Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Demotes Himself To Purple Belt

Expressing the idea that BJJ is always evolving is a common enough sentiment, but how many masters of the craft are willing to put their money where their mouths are? This might be the impetus behind Enson Inoue’s recent decision to demote himself to purple belt.

Inoue is a well-known figure in the BJJ and MMA world, but he’s been retired from MMA for over a decade, with the exception of a brief comeback bout in 2010. After making the decision to return to jiu-jitsu, Inoue has also made the decision to give up his black belt to focus on the changes in martial arts since his last competition.

Enson Inoue posted on facebook

I know this journey will be long and hard and I want to be real. This is no bullshit nor is it a joke but I’m going to demote myself to purple belt.

I got a black belt 18 years ago and as we all know BJJ is always evolving. I jumped off the BJJ bandwagon 10 years ago and it has pulled far far ahead.

I did the Purebred beginning class again today and again ALL the moves were new to me. Also mybody has stiffened so much that I couldn’t even move fluidly.

At the time I got promoted to black belt I was a black belt at that time. However, what BJJ has become I can honestly say I am NOT a black belt. Yeah it’s cool to be a black belt but to me a true black belt should be technically and spiritually sound. I feel confident spiritually but not technically.

A black belt is not about status but about respecting the art of BJJ and for me to put a black belt on would be disrespecting the sport.

So I’m officially a purple belt and this is where my journey back to BJJ will continue.


  1. I think he is right and brave to be the first to do this publicly.

    The sport changes so much over time that although you can attain a level in it, what you have learned is quickly outdated. The challenge is to define what a belt colour actually means. I mean, Enson did earn a Black Belt once, but it is always assumed that a Black Belt can represent at that level, and after 10 years out, that is like expecting a former marathon runner to hit champion marathon times after 10 years on the couch.

    His basics will still be there and the dust will blow off them quickly. But the new and evolved techniques will have to be learned to bring his game up to todays version.

    If we look at Boxing, it is worth asking if we expect too much from Black Belts. For example, Cus D’amato trained Mike Tyson and turned him into a beast, but who would expect Cus to step in the ring and Spar with an 20 year old Tyson and beat him? Yet that is expected of BJJ coaches. There is a point where knowledge, physical capability diverge. Where former great fighters are simply too old to do it like they did before, but contain a vast knowledge. Perhaps the belt system needs to change to reflect that.

  2. The idea of a black belt was that you wore a white belt from the beginning which after each time you hit the ground fighting in the dust became more and more darker. In the end the white belt had been black after several years. My point is that once a black belt always a black belt. If NOT it’s a poor decision from the Master who promoted the student. I respect his decision to step down but he should do it by other reasons than getting old. I think it’s BJJ which has to adapt an understanding for martial arts as a way of life and a never ending story.


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