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An Idea to Avoid - Equating the IBJJF as Jiu Jitsu

An Idea to Avoid - Equating the IBJJF as Jiu Jitsu

Common ground on the IBJJF.

The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation or IBJJF recently made waves by requiring competitors to pay a yearly membership fee of $40 dollars. This fee is in addition to tournament costs.  The change goes into effect January 2019 for white and blue belts. Purple belts were added to this category in 2018. Black and brown belts were added in years past. The IBJJF’s website made this statement regarding this fee increase, “The athletes registered with IBJJF will have their graduation recognized by an official sport organization. Keeping the athlete’s registration valid and accurate helps IBJJF to preserve the competitor’s record as an athlete or Professor.”

Critics of the IBJJF believe this adds credibility to their arguments against the organization. Here are some general criticisms for the organization:  avaricious, a bias toward Brazilian competitors and a lackluster rule set. Proponents for the organization would argue fees are justified to cover prize money and other tournament expenses. They also state tournaments are extremely prestigious.

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It is certainly out of the scope of this article to do a comprehensive study for or against the IBJJF.  Quite frankly, it may be easier to convince someone to change their mind about religion or politics than their stance on the IBJJF. One thing should be obvious to everyone, despite your stance on the IBJJF. The IBJJF is not Jiu Jitsu. That is a misnomer. The IBJJF is a private for profit tournament organization.

One recent example of mis-equating the IBJJF as Jiu Jitsu is with the promotion of Nicky Ryan to purple belt at age 15. Nicky Ryan should need no introduction to the Jiu Jitsu community. He is brother to Gordon Ryan and trains under John Danaher at Renzo Grazing NYC. He rolls competitively with high level black belts.  Yet, despite his impressive resume, a common response among the message boards to his promotion was, “But the IBJJF requires a purple belt to be of 16 years old.”

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He was on the cusp of 16 and had already placed 3rd in the North American trails 2 times. That coupled with the fact he was promoted by John Danaher at the Renzo Gracie Academy gives him a lineage of the highest caliber. For most of us to question Danaher or Renzo on anything Jiu Jitsu related is absurd.  It makes about as much sense as trying to give Marcelo Garcia pointers on the arm drag or Rob Kahn tips on shoulder pressure. Yet, equating the IBJJF as Jiu Jitsu will inevitably lead you to make such absurd conclusions. The IBJJF provides a rule set for a tournament and not legislation that everyone’s Jiu Jitsu academy must follow.

At the end of the day, if the criticisms of the IBJJF ring true, perhaps their popularity will shrink as other federations and tournament styles will continue to garner popularity.

We all want to protect Jiu Jitsu. No one wants to see an 8 year old rocking a BJJ black belt. Perhaps, your academy leverages the IBJJF ruleset as guidelines. Perhaps your academy treats the IBJJF as gospel. Perhaps your academy hates the IBJJF.  No matter what your stance, we should all agree that the IBJJF is a for profit organization and not the heart and soul of Jiu Jitsu.

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