The Issue with Online Promotion

There have been some recent controversies surrounding certain academies and affiliations offering testing and promotion through exchange of videos, that is to say “online promotions.”  This is a troublesome and multifaceted issue.

For starters I will reiterate a point that I’ve made many times: “The Belt” means nothing.  Your belt means what your belt means to you and mine means what mine means to me, but “The Belt” as a nebulous, not clearly defined construct, doesn’t actually mean anything.  I am a blue belt who has encountered white belts that can demolish me and have rolled with legitimate black belts that I can dominate using technique.  The belt means different things to different people.

That said, when someone is promoted they are effectively being given a stamp of approval by whoever is promoting them.  The belt is a symbol of someone else’s faith in you.  It is also a symbol of your own personal growth and achievement, that is to say when I go from white to blue, blue to purple etc it generally signifies that my coach has witnessed my personal growth and decided I had reached the next plateau.

When someone is promoted based on videos they’ve submitted there are some crucial components not taken into account.  For starters: it is very difficult to feel a person’s balance and pressure based on video.  If you watch high level black belts, very often their movements are very subtle, in order to properly assess someone you cannot simply watch them, you need to FEEL them, you need to actually experience what they are capable and what NOT capable of doing.

In a time when, in some cases, people open up gyms while they are still blue belts, “the belt” needs to also be an assessment of the other person’s character.  If you read Carlos Gracie’s guidelines for promotion, most of it had to do with the person’s personality rather than their technical knowledge or ability.  That is to say: if you’re a terrible human being your coach should probably refrain from promoting you even if your skills are good.  A big part of jiu jitsu is the ability to check your ego, and exchange of videos is not a good litmus test for that ability.

There is a common adage that is passed around the Jiu Jitsu can be for anyone.  However, getting promoted to the next belt is not an entitlement, but rather an accomplishment.  I doubt we’ll ever see a black belt world champ who got his or her belts online.  Rather, practitioners worthy of the belts they were demonstrate day in and day out to their instructors their value and validity.  There are far too many variables needed in assessing a student to do it virtually.

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. To me this issue has already been put to rest. It’s been addressed and, like it or not, it’s not really an issue any longer.

    The Family and methods it’s aimed at are doing the right things for the right reasons, are highly successful, competent and have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of students WORLD WIDE. Their system is solid, its proven and its effective. The majority of their students are, I daresay, normal folks and people who just want to learn Jiu Jitsu, defend themselves and become better people.

    They don’t want, need or desire to be a WORLD CHAMPION (how many of those are there again, in HOW many organizations?) or Win a Medal or 4 or 5 yippee, or become FAMOUS and thump their chests with how dangerously formidable they are in some competition from a high school gym to a desert oasis to a tiny island or jungle enclave somewhere in this vast world. The people such articles are aimed at, the students, just want to better themselves and their lives through Jiu Jitsu. AND THEY ARE. They’re doing it through the offices and generosity of the Family that’s teaching them, legitimately, thoroughly and with great attention to detail whether OTHERS like it or not.

    I’m one of those students, I’m 67, I’m retired, a Vietnam Veteran, former Police Officer, Detention Officer, Bio-tech for a Medical Home Infusion Service, and have been in service to my country for most of my adult life. I actually KNOW a thing or two about quality, attention to detail, service, usefulness and legitimacy. So if you don’t actually know what that Families methods are or what their quality is or even what their standards are..well I’ve also been around long enough to recognize Ignorance when I see it.

    The Family and organization(s)/methods this article is aimed at continue to be successful and continue to provide Quality, Detail, Service, Usefulness and Legitimacy whether anyone else likes it or not.

    You nay-sayers have lost. Let it go.

  2. @wejitzin’

    I bear you no ill will or hard feelings. You’re entitled to your opinion just as I am to mine. After all opinions are like…well…YOU know. Everyone has one.

    I have no bone to pick with anyone who wants to get one of those World Championships ( many ARE there) or a wall of medals and trophies for competitions they enter. That applies to White Belt , Blue Belt, Purple, Brown and Black Belt competitors. Who knows? If I live long enough or get skillful enough I might enter one of those Competitions myself. Probably not, but then I’m not averse to challenges either.

    Do what you want, say what you want, just be truthful and accurate when you do so and don’t continue to spread outright falsehoods and wild tales that have no basis whatsoever in reality. Seems not too outrageous to wish for. Or would that be too logical?

    I used my own ‘service’ example to illustrate that maybe, just maybe, I know what quality, attention to detail, service, usefulness and legitimacy are, having experienced and utilized them over my years on this earth. IN service to my country and fellow citizens. So in my opinion I’m adequately qualified to make those determinations; as for you, you “fail to see how it’s relevant to the article”? That must mean you have some difficulty reading or comprehending language/words in general. My statement still stands though: “So if you don’t actually know what that Family’s methods are or what their quality is or even what their standards are..well I’ve also been around long enough to recognize Ignorance when I see it.” All of my words are in context. Your ad hominem voice-ings notwithstanding.

    I didn’t attack anyone but Those Who Continue To Make Things Up based on either ignorance, outright lies or some other bone to pick. It only becomes an Issue when such people pop up and Voice their so-called opinion based simply on whatever fantasy or need drives them. The information and the truth are out there, in plain sight for anyone who is interested to find it. I found it; its even been printed and talked about on this very site. I spent 3 years researching what path I wanted to take and I’ve found it and I’m on it. I plan to live another 20-30 years and progress as far as I can and pass what I learn on to my grandkids and family.

    Whatever rank I attain in that time frame (God Willing) will be legitimate and verifiable. I’ll test in front of the most qualified people available, LIVE and IN PERSON every time I feel I’m ready. Considering the quality of the instruction and the curriculum I think I’ll end up doing pretty damn well, whatever rank or ranks those may be. OH! You may be surprised to know that I choose NOT to ‘test via Video’. I want to do it live and in person for some of the very reasons mentioned in the article (AND because its a choice offered by the Family involved) and that’s MY choice. Not anyone else’s.

    Do some research, find out what the belt testing requirements are and how it’s all done. That should clear it up for you based upon my statements above and the things you discover (note: at this point a Pessimist might say “Or not”, but I prefer to be eternally Hopeful). In the meantime I’ll continue to learn straight from the source (to coin a phrase). 😉

    Lastly it’s NOT an issue for anyone who has reasonable thought processes and is able to research things, examine evidence impartially and can look at things from all angles; then make rational judgements based on those things along with personal experience. Reasonable people. NOT someone who has their mind made up based upon fantasy, fear or jealousy, envy, outright hate, psychotic rage, or misunderstanding or whatever. NOT someone who doesn’t have access to (or cares to learn) the truth of things. You know; IGNORANT people. I didn’t call ‘everyone else’ ignorant. That apellation comes from you. That word only APPLIES to the IGNORANT….and most assuredly not your own fine self. 🙂

    Peace. I wish you no harm or ill. Have a good and fruitful life.


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