A Response to Roberto Atalla’s Claim That Jean Jacques Machado Is A Hypocrite

Roberto Atalla, the leader and founder of the Rio Grappling Club, is accusing BJJ red-and-black coral belt Jean Jacques Machado of being a hypocrite.

Atalla wrote on Facebook:

This week I came across 2 posts from a famous coral belt and his student who wears a sixth degree, both complaining about a guy who undeservingly got a coral belt. Funny thing is that neither have followed the IBJJF standards, so what moral ground do they have to shame others when they clearly have disrespected the only valid criteria in our sport? Hypocrisy grows rampant in our sport.

I remember a sentence from Bob Marley that says, before you point your fingers, make sure your hand is clean. Worth reminding them that if others are cheating, they also are.

The only valid criteria for belts in BJJ is set by IBJJF. So before you point fingers to anyone, make sure you abide by…

Posted by Roberto Atalla on Friday, March 9, 2018

The post was in response to Jean Jacques calling out a third-degree black belt and former student of his, Todd Nathanson, who was promoted to red-and-black coral belt by one of his students.

You can read about those stories here and here.

According to the IBJJF rules, a person can only receive his or her coral belt after 31 years at black belt. This means that Jean-Jacques would have needed to be 50 years old before he got his coral belt. Jean-Jacques, however, was only in his early forties when he got his belt.

Still, I have to disagree with Professor Atalla, at least partially.

First of all, the IBJJF is not the king of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Plenty of respectable Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools either completely ignore or only partially follow IBJJF guidelines. In fact, one needs to pay attention to the fact that they’re called “guidelines.” A guideline is “a general rule, principle, or piece of advice.” It is not carved in stone.

Second, even if it were, the two offenses are not equivalent. Jean-Jacques may have gotten his belt a little early by IBJJF standards, but Nathanson not only skipped four whole degrees to get his belt, but was ranked up by one of his students. Jean Jacques, on the other hand, was ranked up by Rickson Gracie, a man who not only held a coral belt at the time, but is one of the most respected people in all of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Magnitude matters when it comes to accusations of hypocrisy. You wouldn’t accuse a shoplifter of hypocrisy if she said grand theft larceny was wrong. So, even if what Jean Jacques did was wrong (and I’m not saying it was), what Nathanson did was far worse.

I therefore don’t see the problem in Jean Jacques Machado calling out Todd Nathanson.


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