The belt as a construct means different things to different people. Every gym promotes differently, and when age and athleticism/size become factors performance is impossible to use as a gauge for someones belt worthiness. Moreover, time is not always an appropriate qualifying factor for belt promotion. All of that taken into account, while the individuals belt can hold deep meaning, the belt as a construct is meaningless.
A few days ago a video surfaced that has since gone viral of a black belt outing an imposter. If you havent seen the video the synopsis is pretty simple: real black belt grills imposter and makes it apparent that he is in fact a fake. He then insists that imposter takes the belt he is wearing off, and tells him to leave and suggests that if he comes back he should be wearing a white belt.
The reactions to this video are varied, but it seems that a good number of people feel that the Authentic black belt was justified. Heres where it gets interesting: a real black belt may not always be obvious.
Ryron and Rener Gracie recently posted a video discussing their blue belt promotion requirements and why they believe they are fine. In that video they point out the opinion that people who are cut out for competition comprise a very small part of the jiu jitsu community, and that that small percentage indicates that rather than cater to the competition aspiring athlete, Jiu Jitsu should cater to the average Joe in order to open it up and make Jiu Jitsu appropriate for everyone Did Helio Gracie really want Jiu Jitsu to be for everyone? And if so why were his requirements for black belt so stringent? (Look them up if you dont know )
So what do these two examples have in common? The belt MUST mean something for the art to continue flourishing. As a community, we should make the belt mean something, no matter how nebulous that something may be.
Ruben Alvarez had in front of him someone who was an obvious fake, however there are plenty of people who are fakes but arent as obvious. Alvarez gave us a face of a fake. Now if he tries to continue doing fake things, his face is on blast throughout the community.
What it comes down to: just because someone was awarded their belt by someone legit doesnt mean they have the skills to back that belt up. Being unable to back ones belt up is not necessarily a sign of illegitimacy of rank, as age and athletic ability are huge components.
One of the few times the belt really means something is when someone is faking their rank as they are not only lying to whoever they are claiming to be a __ belt to but also posing a real risk to the art in general. As BJJ grows, well see more and more imposters. They need to know they arent welcome, or else the martial art will become further watered down.
Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj/