BJJ purple belt running school?

Discussion in 'Jujutsu / Judo' started by Flatfish, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    Hi everyone,

    overheard some guys at the Y talking about BJJ, so I asked them about where they train. Told me about a school nearby. The school is run by a purple belt under Caio Terra. He's been training in BJJ for 11 years which sounds plenty. I was just wondering whether a purple belt running a school is fairly common or unusual.

    Thanks,

    F
     
  2. marques

    marques 3rd Black Belt

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    It may happen, especially if there is no upper grade nearby. More common 10 years ago, after what I read in this forum.
    Wiser people is arriving to give you a better answer. :)
     
  3. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Depends on the area and what other instructors are available. It used to be much more common in the U.S. because there just weren't many BJJ black belts around except in a few places. When I started training BJJ, the highest ranked practitioners in Ohio were blue belts and people would travel for the chance to train with them. These days it's easier to find black belt instruction so you're not so likely to find a purple belt running a school unless they have instructor rank in some other art which was the original focus of the school. (For example, I know folks who were instructors in Karate or TKD who worked their way up through the ranks in BJJ, gradually adding more BJJ instruction to their curriculum as they became more qualified in that art.)

    Some areas still don't have a lot of BJJ available, so a purple belt may be the best available. Where are you located?

    I'd say most purple belts have at least enough knowledge to teach the fundamentals of the art. Some of them are capable of teaching significantly more.
     
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  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    When I lived in Westchester county, ny a friend started BJJ. He was a former Div I wrestler. When he told me the school was run by a purple belt, I laughed. Seriously.

    The owner was also a 5th dan in Judo, so I stopped laughing. Then he told me purple belt took several years. I was thinking in karate terms (even though there was no purple in either school I trained in). Then he told me the guy trains under one of the Gracies (I think Gracie) in NYC 3 nights a week.

    That was around 2006.

    A purple belt running a school can (and probably should) be a red flag. But who the person is and their credentials are far more important than the color belt they've got on.
     
  5. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    I am in the Raleigh NC area. We have quite a few schools around. There's a Gracie school DT, Geoff Balme (2nd degree BB under Roberto Maia) runs a school in Apex, another one run out of a fitness center who is run by a Royce Gracie BB, a Lepri affiliated school run by a BB, and others, so not exactly a shortage. This one with the purple belt is in one of the smaller communities around Raleigh. According to his website, he opened the school in 2012 as a Blue belt and received his purple in 2014. Honestly, not trying to bash the guy at all. He might be good or not. He is a lot cheaper than the other places though and I do know that folks from some of the other schools come to roll during his open mat on Sat mornings.
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I don't think a BJJ purple belt should raise any red flags. It's unusual these days, as Tony notes, but a purple belt is plenty competent to teach.
     
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  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    If he's the only one in that area (not greater Raleigh, but that local area), I'd be unfazed. He might also be someone who came into the area (having trained elsewhere) and simply wanted to teach, so opened a program.
     
  8. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Yeah, in a situation like that you are usually better off going with one of the schools run by a black belt. However there are a few reasons why the purple belt-run school might be a good option for some people or why the purple belt might prefer to run his own school rather than attending one of the local academies run by someone with more experience:

    He might have really good teaching skills. Not all black belts are great teachers.

    He may be under-ranked. With 11 years of training, he could potentially be at brown or black belt level skill, but just hasn't been promoted yet. I know a brown belt instructor in Louisville who I think should probably have gotten his black belt a couple of years ago around the same time I did. (He's probably going to be promoted next month, but nothing is set in stone until it happens.)

    Some students in his immediate neighborhood might prefer his location to driving across town.

    He might have a preference to continuing his progression under Caio Terra (even long distance) and his students might have a preference for Terra's organization.
     
  9. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Like Tony, when I started Blue Belts were the standard in Michigan. Particularly where I trained Blue Belts with Two Stripes were running the Training Hall. Every month or so Caique would come through as a training representative to make sure we were on track and regularly Rolker, Renzo, Royce or Rorion Gracie would come through for a seminar where you could be promoted. Back then there were no kid's classes and no stripes for white belts and it was typically around three years to get your blue belt. Now a day's there are a lot more black belts available to train under and yet there are areas where they are not available or a black belt is trying to increase their student base and have a blue belt (rare but still happening), purple or brown belt teaching at an affiliate academy.

