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What does a belt really represent?

Most martial arts have them yet there seems to be such a big inconsistency in their use. How is it that two students with the same rank can be so vastly different in terms of ability? And how is it that some students seem to get awarded a new belt faster than others? In this article we will explain the system that Defiant Jiu-Jitsu uses.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Belt System

While the belt system for children is largely left up to individual teams and academies, the adult system is very much established. Most organisations follow the IBJJF recommendations for how long a student must spend on each belt.

It should be noted that the IBJJF is not a democratically elected non-profit organisation; rather, it a self-appointed for-profit business. Not only that, it is just one of several competing organisations, albeit the largest.

The four degrees for each belt are awarded at the discretion of the instructor which retains a sense of freedom for how they choose to use them. For example, a student with a White Belt can expect to have their four degrees spaced out in such a way that they typically spend between 1.5 and 2 years on that belt.

The problem with the Traditional System

That problem is that the system is often applied inconsistently and in ways that are unfair. For example, it is not uncommon to see students being held back from promotion just so they can win more competitions at their current rank. The reverse is also true; it’s not uncommon to see head instructors promoting their closest friends for no real reason over others.

And then there is the question of ability. Let’s say a new student is absolutely supreme at winning competitions. It makes sense for them to shoot up through the ranks to Black Belt faster than average students, right? They’re a champion after all. But what happens when they end up a 65 year old black belt that is smashed by aggressive 20 year old white belts? What happens when their body no longer lets them do the techniques they took for granted 30+ years ago?

Clearly, ability and favouritism are not the best ways to define belts.

The Defiant Jiu-JItsu Belt System

Consider the 65 year old black belt in the above example. You wouldn’t expect them to start being demoted to lower ranks as they age would you? It is fair to say most people respect their rank and acknowledge them. Most students wouldn’t even go out of their way to try and smash them on the mat.

Clearly, respect plays a significant role, whether it is for the instructor who teaches you or the senior coloured belt you roll with in class. In other words we respect their experience and maturity; we acknowledge the years of hard work they have invested in getting to the rank they are. They may not have the strength or ability they once had but their experience includes all the little tricks they have learned over the years, the instinct for off-balancing, and the strategy to compete on the mat.

The Defiant System is based on experience and that can only be earned by time on the mat. There are no shortcuts for special people; everyone follows the same minimum time frames. As soon as you have done the required number of classes you are eligible for your next degree or belt. All  you have to do is be confident enough to demonstrate some basic techniques to your classmates.

Ensuring Parity With Belts From Other Clubs

In Defiant Jiu-JItsu we accept that there will always be a difference in ability between two students of the same rank. Some might be world class athletes; some will not be particularly skillful at all. Most, though, will fall somewhere in the middle and that is how Jiu-Jitsu should be.

Jiu-Jitsu is meant to be a personal journey and the only one you are really competing against is yourself. As long as you are constantly striving to be better you are making progress. This journey is unique to each student and no two students will tread the same path.

To ensure our standards are maintained, all students are required to show solutions to common problems in their promotion demonstration. Their choice of technique is up to them. It could be advanced or simple. In this way, all students prove they can deal with some common scenarios on the mat (position escapes, submission escapes, and so on).

Minimum time frames also play a big role in maintaining standards. The time constraints for the White, Blue, and Purple Belts are fixed and must be observed by all students. They are based on average waiting times for average students, such as might be observed at any other Jiu-Jitsu academy in the country.

And finally, for those students who are naturally gifted there is also the option of competing. This is the best way to test your ability against students with the same belt in a competitive situation. Sport Jiu-Jitsu is only one side of the martial art so this remains completely optional for all students.
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