A Reader Question: “No one to promote me and I want to compete at higher belt.”

Question: “I received my blue belt years ago.
I’m over 40 now and belong to a studio with no Bjj lineage. But we grapple everyday.
I have won NAGAs in Gi and NoGi at expert level. I have won many others too.
But have no way of promoting, is it bad if I buy a purple belt to adv to the next level in tournaments?
Won the blue belt to many times. Like to stay anonymous
Would call myself purple just to compete at a higher level.
Sorry wouldn’t call myself purple just want to compete at higher level.”

Jiu-jitsu Times: Whenever we hear of self promoting belts, it is usually for a less noble reason: someone wants to be important or make $$ from teaching as a fake black belt.

Your situation is different in that you lack any instructor / affiliation to properly graduate you in your belt.
Nevertheless it sounds like something that could cause harm to your reputation in the grappling community.

Anytime people hear that someone put on a higher belt themselves, there is a backlash by the “bjj police” and you * could * be labelled as a fraud.
Even though it sounds like you could back up the rank on the mat and in competition and in all likelihood deserve to wear a purple belt.

But if word gets out that you self belted up, then you could suffer some negative backlash.
And that could follow you around for years.

I am not certain about the rules in NAGA, but I would think that most competitions would allow for a competitor who wished to compete up a division.
This also allows for a former high level college wrestler or black belt judoka, experienced MMA fighters to NOT have to enter the white belt / beginner’s division.

I knew a professional MMA fighter who had never really trained in the gi have to enter the white belt division and that made several people unhappy.
He clearly belonged in a higher belt division even though he had never officially been awarded a blue belt.
Many no-gi competitions may also make categories by years of experience.

I would guess that discussing your situation with the tournament officials would be the best way to handle your dilemma instead of putting on a belt for the day of the tournament.

What do the Jiu-jitsu Times readers think of this problem?

A Reader Question on Jiu-jitsu Times: “Younger blue belt competition guys just smash me”

Email us for questions: info@jiujitsutimes.com


  1. I think if he thinks he is pretty ready, I would do an open weight tournament a few times to really test himself at blue belt, and if he wins still like he is in his weight category, just get the purple and use it to compete there… It doesn’t sound like he is teaching anyone, so how could this “police” really ever find him to castrate him ha ha ha! Also, who do you thank gave Helio his black belt in bjj… Pretty sure it was Helio because he had no one to promote him in bjj… It’s the same with all the founders of other martial arts. If you can compete at purple, just go do it. Lineage doesn’t speak if someone is going to be good or not anyway

  2. I think he should talk to some local BJJ black belts, explain the situation and see if they will test him. They may not award him the belt themselves, but they can at least give some external acknowledgement that he’s ready to self-promote.

  3. I would hit up a local academy explain your situation and see if they would let you ‘test roll’ with one of their instructors to see if you would meet the requirements for that belt. Its not going to be free of course. I think it seems fair if your that good but I’m sure its not something they would want to make a habit of doing on a regular basis.

  4. It’s a difficult yet common position. The reader should find an instructor and get his belt upgraded, but what instructor would promote a student he doesn’t train or even really know?

    And should he? It’s quite a liability for the instructor who puts his name on the line for someone he doesn’t really know, and a liability for the competitor who now has a fake lineage. He hasn’t really learned under that instructor and his own instructors are not acknowledged as they should.

    The situation is more common than one would expect:

    A pal of mine (who shall remain anonymous here) competes at black belt level on the strength of his Judo black belt. Barely ever did any BJJ, but being an Olympic level athlete with a solid ground game, his worst result in BJJ comp thus far as been a second place. He doesn’t claim to be a BJJ black belt outside of competitions, doesn’t teach, but refuses to enter comps at white or blue belt – he competes in BJJ for the challenge, and entering at blue belt wouldn’t make sense

    And on the other side of the coin, last time I competed was at blue belt against a Judo competitor, Pride & Shooto vet with 20+ years of mat experience. And there he is standing in front of me at Blue belt because no one awarded him his next belt.

    I think the solution lies in the IBJJF allowing people to enter at higher belts when there is reasonable evidence that the applicant has the experience needed to compete there.

    In regards to the reader’s original question, I received a reply from the IBJJF (regarding a different issue) saying:

    “It [belt registration at the IBJJF] is required for juvenile, brown belt and black belt athletes to have a valid IBJJF membership ID card in order to compete in any IBJJF/USBJJF tournaments. If you don’t fall in this category you can register to compete as a non-affiliated athlete.”

    I think his best shot is to contact the IBJJF, provide details and evidence of his situation and see what they suggest.

  5. I asked this same question on reddit and got completely crushed for it. .. thank you for the reader who asked it and jiu jitsu times for answering professionally. .. and for all the commenters too. .. all helpful advice

  6. chael Sonnen obtained his purple belt on his grappling strengths. The only thing I would say is that yes at blue and purple you may be able to crush others who don’t have your athletic prowess, but don’t short change your BJJ experience by thinking that competition ability is the only criteria for advancement. The ability to share technique, and master a set of techniques is as important as winning in completion. Without a wide breadth of technique you may cripple yourself at brown belt. There is a reason the journey takes years. All that said, you may be perfectly qualified, if you are, take the time to get to know some real blackbelts, as you get further along in your journey you will need the association of other black belts to improve more. Getting blackbelt is only the beginning, being part of the blackbelt community and rolling with those higher belts is critical to life as a blackbelt. Don’t think only of the competition this year, think of your whole life. Take the time.

  7. I don’t think you would receive praise not backlash from the bjj community if you self promoted yourself for tournaments. Now if you self demoted yourself for tournaments that would be a different story. The whole way tournaments are run is pretty stupid in the first place. You could be an Olympic wrestler with years of no-gi jujitsu experience and compete as a white belt with 3 months experience. That is BS and probably keeps a lot of people from competing.


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