13 Feb 2009

The BJJ Police

The BJJ web forums have been abuzz with a recent influx of so-called bogus BJJ schools. Well, they are not bogus per se, rather, they are martial arts schools who claim to include BJJ as part of their syllabus. Like a red rag to a scary bull, various members of the BJJ community have taken it upon themselves to enquire as to the legitimacy of these schools. Some call it a witchhunt, but the BJJ police defend their motives as preserving the purity of the sport...

One martial arts school, based in Rochdale was spotted to claim to teach BJJ together with many other arts that were combined into a whole system. When questioned about the main instuctor's background, the owner replied that he had no formal training in BJJ, just a couple of seminar attendances and watched a few videos. He has since removed all references to BJJ on his website. But before doing sdo, insisted that the term 'BJJ' was not copyright, so he had every right to use it if he wanted.

Another instructor, based in Southampton, also claimed to teach BJJ. The BJJ police enquired as to his credentials and, after a few heated exchanges, the instructor revealed a rather mysterious and unverifiable background. The story goes like this - our man did train in BJJ from a legit school and got to blue belt. Then he left the club to train with a Brazilian black belt who only taught private lessons, but who has since disappeared never to be heard from again. But before the master left, he presented a black belt to his private student. No one in the BJJ community has ever heard of this BJJ instructor. The chap decides he wants to open up a school and apparently gains the accredition of a well known master called Tinguinha. He also claims he is a brown belt under Tinguinha. A few emails from our BJJ police discover to Tinguinha himself discover that our man is not cleared to represent him, but that he did suggest he downgrade his level to brown as his black belt is unverifiable. This is all very strange to the BJJ police, who confront the club owner, who in the end, apologises profusely for alluding to rank and alliegances that do not yet exist. He also alters his website accordingly.

There are probably loads more examples of these exchanges, a visit to any ofthe forums where BJJ is discussed, such as EFN or Bullshido and you can pick up any one of a number of on-going dramas. In most cases, the main ire of the BJJ community is the claim of teaching BJJ when they have no formal rank or record in the sport. Watching a few videos and attending a few seminars does not make you an instructor.

Unfortunately, BJJ is a martial art that has no overall governing body. Anyone can claim anything and in some cases they do. That's why the BJJ police on these forums feel it is important to chase bogus instructors to verify their claims. Anyone who has spent years, sweating blood and tears, on the mat, earning their belts from a recognised instructor, can breathe easy. The BJJ police are on your side. Everyone else, better run or hide.

Of course these situations are different from bonafide BJJ practitioners who are also instructors in traditional martial arts and who feel it appropriate to combine the two disciplines together. Why? I'll explore that in another posting soon.

1. How do you prove genuine BJJ credentials?
Simply state your instructor lineage. For example, mine would be - blue awarded by David Adiv - Royler Gracie - Helio Gracie.
My instructor, Nick Brooks, would be - brown belt from Roger Gracie - Renzo Gracie - Carlos Gracie Jr.
Further evidence of credentials would also include a fight record in all competitions, but since mine is so dire, I'll leave that out for now ;)

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Anonymous said...

How very interesting - BJJ is enjoying its (well-earned) moment in the sun right now as far as fashionability is concerned, and I guess this is the down side.

30 years ago it would have been an unheard-of Chinese Grandmaster who awarded someone instructor status in Brocade Tortoise Kung Fu. You can probably make a fair bit of money before you get found out, and it's a damned sight easier than earning instructor status the old-fashioned way.

If nothing else the nature of the BJJ grading system should ring alarm bells the moment a mysterious black belt of unknown lineage turns up in Nantwich.

And from what I've seen of your instructors there's a healthy 'prove it on the mat' attitude which I'll have to take into account next week when I set up my BJJ school and claim to have been given a black belt by Astrid Gilberto.

Dave T.


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