The Importance of Exposing Fraud in the Jiu-Jitsu Community

At least once a month I see the BJJ community outing someone for some sort of fraud or dishonesty.  This can be as mundane as someone posting a picture of a competitor with a default medal he was given for showing up to a tournament, or it can be more sinister, like someone masquerading as a black belt.

I was reading a thread about a purple belt who proudly posted about a gold medal he received without winning (or even competing in) a single match. He even claimed he got hurt winning that medal.  What a fraud! I saw an interesting query in the comments:

What is it with the BJJ community that LOVES to out people… ‘Fake black belt’ ‘Fake gold…’  A slimy thing to do, but really who are they hurting?

I’m going to take a closer look at this topic starting with the most extreme case of fraud: fake black belts.

A fake black belt, or for that matter anyone unqualified trying to “teach,” can potentially cause someone’s death.  I have personally watched white and blue belts (and sometimes really crappy upper belts) try to “teach” newer students techniques and leave out crucial details that would prevent serious injury or death in a street fight.

Taking a step back from the extreme, when you learn a technique for the first time, it may embed itself in your psyche, and you may develop a habit.  If the habits you develop lack the technical points that are needed to work on a regular and reliable basis, you may wind up having real difficulties down the line.

I’ve watched people teach arm bars and not point out the significance of pinching the knees.  I then watched students execute these arm bars incorrectly on a regular basis without understanding what they were doing wrong.  Because they had drilled the move incorrectly, correcting their mistake was not a trivial matter.  I would rather wait to learn from a qualified instructor than learn it incorrectly from an unqualified one.

Now, let’s look at something less personal: fraudulent medals.  I’ve seen these take two forms:

Option 1: a competitor enters an empty bracket, receives the gold medal simply for showing up, then sincerely boasts about that “first place finish” on Facebook.

Option 2: a competitor enters a two or three (or in IBJJF, four) person bracket, loses her first and only match, and posts on social media about how she made it to the quarterfinals.  She achieved something.  She showed up and competed.  But this is just as dishonest as posting pictures with a default gold medal.

There are plenty of arguments that can be made: if you were ready to compete and no one else was, why shouldn’t you be proud?

Yes, you can be proud that you were ready to compete, but that medal is not a symbol of achievement unless you beat at least one opponent to get it.  Similarly, if you enter a masters division or a “world championship,” you need to specify which tournament and which division.  A NAGA world champion is not the same thing as an IBJJF world champion.  A fellow writer, Josh Hinger, covered this topic pretty extensively in his article at FloGrappling .

Here’s the thing: people claiming and being proud of a medal that didn’t come from any victory in competition don’t inherently harm anyone with their fraud.  But when and if they turn around and try to use that medal as a credential to attract or captivate students, problems arise.

A local competitor recently traveled to the IBJJF Worlds and took bronze in a bracket that had over forty competitors.  That medal means he won several matches.  A medal given to someone because he was the fourth person in his bracket is simply not the same thing and should never be mistaken as the same thing.  It’s unfair to competitors who have actually won their medals.

For these reasons, I am all for people being called out for being fraudulent.  We as a community have a responsibility to future generations of the sport.


  1. Well there are several reason why this isnt entirely true. For a lot of people, just step on the mats to train is a very big deal and to compete is a real challenge. They are facing fear, injuries, insecurities, pain and personal limitations and bjj is all about empowering people and give them confidence though life not only on the mats. And I am not even taliking about people with special needs and so. Also, there are default medals and default medals. For example: I never competed in my own category. All my bracts used to have just me (I am master 3 blue belt). That said, I never could compete in mybown category. I was competing with more younger or heavier athletes than me. I do celebrate my default medals as I celebrate the ones that is not. Jiujitsu is too big to been reduced to just submit people. It is an art. A martial art and I dont see the point to scrutinize people that are mostly lying to themselves.

  2. I’m a white belt, just started fun of competing. I’ve even got one bronze, for loosing one fight. I was ashamed on pedestal. I didn’t want to go there to get it, but somehow manipulated by my colleagues, just went there and picked it up. Really bad experience. So I think BJJ community should revise rules! No fight no medal in the first place, plain simple!… And why there is no 3rd place match? If so there should be no bronze medals. Cut this, and there will be no frauds, at least in this class.
    Black belts are another thing, and should be disclosed and condemned by the community.

  3. The author of this article has a picture in the podium PAN NO GI in a bracket of three people. It is very interesting to me after i read this article criticizing people like himself. Probably I miss understood, BUT YOU SIGN UP IN A BRACKET OF THREE PEOPLE TO RECEIVE A MEDAL? I just got promoted to a blue belt, after three years, I competed several tournaments with more than four people brackets. I got bronze at IBJJF with 15 people brackets, I gold and silver in other submission only tournament and point system. I never criticizing people for getting a medal in a short bracket. What is the fraud? I think fraud is to promote yourself from purple to brown belt, or fake black belts that is fraud. These people should be exposing, you shouldn’t don’t expose a person because no one showed to their tournament. EXPOSING THE FAKE BELTS who cares about medals? the most important in BJJ is earn your belt doesn’t matter how long take you but being a legit belt.


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