The Hierarchy of Jiu Jitsu Academies

In BJJ there are different levels of gyms and different levels of instructors.  Many people feel that certain people (namely lower ranks) shouldn’t be allowed to open gyms.  There may be a hierarchy of schools…

Honesty should be policy.

The 17 year old kid we covered not too long ago isn’t passing himself off as anything that he’s not.  He has opened up a school.  Would I train there?  Probably not, but there are going to be people who for whatever reason view it as a good training environment and decide that it’s the best choice for them.  There have been no lies told and no misrepresentation.  For this reason I think that it’s perfectly acceptable for that school to exist.

Not all black belts were created equal and not all schools were created equal.

I’ve been at academies run by blue belts and I’ve been at academies run by black belts.  There are some blue belts that can run circles around some black belts both in teaching ability as well as actual ability.  They are few and far between but I’d rather sample every school in a town and decide for myself than assume that just because someone’s belt is a certain color that their abilities will reflect that.

I’d rather learn from a blue belt who is attentive and detail oriented than a black belt who is inattentive or doesn’t focus enough on details.  I’d rather learn from a blue belt that seems like he or she cares than a black belt who doesn’t really seem to care.  And most importantly I’d rather learn from a real blue belt, than a fake black belt (obviously.)

Everyone is looking for something different from jiu jitsu.  I once had an instructor who ran a really expensive school, I commented to him that less than 15 minutes away there was a less prestigious school run by a very good brown belt.  His response was to compare BJJ to actual schooling.  A school that only teaches specific curriculums would be akin to a trade school at which you can only really learn certain things.  A school run by a lower rank would be akin to a college (because very often lower ranks are not encouraged to promote and are perceived as less than in the scheme of higher ranks vs. lower ranks).  Schools run by black belts are, in his mind, like universities and schools run by high level black belts are high level universities (think Ivy League.)

I don’t necessarily agree with this hierarchy.  I don’t necessarily DISagree with it.  Do you feel that there are any merits to this hierarchy?  Would you prefer to learn from a really high level blue belt or a legit but low level black belt?


  1. To me it all depends on the individual instructor, not the belt. I couldn’t care less about the instructors belt or competition record. What I Iook for in an instructor is a compatible training philosophy, humility, critical thinking skills, ability to teach and articulate, and then I look at what type of athletes he has produced. One’s belt and competition achievements are no indicator of his teaching ability. sometimes the old saying “those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach”, rings true.

  2. I’d rather train from a legit, blue belt that is really good at teaching than someone who tries to teach jiu jitsu is a black belt in judo or something else. I’ve run into this so many times including in highschool I had wrestling coaches who were black belts in tae kwon do and karate but were trying to teach wrestling. It was not helpful or rewarding at all for me. I ended up going to the city more often to pick up wrestling classes from real fighters and bringing it back to my rural school to teach the coaches. I had to drop kickboxing to do it and I still semi regret it


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