Look at me! I am a bad ass! I swear!

There are some things in the martial arts and tactical training communities that bother me. I generally try to ignore them. At the very least, I try to not talk about them publicly, because some of those irritants (pet peeves if you will) can seem minor in the greater scheme of things. Occasionally however, they bubble up to the surface and I have to vent. Today is one of those times.

There is a really weird and distasteful thing you see in demos by some instructors in which, to put it as mildly as possible, they abuse their demo partners. It truly turns my stomach.

Many times it is a very small and subtle thing. The instructor is showing some cool move, does it really fast (often accompanied by his own vocal sound effects), and puts a bit more pressure on the demo victim, just to get a little more “oomph” into it and get the crowd to do a little mental “wow”. Often, the extra energy in the technique happens when the move involves a shifting of the body – maybe showing the instructor’s variation of a headlock takedown, he twists the other guy’s head a little more so there is a bug and visible shift. But all too often it also involves out and out striking, where the equivalent of a sucker punch is thrown. Maybe with a few “cycling hammerfists” making contact and the accompanying thud of the partner’s defenseless body. One of the ways to tell if this move is coming is if the instructor goes from a relaxed movement to suddenly going to super-intent and balls out speed. After the demo partner is trying to shake off the effects of the abuse, the instructor usually exudes the body language of a very smug self-satisfaction. It is so vile.

Of course, the demo partner feels the need to look tough so he says or does nothing about it. But this does not alleviate one bit the veil of scumbag-ness that is now on the instructor. How bad ass are you if you have to truly hit someone who is standing there and essentially giving you free reign?

Honestly, I think this is a deep reveal of the shallow character and deep insecurity of the instructor. His only way of showing what a monster fighter he is, comes about by hitting an unsuspecting target. Yeah, real cool. This trend can be so bad that people who regularly train with these type of instructors actually exhibit almost a flinch during training, similar to someone subject to regular spousal abuse.

The funny part is that you almost never see this in the combat sports. It is rare to see a BJJ person crank a submission extra hard while teaching, or a wrestler drive his demo partner smashing into the ground while showing a takedown. I cannot ever remember a boxer or Muay Thai instructor ever taking a cheap shot on me. My Savate instructor, Salem Assli, was huge on ALWAYS making contact even in light technique practice, and there was never one time in five years of one on one training where he ever sunk in an extra hard shot while teaching (in sparring was a different story! ). On the contrary, most times there is an obvious attempt by the doer to protect the other person.

I find it amusing that in the arts where there is constant contact and full pressure comes to bear all the time, there is so little of the cheap shots that accompany those arts that are more “street”, yet have little real or alive pressure to deal with. Perhaps if the martial art/RBSD instructors spent more time training real techniques and were able to continually see the effects, they would not be so insecure and less likely to sucker punch their compliant victims?

Belts in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

 

BJJ black belt

Recently, I saw where a guy who knows in his heart that his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is not that legitimate artificially “aged” his belt. It looks like it has been worn by someone who has had the belt for 15 years! This person is attempting to appear more legitimate so he can strut around on Facebook and in his closed group pretending that he has been at that lofty elevation since the original BJJ invasion, when the obvious truth is that he and his organization are johnny-come-latelies who have nothing to offer.

What he is utterly missing is the point of the belt, and the point of the wear on it.

Many martial art systems have a ranking method. Sometimes it is signified by a belt, sometimes by a color of a patch or shirt, other times by different ways. Why does the belt ranking of BJJ get so much respect, more so than pretty much any other system?

The simple reason is that the belt in BJJ is earned by performance. Period. You can train for a long time, pay money, kiss up to the instructor, etc., but the main arbiter of when you are awarded a belt, is can you perform at that level when matched up to another person at that level? That is it. If you can consistently, then you are at that level. If you can’t, then you are not. If you can regularly roll (spar) against purple belts and threaten them with moves and are able to defend against their moves, then most people will accept you as a purple belt, regardless of what you wear wrapped around your waist that is holding the gi closed.

Take a  look at the above picture. The wear on that belt is honest wear, that comes about through time on the mat. I have been in this are over 20 years. I know how belts “age”. I literally see it every day. It is not difficult to see the difference between real wear, and fake “run it through the washer multiple times after dragging it behind the car for a bit” type wear. Someone who has not really been involved in authentic BJJ might think he can fool people, but not someone who actually walks the walk.

So the belt is only an external validation of what you have already demonstrated. Anyone can just go and buy a belt and wear it on a mat. Anyone can call themselves anything. Watch this video of a supposed black belt meeting up with a real purple belt.

And here is an explanation by the purple belt who did the exposing:

 

However, in BJJ, since everything revolves around performance, a legitimate BJJ player will roll against anyone at anytime. It does not have to be in a competition (though that is probably the single best indicator of where your level is), or you don’t have to regularly travel to other gyms for training, but you better be willing to publicly test yourself whenever. If you refuse to train outside your closed circle, or you spend all your time telling your students that anyone outside does not follow the true way, you will never know what you can do. If you are not willing to be open and public in how you perform, and refuse to test yourself in a real way, it really does not matter if your belt looks like it was worn by Helio Gracie in the 50’s; you still suck.