BJJ Poll: Can You Be a BJJ Black Belt Without Having Entered a Competition?

This week’s poll question comes to us courtesy of Rob, one of the Mighty 600,000. It gets to the heart of what you believe Brazilian jiu-jitsu is.

What do you think? Should participation in Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments be a required component of one’s jiu-jitsu education? Let us know your thoughts by voting and in the comments section for this post. I know Cohost Dan has quite an opinion on this that we’ll go over in our show on May 2…

17 Replies to “BJJ Poll: Can You Be a BJJ Black Belt Without Having Entered a Competition?”

  1. i do think that one should be able to reach black belt without ever competing, however it should be a much longer track than someone who is a seasoned competitor. but if he asks (not allows, but requires) his students to compete, then he should also compete. the bottom line – competing is not for everyone, just like teaching is not for everyone. not all black belts should be required to compete, just like not all black belts should be allowed to teach.

  2. Perhaps the question might be worded ‘Should you be a…’ because the simple answer if the question is Can you be, is yes. There are a number of notable examples, such as John Danaher.
    On the issue of whether, in ones own opinion, one should be a BJJ black belt without ever competing, then, it is still yes IMO, but with a caveat…namely, I personally would prefer my coach to have had competition experience.

  3. I was once told that we all have a purpose in Jiu Jitsu. We all contribute to Jiu Jitsu in different ways. Some of us are competitors & some are not. For me I use competition as a way to gauge myself on what I need to work on. But I don’t think that not competing should hinder your promotion.

  4. I think that you don’t have to compete to be a blackbelt. You however must have the skills. Jiujitsu is the only sport that takes ten years to earn. Very unique.

  5. No, you don’t need to compete to be a blackbelt in Jiu-jitsu. It seems that everyone is so set on competition that they have forgotten that jiu-jitsu is a martial art. The test of one’s jiu-jitsu is the ability to protect themselves in a real life situation. There have been lots of “Blackbelts” that have transitioned to mma (which is the closest competition to a real fight) that have done horrible. People like Marcelo Gracie and Rolls Gracie were beaten up and embarrassed. When folks like Cole Miller and Dustin Hazelett have actually faired well and finished opponents with submissions. Neither of which are blackbelts. Nobody is pulling spider guard in a real fight. If you try to play double wrist control in a real fight you get punched and elbowed in the face. Training more to fight and less for competition will bring better jiu-jitsu.

  6. Competition shouldn’t be required to be able to advance in rank. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art first, it is a tool for defending yourself. The sporting aspect is a path many choose to pursue, but its an optional method of testing yourself, but to give that path preference other the self defense aspects of BJJ, is to walk down the path towards become a point sparring martial art.

  7. Can You Be a BJJ Black Belt Without Having Entered a Competition?
    Yes you can become a BJJ Black Belt without ever competing. I believe that a student of BJJ can become a black belt much faster in competing and being very successful against top level competition. A student that choose not to compete, it’s fine. The journey of BJJ is a beautiful journey.. of so many lessons learned and passed on to others. Each student is different, not everyone will get promoted for the same reason. Each will have the rite of passage from white through black..from beginning to a never ending journey of growth.

    ~ Technique is of least importance in qualifying someone as a black belt. Technique is acquired over the years when you are in fact in the academy learning values. And among them is respect. Respect for your father, mother, wife, husband, the hierarchy, strangers and, mainly, your opponent. ~

    Rodney-KC : Dustin Hazelett is a BJJ Black Belt.

  8. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think a black belt should be reserved for the elite, for a minority of jitsukas. I don’t think it should automatically come to people after their fourth stripe on their brown belt. As a result, I do think entering in competition and achieving some moderate success as a brown belt should be (one of many) prerequisites.

  9. I was involved for about 10 years in Olympic Fencing at a high level, in BJJ terms I would have achieved around a brown belt. But rank in Fencing is only awarded for competition, and the rank is determined by the strength of the competition.