    Here in Las Vegas we have World Champion black belts and champions of all levels and yet we still have some guys teaching that are blue belts, purple belts and brown belts. Of course they are affiliated with somebody and that is the key!
     
  10. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    Yep...depending on where you are located and what is available. I know of at least 10 BJJ schools in my area with purple belts running them or having been started when they were purple.
     
  11. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    Thanks for everyone's input. I appreciate it.
     
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  12. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    It's unusual these day, so look into why was my point. I'd have no problem training under a BJJ purple belt if he/she was a good teacher and the students there were good.

    But I would scrutinize a purple belt more so than a black belt. Or better yet, I'd give the benefit of the doubt to a black belt before a purple belt. But that's just me.
     
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  13. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Belts are just for commercialisation I've seen plenty of black belts in plenty of styles who are garbage and I've seen blue or brown belts who are billion times better than some black belts. Basically if the person can teach well and knows it then train with him but don't let a piece of fabric determine the skill and competency
     
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  14. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I agree. However, BJJ is kind of the wild card in that thinking. There's a lot of competition in BJJ, meaning that there are pretty consistent standards across the board in BJJ. By that I don't mean formal competition such as tournaments, nor am I saying every BJJ'er has to and does compete, I just mean that BJJ has a lot of people coming from different and unaffiliated BJJ schools to train, and therefore rank has far more autonomy across BJJ than say karate. If a BJJ'er visits a different school, they have a very good idea of what the various ranking students and instructors are capable of and not capable of, even accounting for individual people who are exceptional for their rank and people who aren't. Go from one karate school to the next, and there's a big disparity between brown belts in one organization vs another.

    I'm not bashing karate nor any other art for this. I'm a karate guy myself. But my 4th kyu won't be as clear cut in another unaffiliated karate school as an equal rank/time spent BJJ'er going from one school to work out with another unaffiliated BJJ school.

    Part of me wishes karate was as autonomous with ranks between different schools and styles of karate. The rational part of me doesn't care, simply because it makes no difference to my training what color belt everyone else is wearing anywhere else.
     
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  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    I agree, except for that part about "Belts are just for commercialisation".
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    BJJ is the best example, because they use colored belts and are reasonably consistent across schools. There's a value for the belt colors within a single school, too. While abilities tend to be reasonably consistent across NGA schools in my experience, there's not as much cross-visiting as you see in BJJ. The main use is within a school. By nothing but belt color, I can tell within a few techniques where a person is in the curriculum. That means when I train with a partner I haven't worked with in a while (or when I visit a school), I know what I can do to my partner (which technique he/she is ready to receive). It also means deciding what to focus on comes quickly.
     
  17. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    You're look at it kind of wrong. I don't mean within an organization/governing body. I mean across the art, as a whole. An Aikido black belt in your school doesn't have the same standards of ability as an Aikido black belt from a different branch of Aikido. I don't mean your standards are higher or lower; I just mean the standards are different.

    Pretend there's only one of each organization in my following analogy...

    The standards of black belt performance in Kyokushin, Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Uechi-Ryu, ad nauseum are different. One of Kyokushin's standards for shodan was 20 man kumite. If everyone who wears a shodan completed that, it's a good indicator of ability compared to the students' peers. I know, the quality of the 20 men you'll face varies dojo to dojo, but it's still a reasonable indicator across the board. Shotokan doesn't have this requirement, as the others don't either.

    I'm not saying Kyokushin is inherently better due to this or anything else. I'm just stating that there's no standard for all karate styles. BJJ has a standard - tap out just about everyone ranked below you in BJJ, regardless of what lineage/school/etc. they come from.

    BJJ rank carries the connotation that a brown belt can and has consistently tapped out the overwhelming majority of students ranked under him/her, and consistently taps out against people ranked higher.

    Karate doesn't have that. The rank is looked at as an individual thing in most schools. There's far more black belts that can't hold their own in kumite against say 4th kyus in karate than there is in BJJ. What happens when a BJJ black belt taps out when rolling against a bunch of people ranked lower? It's all over YouTube, "exposing" the BJJ'er as a fraudulent black belt. What happens in karate? Just par for the course.

