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Belt Testing :: Belt Tree

PromotionsI frequently receive questions concerning the procedure for belt testing in our BJJ Association. It's also a question that arises often when people schedule seminars. So for simplicity I decided it was best to send out a standardized set of options so everyone is clear on the procedures, and how it should work.

First, for those not familiar with BJJ we use the stripe on belt system. I like the stripes for three reasons. The first is it often takes years to move from blue to purple belt, or purple to brown belt, etc. So in that time frame the stripes provide a way for the Coach to offer positive feedback regarding progress the athlete is making.

The second is that the stripes allow for greater ease when organizing brackets for tournaments or in house competitions.

And the third is they serve as a reminder for me as to what I am looking at the athlete for in terms of grading. This is important as I only see some athletes once a Year or so. So the stripes can really serve as a visual reminder for me when I come in as to where the student was at.

The basic stripe system is three stripes per belt, (i.e.: no stripes, then 1-3). With a fourth stripe for those with exceptional skill at a particular belt, but not yet at the next level as they are waiting for testing, or an upcoming competition, etc.

Who can award Belts?

KidsIn our Association any purple belt with one stripe or more can award up to four stripe white. This would indicate to me or another black belt when we see them that they are ready to test for the next belt. Any brown belt with one stripe or more can award up to blue. And belts above blue with no stripes will always need to be awarded by a black belt.

In the Brazilian system once you are a black belt you receive a stripe every three Years provided you are coaching, or competing during that time. To award a black belt yourself you will have to be black one stripe. So you will need to have been a black belt for three Years. Some BJJ teachers do it in a different manner. However, this is the system used by the Machados, and by Gracie Barra, and this is the system Chris Haueter and myself decided we would stay with for the SBGi BJJ Association.

How old do you have to be to receive a belt in BJJ?

Up until the age of 15 the kids can receive children's BJJ ranks which are:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green

So when a coach sees a child with a green belt on then we know they are ready for blue belt once they get a little older.

What are the requirements for the next belt:

Knee RideThe requirements in the SBGi BJJ Association can be summed up in two words: Technical performance.

Technical performance means the athlete can 'roll' against other people of a similar weight, and a particular belt, and hold their own. They may not win all the time, but they can compete at that level. That is performance. The technical part means that when they compete they are using BJJ skill, and not just using attributes such as strength, power, explosiveness, or speed, to mask, or "patch up" poor technique. So when I see an athlete who can compete against others at a particular belt, in a technical manner, then they should be promoted to that belt promptly. It's really as simple as that. There is no, and will be no, written test, standardized form, or pattern with me.

How do they test:

This will depend on the Coach.

There are currently five BJJ black belts in our Association. Myself, Chris Haueter, John Frankl, Mike Chapman and Tom Oberhue. Each black belt can and does decide how they wish to test athletes for belts.

For athletes testing with me I would like 30 minutes of private time. If I am at a Gym where I don't get to see the athlete on a regular basis then it would be best if there are other athletes of the belt rank the student is testing for available to assist. The student will be asked to wrestle out of various positions, to roll with the other athletes present, and I will roll with them myself as well. This should all be done in a quiet, private format if possible.

I may also simple walk up to someone at any point and award them a belt as I feel they are performing at that level. This is something all the black belts in the Association may do at any time.

Who is eligible:

Anyone that is part of the SBGi Association is eligible.

BeltsIn the past I have asked the local instructors to pick out the athletes that where ready to test. Although I will still rely heavily on the local instructors input, and take their point of view regarding their athletes as one of the top considerations, I believe it's best if all Coaches allow anyone in the association to test at anytime. You may feel a student is stepping up to test long before they are ready, and if that is the case I will rely heavily on that input and most likely agree completely with the coach. However, by leaving the field open to all members the local Instructors and Regional Directors can eliminate any appearance of favoritism on their part. As such making the testing available to any member who asks is in my opinion the best policy to maintain, and one I would like to stick to for all future events.

In addition, I do not want to run through belt testing during, or as part of a seminar. I feel this may detract from the time of the other seminar attendees who are paying for class. So it's important that we schedule belt testing in advance, so as to leave plenty of time for the athletes to walk through the process properly, without detracting from the other members training time.

What does it cost?

With me the cost will be that of a private lesson. So there is no extra fee for belt testing, just the standard fee for the Coaches time. The test should only be 30 minutes in length. My private lesson fee for 2004 will be $90. per hour. So 45. per testing athlete is fine. If it's four or more people then it will be 35. per athlete. And six or more will be 30. per athlete. These will be set fee's for 2004 making it easier for the local Instructors and Regional Directors to book.

An athlete may also test with me during a regular private lesson. I hope this makes scheduling for future events in 2004 a little easier. I am positive we will all have a productive, happy, and prosperous 2004, as SBGi will continue to grow and bring in great new people.

Update Oct 2004:

We at SBGi want to continue ensuring the highest quality standards for the athletes and coaches in our BJJ Association. We believe our athletes demonstrate this high standard by their performance on the mat, and teaching ability. Which has shown itself to be one of the most consistent, and toughest standards in the world for BJJ promotions.

In keeping with that we want to make sure our athletes never mistake the smoke for the fire. The priority must always be placed on the TRAINING itself, NOT the belt testing.

To ensure this we have instituted these following requirements: All athletes wishing to belt test with our Association must have trained directly with the Regional Director of that area within the last 60 days of the test, AND/OR they will need to train over 8 hours with the testing Coach him or herself within a week of testing. This may be via a seminar, or private lesson. This will ensure no athletes skips training, and schedule belt testing only, as this clearly misses the point of what SBGi is all about. - Matt Thornton, President SBGi

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