would go for that as that sets a number of limits on autonomy.

    Then there's another argument that BJJ was never intended to be a sport in the first place.

    And I don't think that Royce's promotions at seminars qualifies all BJJ as being McDojo. And I can't speak to the abilities of the people he promotes, having nothing less than third or fourth-hand knowledge of them. If someone got promoted because he paid and didn't know his stuff, then I would say that sounds like a McDojoish instance.

    But to put BJJ in the same catagory as some TKD schools I've been to by calling it McDojo is a bit much. Which is not to say that it can't become like that in time. It just isn't now.
     

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