Jiu-Jitsu: Fake Promotions

Way back in the day when I first tried my hand at grappling and had no clue what BJJ really was, I thought very highly of my own skills. When asked if I was any good I’d philosophize that I was well on my way to being at the black belt level (oh how dumb I was!) Then I did my first real BJJ class in 2011 and had my ass readily handed to me by anyone with a 2 stripe white belt or better, and I had a rude awakening.

The reality is that rank doesn’t necessarily denote skill, but there’s a reason it exists and that is to signify the skill set and skill level of a practitioner to someone unfamiliar with them. Walking into a school as a brand new white belt, had a blue belt who could handily beat me up could have just as easily claimed to be a black belt, and with nothing to compare them to I might actually have believed them. For this reason, rank and lineage are an important litmus test to determine the validity of someone’s skills. If someone with a fake rank shows me a move it can result in bad habits or worse unfounded confidence.

For these reasons, it is important that all practitioners first and foremost wear the rank that has been endowed upon them and secondly know their entire lineage. For example my lineage is: Carlos Gracie and Helio Gracie>Rolls Gracie> Romero Cavalcanti> Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros> Pablo Angel Castro III> Me. If you are unable to make that kind of list then your rank is fake or you’d better ask whoever gave you your rank and learn what your lineage is.

There are occasions in which people simply don’t have a black belt present to promote them. That’s fine. There are plenty of ways to get promoted by credible people, and the reality is that there are people walking around at white belt who should be purple or higher, but it’s better to be an honest sandbagger than a self promoted charlatan.

Had I been tasked with assessing my own skills before I first started training in the Gi under a qualified instructor (and before my subsequent rude awakening) I would have ranked myself much better than I actually was, and this is the case with many uninitiated people. People generally do not have a realistic view of their own skills, they either lack confidence to know what they are capable of or think too highly of themselves and for this reason it is best to allow a qualified instructor to assess skill. For this reason, self promotion is a big no-no as it opens the door to very negative byproducts.

If you are ever in doubt of someone’s rank, ask for their lineage. If they can’t give you a clear answer, they’re probably lying and techniques they teach are questionable. Always learn from qualified instructors.




Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer



  1. I whole heartedly agree that having a lineage is important and I do believe ranking can truly help with people being driven to progressing. My question is, what are your thoughts on people who don’t have a belt ranking but have competed in something for so long and did train to improve and can compete at the highest level. Just because they do not have a belt does not make them any less legit, right?

    • Hi James,

      Your question is perfectly valid and I will go ahead and compose a response to it. I’ve already thought at length about it. Josh Barnett competed at 2009 No Gi Worlds as a black belt and did very well, almost immediately after the IBJJF changed their policies. Thank you for your feedback!



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