Is this what is happening to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
As generations pass through and the process is systemised, will the clarity of the path mean the journey is watered down? Now that BJJ has hit the mainstream, will we witness the demise of the black belt? History seems to say so.
In the early 70s, a black belt in martial arts was held in high esteem. There were very few of them, and these men were tough as nails. Within two decades we had child black belts and 50 year old female black belts. Now, firstly let me say that the degree of perseverance, persistence and battling against the odds needed by a 50 year old female to get a black belt is much greater than when I got my black belt in my early 20s. But that is not the point of this article.
The point is how to stop the inevitable. The measuring stick must be the level of ability. But how is that measured? Is it measured by a reproduction of techniques on grading day? Tournament successes? Ability to wrestle? My hope is that the reproduction of techniques is not the yardstick we measure ability by. It MUST, yes must, be the ability to implement those techniques in a pressure situation. Pressure by competing against other belts. And still being able to perform those techniques.
Apparently, years ago the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belts were awarded after tournaments in many cases. If you won the blue belt competition you could be awarded your purple belt because you were better than the blues. The same went for every level. Brutal method of measurement and not very fair. What about if you came second and the first place getter was a prodigy? What if you didn't compete? It may have been unfair but it definitely ensured the quality of the rank. So now that the BJJ art has hit the western world and decades have passed, are our democratic tendencies and need for fairness going to bring out about the demise of black? If the current black belts and teachers get together for this difficult conversation there is a chance that black belt will continue to be held in high esteem in the future.
If we leave it up to history, we may just find ourselves looking at an empty art in the future and jumping on the bandwagon of the next shiny object in martial arts training.