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Do Belts Matter In Jiu Jitsu?

Do Belts Matter In Jiu Jitsu?


Reflecting on a Jiu Jitsu belt...

It is the time of year where most Jiu Jitsu schools have their annual holiday party and promotion ceremony. At some schools there is a syllabus where students are tested on material.  At other schools the criteria is more abstract for promotions. There are times when in most everyone’s Jiu Jitsu career, the belt is the goal. Getting stripes as a white belt is huge. There are other times where the belt matters less. It is a formal recognition of what your training partners and coaches already know.

With all the promotions going around I can’t help but ask, “Do belts really matter in Jiu Jitsu?” Perhaps the answer is yes and no. Certainly, when finding a school you want to find a reputable instructor. The fact that the instructor has a legitimate linage and was awarded a black belt is a huge testament to the instructor’s expertise. This is not always the case in other martial arts. For example, in boxing, there is no ranking system. Sure, some instructors have championship belts. But on a general level, it is harder to evaluate the depth of experience of a lot of boxing instructors.  Is the boxing school instructor someone with a couple of fights who trained for a few years and opened up a school or does he have a deeper understanding of his craft. In no way am I knocking the beautiful art of boxing. I am simply saying that it may be harder to gain a clear understanding of your instructor’s credentials in boxing.  In Jiu Jitsu, we don’t have that guess work. Like having a doctorate degree, a black belt is a testament to the world of an expansive and hard earned education.

Yet on a certain level belts matter less.  One example of this is Nicky Ryan. This 17 year old purple belt is tearing through world renowned black belts. He holds wins over Geo Martinez, Marvin Castelle, Phil Harris Hideo Tokoro and Masakazu Imanari and others. Khabib Nurmagomedov is another example of this. There is also a picture of Khabib Nurmagomedov wearing a gi and rocking a Jiu Jitsu white belt.  Khabib holds an International Master in Sport in Sambo. He boasts a large number of submission victories. Nicky and Khabib are two examples that a belt may not be the surest indication of someone’s skill level.

Wrestling take downs are some of the best techniques for your standing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game. Some of toughest wrestlers and take downs artists in the world at the Russians. Rustam Chsiev is one of those toughest ADCC Vets in the world with a take down game that is a force to be wreckoned with.


If Jiu Jitsu abolished the belt system tomorrow would you still train? For a lot of us the answer is yes.   It would be foolish for any of us to spend years and years of our lives, suffer injuries and other trials on the mat for solely a piece of fabric. We don’t fall in love with belts in Jiu Jitsu we fall in love with the process to becoming a great grappler. We fall in love with Jiu Jitsu itself.  However Jiu Jitsu belts do have a purpose: They keep away potentially charlatan instructors. They serve as a testament of our abilities to the outside world. They serve as a milestone in our lives on how far we have come in this beautiful journey.

Wrestling is a skill that all Brazilian Jiu Jitsu martial artists should explore. Not only will your take down game greatly increase for jiu jitsu, but you'll also see how wrestling concepts can integrate into your jiu jitsu skills to make you an even better grappler. Check out Rustem's DVD / On Demand series called Russian Hacks to quickly integrate some Russian Wrestling Hacks into your game.




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