    Looking at the various martial arts, the only ones I see constantly looking at rank as something compared to your peers are BJJ and Judo. No one I know of ever had to be better than 90% of the people below them to get promoted in karate. I never had to be better than 90% of the green belts in my organization to get promoted to brown belt. It wasn't like my sensei said "yeah, you know the curriculum, you're improving your skills appropriately, and you're a good student, but the green belts are consistently beating you, so I can't promote you to brown belt." Something like that would never cross 99% of karate senseis' minds.

    BJJ is a different ball of wax.

    Edit: I'm not saying BJJ is better nor worse. I'm not saying karate nor any other art should adopt BJJ's mentality. I'm not saying anyone should have to change anything. I'm just stating observations.
     
  18. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    In our case, a different branch of Aikido is not directly related. Ueshiba's Aikido is separately derived from Daito-ryu. So expecting them to be equivalent wouldn't be realistic. Many of their schools only use black and white. Those that have other belts don't even use the same colors as NGA. There's no reason arts should look for equivalency when they don't share the same technique set, ranks, and focus. What would we be equivalent in?? NGA will show similar skill levels at a given rank, even between associations (and most independent schools), in my experience.

    This is where your analogy fails. BJJ is still all the same style, with just variations. That would be more like comparing Takemusu Association's Aikido with USAF's Aikido (I think these work - not familiar with them). Two different associations, but similar approach to ranking, so you can expect similar results at a given rank. The same problem exists in Karate, perhaps. Different schools have a different focus, so use the ranks a bit differently. Even if there was a 20-man Kumite requirement for all of them, each would likely choose different rules for that Kumite, which would still lead to different levels of competency in different areas. The only way you could make them more equivalent would be to have competition be a central theme, and use the BJJ model of who you can hold you own with defines your rank. There's merit in that, but it requires competition to be effective between schools.
     
  19. Flatfish

    Flatfish Black Belt

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    Just throwing in my experience in TKD. Even among Kukki/WTF schools there is a lot of variation of what it takes to get to a certain level. Some schools promote when the student has learned the appropriate form for the rank as the only testing requirement, others have more requirements. In some schools you can reach 1st Dan in a little over a year, in others it takes longer (fastest in the school I train at would be 2.5 years). So I think it's safe to say that folks of the same rank could very well be quite different in their abilities simply due to differences in time spent training.
     
  20. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    That's the general idea, but it's not quite so simple.

    Firstly, there is some allowance made for physical attributes. A 60 year old 100 pound female black belt is not expected to tap out 90% of all brown belts, due to the fact that most of those brown belts will be half her age, twice her size, and having a strength advantage due to their gender. Heck, when I got my black belt I would probably only tap out about 50% of brown belts on a regular basis. Allowance was made for the fact that I was 20 years older than most brown belts and was not particularly athletic.

    Secondly, the flip side of the previous point is that winning alone is not sufficient, especially if the victory is based on physical attributes. Otherwise a D1 wrestler or a NFL linebacker could come in to a BJJ school and be awarded their purple belt in the first week. Instructors want to see their students getting the tap through superior technique, not just through being better athletes. In addition, instructors will typically want to see that their students have a well rounded grasp of the art. If you are winning purple belt tournaments because you have a brown belt level top game, but your guard game is only blue belt level, many instructors won't promote you until you shore up your weak areas. Along similar lines, some instructors want to see that their students can demonstrate a mastery of the self-defense curriculum even though that material doesn't generally come up in competition.

    Lastly, there is some variance according between academies. Schools which are focused on high-level competition may expect their students to be high-level athletes as well as technicians. They may engage in "sand-bagging", refusing to promote students until they can beat 99.9% of the people at their current rank so as to rack up the trophy count in each rank division.

    There is social pressure to not be the instructor known for handing out easy rank or having students who are pushovers, so the standards between academies usually don't get too far apart. Still, you could probably do a bit of searching and find gyms that are a good 20-30% apart in their general standards for promotions.

    Even so, your general point is valid. The ideal standard for ranks in BJJ is consistent enough that you should have a general idea of the minimum level expected from practitioners of a given rank when you walk into a BJJ school anywhere in the world. (The maximum level may be higher, but there is generally a floor which should make you suspect that the school is not legit if students fall below it.) I have yet to encounter a BJJ black belt who wasn't tough, skilled, and knowledgeable at the level you would expect most people to take at least a decade of very hard work to achieve.
     
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