Over the summer, I got the chance to attend a local MMA event in California. Before the fights started, there was a Jiu Jitsu tournament. There were a few black belts, some brown belts, and two purple belts competing in this tournament. One of the purple belt ended up submitting a brown belt, and nearly beating one of the black belts in the finals. This made me question the whole belt system. If a purple belt can run through a tournament and nearly beat a black belt, then what is the point of a belt system?
I don’t mean any disrespect when I say this. Obviously people put in a lot of hard work to earn whatever belt they currently have. The problem lies with not having any sort of standardized testing. Whoever you train under can choose to promote you or not. This leads to uneven skill levels. Some people earn their belts much quicker than others, and this is not only because their instructors are frauds. I have personally rolled with, and done very well against, higher belts who have been rolling longer than me. Some people just learn faster than others, so forcing someone to stay at a belt level for a certain number of years does not make any sense. Right now, instructors value mat time over skill level, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We all know that Jiu Jitsu is much more than just a sport, so putting in time and effort is valuable.
The deficit has become more obvious because of the rise of Jiu Jitsu as a sport. Some competitors may have the same belt levels, but you can clearly see a difference in their skill. The old way of thinking is that it takes a certain amount of time to earn a belt level. This only causes mismatches when it comes to competition. A clearer standard is needed if you truly want to see what someone’s skill set is.