    While this sounds great, it leads to a whole host of problems. First if you are from a region that doesn’t have strong competitions, you can get your rank up unless you travel to huge 100+ people tournaments and medal. Meanwhile fencers in talent rich areas hold ‘in house’ tournaments every week in their club to get every member of their club to the highest rating.

    And the training is completely focused on competition, results in tournaments are the ONLY thing that matter. Technique is fashioned to fit the rules, anything that isn’t allowed in the strict rules is cast aside.

    When I left fencing I came to BJJ I love the physical challenge and that the focus on the skills, respect for other practitioners and not on making results in tournaments.

    I’ll go with Rickson Gracie’s view, competition is a forum for us to work on our skills and showcase them, but if the focus becomes then Jiu Jitsu becomes another martial art turned sport.

  10. Awesome poll question! I love competition but think a lot of people have a twisted view of its importance. If BJJ competition is a must for promotion then so should being able to roll at your current level with your opponent punching you in the face…don’t hear to many people saying that is a requirement.

    Most people start BJJ because they either saw early UFCs and wanted to learn self defense or they watch the UFC today and hear Joe Rogan talk about BJJ aspects of the fight game. You don’t really learn about the sport side until you get in the school and start training. Most guys who start training have never heard of Saulo, Jacare or Roger.

    To me it is crazy that there are people out there that now believe competition is so important that you can’t be a black belt unless you compete. The funny thing is these are the same people who never practice their BJJ with strikes. I compete but I don’t think it is crucial. My biggest fear for BJJ is that it will become like Judo, TKD, etc…all sport and no real practical application.

  11. I do not think you should be able to. Unless you have a severe injury keeping you from competing. How can you coach or referee in a tournament having never competed yourself?

  12. Changing lives through the art of Jiu Jitsu….

    ~ If we just teach them martial arts; how to fight and don’t give them guide lines, how they can become better individuals through the martial arts, we are missing a great opportunity to make a much greater impact on that individuals life. ~

  13. Being a black belt is like getting a PHD. Which means you must know all aspects of BJJ including competition. I dont think that you need to be a “competitor” to be a black belt but I do think a black belt should have been to a competition or two during their career. I think there is a huge difference between a guy that competes here and there and a “competitor”. A competitor is a guy that is constantly competeing and takes it very serious. The other is a guy that does it for fun and train’s jitz for other reasons. I think its great to be the none competitor and be a black belt.
    We must remember that most black belts will end up teaching and they must have enough knowledge to support their students.

  14. It’s nice to have some compatition experience, but not needed. I think a more important question is, can a BB defend him/her self in a street fight. Are they able to clinch, takedown and control another person. Possibly a larger person. I would rather see some consistancy, as to what it means to be a BJJ black belt. Winning compatitions playing the De La Riva guard, shouldn’t be grounds for promotion.

  15. Isn’t BJJ by its nature competitive? I plan on competing throughout my career; I feel like in my limited experience, competition has been a very beneficial factor in my progress. However, every time I roll I feel like I’m pitting my skill against someone elses – maybe not in a competition setting, but it’s still skill against skill. That said, it seems logical that you could develop the skillset of a black belt without participating in a formal competition. On the same note, I agree with Meerkatsu, I’d certainly want a coach who knew the ins and outs of competition.

  16. I started jits at the age of 45 looking to get in shape and am completely submerged in this journey, I asked the same question to our Instructor a 4th degree black belt and former world champion at blue, brown and black belt level. Our class consists of guys off the street like me, college students and amateur, professional mma fighters. His answer was that everyday I stepped on the mat and rolled with the rest of the students including bjj competitors and the fighters, that I contributed to the competitors in an important way so that my journey was my own and my reaching black belt had nothing to do with what anyone else did. i’m 49 now and have rolled with kids, women, competitors, bellator, ufc fighters etc. and after every roll we shake hands and thank each other. Ooooss

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