More Junior Black Belts?

The black belt has always been a revered symbol in martial arts. Only the best and most committed individuals receive this high honor from a master. There are a number of requirements for this and, by tradition, juniors generally have to wait until they reach at least the age of 20 before they can get it.

Recently, Gunn Martial Arts in Maryland opted to do something that has caused quite a stir in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community: they gave two juniors their BJJ black belts.

The incident came to light via Mike Stewart Jr. from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Maryland-Columbia.


Posted by Mike Stewart Jr. on Sunday, February 19, 2017

In BJJ, giving juniors their black belts is generally frowned upon. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) for instance, recommends that students not receive their black belt until they are 19.  These are only recommendations, though, and very little can be done to stop instructors who decide not to comply with IBJJF rules.

Still, Professor Stuart felt the need to share his thoughts on the subject:


Shaun Wilson one of the the instructors who gave out the black belts responded to Stewart, saying:
Shaun Wilson Good morning everyone. I have read a lot of opinions and here is my (hopefully) last response. Yes Keith Jackson and I gave out two black belts to two kids that have been training with us for over 12years. YES we handed out the wrong belts (Our mistake). But this test was already happening and we were not going to just dismiss it. This was a 4 class test and the families were already involved. I do not regret giving them black belts but i do regret the type. As you see, I am not even wearing a BJJ belt. That is the belt that was promoted to me by Gary Burger at the BMAA and the style that i was taught that they have been training in for a long time. (also a Krav Maga Poster above my head and no comments lol) Now, since my martial arts has been questioned, here is one back at you. All of you who claim to teach Anti-Bullying please reflect on how you have acted on this thread. Whether you want to believe it or not, you are no better than the bullys themselves. Anyone of you could have contacted me or Keith Jackson and we could have easily have corrected this situation that has offended you. Believe me this was not our intent. But instead, lets try and rally everyone we know and have people attack people they dont even know. I guess this is the new era of anti-bullying? If that is the case, trust me i wish not to join in those ranks. Hell, if that is what it means then I will do away wiith any school patches or belts that represent anything other than what I teach. Also, if any of my students have chimed in in a retalitory fashion I appologize and will speak with them. This is not our way. For those of you that know me i wish you knew me a little bit better but I was wrong. Mike Johnson, I have always respected and appreciated what you have done. I would have thought and hoped you would have contacted me if this offended you. I truly thought we were friends. Mike Stewart said you were the one that got him started on this. If this is not the case, please contact me and I will apologize to you personally. thank you.”



  1. The wrong belts were handed out? The bjj black belt ones that are embroidered in gold lettering with the students names? It doesn’t seem to be unreasonable that people assume those were the belts you meant to hand out.

  2. Having known Shaun and Keith for decades in Baltimore, I can assure you they have been and always will be top notch instructors. Unlike many who have only grown up in Jiu Jitsu, there are numerous instructors that have paid decades of their lives honing their skills in the martial arts popular in their region. Having known them both, they grew up in the era where Kung Fu, Boxing, and Judo were the sought after arts in the region and BJJ was something of an enigma. As it had gained in both popularity and expanded its roots, the dilemma among those who have practiced mainly stand up arts has been how to integrate the Jiu Jitsu knowledge into their schools. We must not forget that BJJ was a hybrid art that grew out of Kodokan Judo where there were originally two belts: white and black. Only under the pressure of Western culture was the emphasis placed on checkmark belts or Kyu that would distinguish less from more experienced students. This was truly just a misunderstanding by two very professional black belts who were doing what they have been doing: recognizing the achievements of two students who invested 13 years of their lives studying the qualities that unite all martial artists with no intention of igniting such controversy. Perhaps some of those lessons that unite martial artists could be learned by others. #BrasaPhoenixBJJ #KodokanJudo #Gunnmma #RoninCAG

  3. Mike Stewart seems to have had his emotions and passion for Jiu Jitsu take the best of him!
    No one is perfect and it probably would have been wiser to contact the 2 instructors and clarify what was happening in that picture. I guess the recent number of black belts that were not legit have been causing these knee jerk reactions on people!

  4. they have their patches on in the wrong spot…. the ones on the pants go ont he chest next tothe lapel.. and the one on the lapel needs to be on the coat tail of the Gi top.. not sure where they got their patches from.. but I dont believe these are legitimte students in the renato association..


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