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Brand’s New Belt
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Brand’s New Belt

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Comedian Russell Brand recently earned his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and posted a video in which he talks about the promotion ceremony and the hierarchy of BJJ.

Even though his academy had a wide diversity among its students, Brand was struck by the unity that comes through in the BJJ community.

Part of that unity comes from the fact that everyone is on the same journey.  But part of it also comes from the clear hierarchy of the academy.

Brand distinguishes between bad hierarchies and good hierarchies in this video.  In fact, the BJJ hierarchy is the first that he’s ever recognized as a “positive hierarchy.”  Unlike negative hierarchies, which are arbitrary and random or which are based on a discriminatory factor like race or sex, positive hierarchies are based on “fairness, responsibility, and duty.”

Basically, what Brand is describing is a “meritocracy,” a system where people advance based on merit.  And I agree with him that there is something comforting about this system.

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After all, people like order.  We crave a sense of logic about our place in the universe.  But, too often, we are willing to latch on to an unfair or unjust hierarchy because we can’t find anything else to give our lives that sense of structure that we desire.

Or, worse yet, we sometimes adopt an unjust hierarchy because it tells us comforting lies about our worth—usually at the expense of someone else.

But the meritocracy of a BJJ academy is honest—sometimes painfully so.  It doesn’t exclude anyone from ascending to the top, but it won’t grant anyone unearned privilege either.  Because it is honest, we can have faith in it.

It’s the kind of structure that we could all use more of in our lives.

For Russell Brand’s complete video, see the link below:

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