Grading - Popularity contest or technical ability??  

New Member

Hey, so i'm having a hard dealing with a recent informal grading (we had a seminar first then sat and were called out to receive stripes/belts).

So some background, I've been doing BJJ for just over 6 months now 2 x a week with 2 PT sessions a month at a Gracie affiliate club in the UK. 
Now ok, 2 x a week isn't much but that's all i can do, i work 2 jobs at night 5 days a week, get 4 hours sleep before I'm up to look after my children in the day, 2 x a week is all i can currently do....however in those 6 months i have learnt alot, i can comfortably roll with blue belts, and have been told by my coach i have better technical ability and learned techniques/skill level than some longer serving student white belts. I honestly feel i have worked so hard, sacrificed alot of family time etc to train, ive trained on broken bones, exhaustion etc etc as i said im very committed.
 I'm good friends with my coach (we work together outside of BJJ), extremely respectful, polite, hard working, loyal etc etc to my club, coaches and fellow students.
Now i train with my coach (a brown belt) in my town, the black teaches as part of the same club in the next town over (however we are all the same club). My work commitments prevent me from training at the black belts club. 
During the seminar i drilled and rolled with other non stripe white belts who had trained the same length of time as me, some less, and l genuinely felt that i had better ability than them (because ive rolled with them and have first hand experience of my level vs theirs). These white belts train at my club and occasionally at the black belts club in the town over.
These white belts in question received stripes during the grading and me and a few others who i know, did not grade at all (which was very disheartening)
When discussing why we didn't grade vs why other less skilled students did, we discovered the commonality that those less skilled who graded, who train with us at our club ALSO occasionally train with the black belt, but those of us that didn't grade were the ones that don't/can't train with the black belt.
This was also pointed out to us by a purple belt that we perhaps didn't grade because we didn't train with the black belt. This is what makes it seem like the grading was more of a popularity contest because less skilled students are receiving stripes whilst those more skilled aren't, just because we cant make it to the black belts club because of work commitments. 
Surely being graded is judged not just on your commitment, ethics, respectfulness, hard work, but also how hard you're training, how well you're learning and your skill level, regardless of whether you train with the brown belt coach or black belt coach (otherwise why would there be different color belts to distinguish the hard work and skill level of newbies to veterans). 
We found the experience very disheartening. It felt like all our hard work and skill level we had reached, commitment, sacrifice, loyalty, respect, the hours we've drilled and rolled all meant nothing when compared to those who could attend classes with the black belt even though they were less skilled. Surely our ability and hard work and sacrifice should be the determining factor in grading (along with our coaches recommendation) and not just because we cannot attend the black belts class, hence why we wondered if it was a popularity issue rather than what we had sacrificed and strived to earn?
Posted : 12/03/2017 5:09 pm
Noble Member

Keep you head up mate.  First tape on a belt is just tape on a not put too much stock in it.  Second since you are friends with the brownbelt ask him about your observation.  I would position it something like:

"Hey I noticed that the guys who are only training with you like Joe, Bob, Sally and me did not get stripes but some other folks did.  Is this a sort of oversight? Or are we not doing something we should be doing?"
If I was your coach and it was an oversight I would stripe you guys the next class along with an explanation that because you have not been training with the blackbelt that he is more qualified to evaluate your progress.
We had a few guys miss our annual promotion ceremony this year, no big deal I striped them the next class they came to.  
Posted : 12/03/2017 6:19 pm
Illustrious Member Admin
1) One day you will look back on this, facepalm, and have a good chuckle caring about white belt stripes 😉
2) I get what your saying, but I wouldnt sweat it. It may have everything to do with visiting the black belt, because he feels he can better assess the guys he sees on a regular basis.  He may suspect you are at least as skilled, or more skilled, but isnt certain enough to award stripes because he hasnt seen you enough.
There are lots of other reasons this can happen, so DONT make assumptions.
Also wondering why your brown belt isnt giving out stripes.  The black belt is only needed to promote to brown and up. Brown belts can promote you too.
The other thing to keep in mind, if you are personal friends with your instructor, he is likely to hold you to a MUCH HIGHER standard.  The stripes and belts may come a lot SLOWER for you  😉
A lot of upper belts are like that.   Im handing out belts to my first students only recently, and since they are close personal friends, they will be border line sang baggers before they get a belt from me 🙂
Being EXTRA careful on my first students. 
Posted : 12/03/2017 9:26 pm
nathan barley
Noble Member

Instructors vary with their levels of professionalism too. Some may not be very systematic when it comes to assessing their students' progress. I didn't get my first stripe till 18 months in, when I got three. With promotion, the golden rule is, if you keep training it doesn't matter. And that goes just as well for early as well as late promotions. With stripes it's even more true, because as you progress stripes matter less and less. I'd guess most people purple and above wouldn't care much if they never got another stripe again. To be honest I feel a bit silly getting up in front of the class to get a stripe now. If it were up to me I wouldn't do it. 

Posted : 13/03/2017 7:08 am

Prominent Member

I would also like to add, its difficult for the black belt to grade someone he doesnt really see roll often. Its not a popularity contest, he just obviously has seen the other guys roll more often and thinks they're worthy. Dom let it change what you do, as long as you are learning and progressing, you will get that promotion one way or another. Embrace not getting what you want, its also good for you:) Its all part of BJJ

Posted : 13/03/2017 10:26 am
Noble Member

If the instructor grades, it makes sense he wants to see you. (Yes, Jack is right - a white belt stripe is just a piece of tape). But it's not a popularity contest - assuming these stripes mean something, and he is the one doing the assessing - how can he assess you if you don't train with him? That's not popularity, that's about firsthand information.

Posted : 13/03/2017 10:27 am
Noble Member

 keeping it real with you, bub.

 its a piece of tape on a piece of cloth.
 the longer you train, you will look back on the ridiculousness of worrying about this and realize what a clown you were.
 or you will quit and never realize.
Posted : 13/03/2017 7:55 pm
Reputable Member

 keeping it real with you, bub.

 its a piece of tape on a piece of cloth.
 the longer you train, you will look back on the ridiculousness of worrying about this and realize what a clown you were.
 or you will quit and never realize.

This x infinity

Posted : 13/03/2017 10:48 pm

Noble Member


Posted : 14/03/2017 5:12 am


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