I’ve written two recent articles about the merits of rank. In the first article, I explored what rank means to the individual, it is clear that your rank is a reflection of your Professor’s confidence in you, your knowledge and your commitment to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In the other article I explored the merits of training outside of traditional BJJ, and at the end of the day belt color doesn’t always reflect true ability. A question arises that can make many people uncomfortable: what about a person who is over ranked and transfers to another school? Or what about a qualified practitioner who moves to a new school and has their rank questioned?
Not all athletes are created equal, and not all practitioners have the same devotion to competition. An extremely athletic and committed blue belt who trains 6 days a week for a few years may be able to submit an older black belt who trains a few times a week, devoting most of their time to other important things in their life. That doesn’t necessarily downgrade the black belt, nor does it elevate the blue to black.
On the other hand, I’ve seen a handful of colored belts who have difficulty with some basic concepts that people generally begin to grasp within their first six months, these individuals are in a bit of a predicament because they may have been prematurely promoted, or they may have somehow missed key details in their initial development.
I’ve also heard of practitioners demoting themselves upon a realization that they’ve lost enough ability due to time off the mat to no longer merit wearing their most recently awarded belt. Is this the right course of action for the individual to take? And is it ever appropriate for a professor to suggest this to one of their students?
There are sometimes instances when certain associations do not readily accept the rank of new students who have trained elsewhere, even if it was legitimately awarded to the new student. My initial reaction to hearing about this was to say that the new school is disrespectful both to the new student as well as to the new student’s prior instructor. They are fundamentally saying that they do not trust the ranking choices of the other instructor or worse that the student is actually lying.
On the flipside of this, people are quite paranoid about the dilution or devaluing of BJJ belts, so the concern isn’t exactly poorly contrived. If a person is unable to provide verification of their rank, their rank can easily be questioned and disputed.
All of this taken into account, rank is mostly only necessary because people are immature and require validation. If that wasn’t the case, the only qualification for an instructor is practical knowledge and ability to display that practical knowledge either through successful competitors or through real time application of technique.