Promotion to Brown Belt by Email

Question: Do I promote people as high as brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu through email?


Here’s the short version…

• Since I’ve been teaching martial arts, I’ve never promoted anyone by email.

• In thirty-three and a half years of teaching, I’ve only promoted one person through an online video testing protocol. This person was a known, 20-year long student of mine.

Now, here’s the long version:

I’ve been a forward-thinker in martial arts for a little over three decades. Here are a few ideas I practiced, trained, and wrote about long before they became A THING:

• No gi training.
• The importance of leg locks training in BJJ.
• The importance of wrist locks training in BJJ.
• The importance of finger and thumb lock training in BJJ.
• The importance of learning throws & takedowns.
• The importance of takedowns from the knees.
• Specific attribute development.
• Online instruction.

For some, these topics are a normal part of their training. However, in my day, all of these things were taboo, frowned upon, and spoken about with ill regard. Here are a few examples:

1. When “prospective” Jiu Jitsu students would show up at my academy in mid-1994 to watch classes, some would ask, “What are the students doing?” I responded by saying, “They’re doing no-gi Jiu Jitsu.” They would argue and say, “There’s no such thing! There’s only Jiu Jitsu with a gi and Vale Tudo.”

I called this shorts, t-shirts (and sometimes wrestling shoes) style of grappling “no gi” because most of my students were university students and didn’t want to buy a gi. So I called it “No-gi Jiu Jitsu.” At that time, no one else was calling it by that name.

2. When I would spar with visiting students at my academy and submit them using the straight foot lock, I would hear complaints. Some would even tell me that their instructors had told them the only reason I do leg locks was because I “couldn’t pass the guard.”

NOTE: The real reason I did leg locks was because I had been fortunate enough to study with a Sambo Master. Because they blended so well with my style of grappling at that time, because no one else other than a few people here and there were doing them, and because Jiu Jitsu people were so predictable because they always pulled guard, these leg locks presented themselves more often than any other submission.

3. While there were several VHS instructional tapes on the market back in 1998 I was the first Jiu Jitsu instructor to post instructional videos online. Back then, the Internet was so young, and bandwidth was a primary issue. I remember making these videos and compressing them to sizes less than one megabyte – some were around 400 kilobytes 😲

And, as a result of being a forward-thinker, I have taken a bunch of flack because my ideas weren’t popular just yet, nor had they been accepted by those at the highest levels.

Shortly after my cancer surgery in 2013, I wrote a bunch of incomplete posts on one of my websites. These were new ideas I had had. One of these ideas was about teaching and promoting students online. I felt that education was heading in that direction so I wrote a post and dated it two years in advance. This way, I could polish it before I was ready to go public with it.

Well, unfortunately, I forgot about the post and it went live. Some people saw it and went ballistic over it. Heck, one of my black belts saw it, texted me, and resigned from my association. It was a pretty wild time!

NOTE: To date (April 2024), I have tested one person online for his second-degree black belt because of several factors but mainly because he was unable to travel.

A lot has happened since this forgotten post came out. One thing that changed the Jiu Jitsu landscape was COVID. It taught people that many things – previously declared as “NOT POSSIBLE” – are very possible! And now that some big-named martial artists have not only taught their students online but have tested and promoted them as well.

NOTE: To be honest, with everything that’s happened in the last decade, a part of me growls at the people who said some very nasty things to (and about) me online and have now joined in on the idea that it’s possible to teach, test and promote students online. Additionally, because of what happened, I still have people contact me to test them for their next rank through email. I still decline, but I have found it “fascinating” (as Mr. Spock would say) to observe what has transpired over the past decade.

So, there you have it from the horse’s mouth!

If you have questions or comments, email me, and let’s talk!


Roy Harris

P.S. Do you have questions or comments about this post? Let me know in the comments below, by sending me an email, or by clicking on the social media icon above and writing to me there!

Copyright © 2024 Roy Harris. All Rights Reserved.

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