Martial Arts in Portland Oregon have never been the same since SBG was founded over twenty years ago, in 1992.
The concept of a Mixed Martial Arts gym hadn’t been born yet. SBG was the first commercial location to do such a thing, the pioneers of the idea, forever changing the way Martial Arts in Portland Oregon would be viewed. Because we were first, and this was all new, a break with the old dead patterns of Martial Arts, the worn out superstitions and fantasy based training methods, was a must.
Titles, terminology and “belts” which had no connection to functional skill, were discarded.
We’ve discussed this topic before, click here to read: martial arts in Portland Oregon and how the SBG views ‘belts’.
One thing remained the exception, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu belt system. Why? Because demonstrating skill in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is similiar to being able to speak spanish or play the guitar. It is a testable, empirically testable, functional skill. It cannot be faked.
This authenticity is what gives the ranking system in BJJ it’s meaning.
When it comes to martial arts in general, especially martial arts in Portland Oregon, the skill and high standards of SBG’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes is renowned. But it isn’t just the martial arts community in Portland that recognizes this fact.
it must be my calm yoda like jiujitsu you have been covering.”This brings up a very, very common phenomenon in BJJ: rank promotions.
I have written about some of the pitfalls of ego-driven attitudes within martial arts, and many of the subtle ways they can manifest in individuals as well as in cliques within martial arts schools. Hand-in-hand with common problems like keeping score (who taps who) is where the student believes he or she should be with respect to rank.
I’ve seen a lot of this over the years.
And I do understand that some instructors within the martial arts, frankly, have some weird, inconsistent standards, play favorites, etc., and in some cases it’s understandable that these can lead to students being frustrated.
For me, however, I have to be 100% clear. When it comes to belt promotions, it is not a democracy. I have a clear criteria for what I’m looking for and do not compromise on those standards, period. This is true within the martial arts of Nexus, the UK, or the martial arts in Portland Oregon. It is true at all SBGs.
But no matter how explicit you make these martial arts criteria, there will be some whose egos and insecurities will get in the way. Often to the tune of “But I can tap that [higher rank] out, so I should be [that rank].”
Not necessarily. It all comes down to technical performance.
Just because, for example, a white belt can submit a blue belt sometimes, or is superior in one aspect of the game, such as a killer guard, does NOT make him a blue belt…
To be a blue belt, they have to have a technical blue belt game, meaning: blue belt guard, blue belt passing, blue belt defense and escapes, etc.
Another self-deception is how students will represent their use or non-use of attributes.
And as a side note, match-ups must always be considered in these evaluations as well.
Fact is, everyone has at least a style or two that, when they encounter it, is like a kind of kryptonite.
There are degrees to this, but the point is that just because Student A can easily beat Student B, and Student B can easily beat Student C, this does not mean that Student A will easily beat Student C. In the logic of Jiu-Jitsu, Student C could very well give Student A a hell of a run!Part of the process for creating a healthy culture is to make sure everyone realizes – and appreciates – the ranking criteria, and more importantly, why it is in their best interests to have these standards.
At my martial arts school, it’s a big deal when someone gets a belt promotion, even a blue belt. I know this is the case when it comes to the martial arts in Portland Oregon, or any of the other SBGs.
-Stephen Whittier, SBG East Coast Director
That’s a great letter by Master Instructor Whittier.
If you are wondering how we feel about BJJ belts ranks as it relates to the Martial Arts in Portland Oregon SBG, that expressed it.
Coach Steve received quite a bit of follow up on the topic, which lead to this very insightful question and answer session:
disproportionately full of men? Probably for them too, but focus on the elements we talk about all the time in this series — posture, timing, fundamentals, proper drilling and training methods — and the inevitable adaptations will take place.A weaker martial arts student is often seen as “tricky” or “very technical” for a reason… strength and power were never an option. They found another way, but also proved that the other way exists. And for what it’s worth, I recently awarded the fastest promotion to blue belt I have ever given… a 9 month white to blue for woman in my program, who weighs only about 115-120 lbs.Next question:
What we’re talking about is technical performance.
with age) and stylistic matchups can have an impact on who actually beats the other person, we go by the standard I mentioned at the outset: can you play the martial arts game at a solid technical level with other people of that technical level, independent of reliance on physical attributes like strength and explosiveness?If that measure is kept honest both on an individual level and within the culture of the school, then this will be a non-issue. There will be no “give away” belts on the one hand, or making a student feel like a “second tier” team member for losing to a much faster, stronger, or more athletic opponent of a lower rank on the other.I know for a fact that even (or especially) in some of the most competition oriented martial arts team training environments, where the competitors are essentially training as professional athletes, that there is just about zero thought given to a lower belt tapping a higher belt.There are so many factors that play into this, that to focus on it would be counter-productive. In a great training environment worry about this kind of thing would be silly; the athletes are too busy trying to get better and help their teammates get better so they can win the tournament.In a healthy martial arts training environment, even if it’s not a competition team, this should be the standard. I can tell you from experience it’s not a standard everyone will be comfortable with, because it will be too uncomfortable for those whose egos are too fragile. They want to keep score of who they beat, and they must make excuses for why someone could possibly have gotten the better of them. As I’ve mentioned before, there are two motivations we talk about for training: image or performance.The image-motivated will rationalize that if they compete then they’re obviously about performance, but even that isn’t necessarily true.Plenty of martial arts athletes compete to fuel or chase an image of self they desperately want to attain. They will posture like a hero when they win, but set themselves up with excuses before a competition (setting up a reason for a possible loss) or after they lose (making an excuse for how they could possibly have lost, because clearly there has to be a reason – aside from the fact that the opponent scored more points or submitted them!).
On another angle, I’ve read posts on jiu-jitsu and martial arts forums where students have come on and said in order to be a black belt, for instance, you should be able to beat everyone at the belt below you. And this is an opinion shared even by existing brown belts!
Well, my school has very high standards, and we have a tough mat. But even given that, I hate to burst bubbles. As a purple belt BJ Penn would have wrecked most black belts out there. Roger Gracie sure was tearing through them long before he was awarded a black belt. Gunnar Nelson I’ve mentioned before, three years into training would handily
beat most black belts. How about Keenan Cornelius, recently awarded his brown belt? Yup, he would beat the vast majority of BJJ black belts walking the planet. And there are plenty more of these guys out there, a lot of them “name” players who are champion competitors, but some most have never heard of. Does this make everyone they can submit illegitimate at their rank?
1) First and foremost, love jiu-jitsu.
your head. You will get very good, maybe faster
than some and slower than others, but it will
the physical. Beating people up is easy after a
while. In it’s best form it’s about becoming a
better human being.-Stephen Whittier, SBG East Coast Director
Martial Arts in Portland Oregon have not been the same since the creation of SBG over twenty years ago.
This is absolutely true. But rest assured, the martial arts world-wide, and especially the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, will never be the same either. With Master Instructors like Stephen Whittier representing SBG, we just can’t help but push the evolution of our sport, even further.