Some Thoughts on Fake Black Belts and “Junior” Black Belts

News Flash: Don’t wear a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi with a black belt featuring a red bar unless you are in fact a BJJ black belt.  The art of BJJ doesn’t take kindly to fake black belts!

There have been a handful of incidents over the past few years, and generally these incidents are explained away as “misunderstandings.”  Most recently, kids being awarded “junior black belts” in “Kung Fu”, featuring red bars, wearing them with their BJJ gis.

A lot of people try to claim that this sort of nonsense is “harmless.”  The reality is that the harm it can cause is deeper than you may realize.

Martial arts are rife with charlatans, and jiu-jitsu is no exception.  However, with the advent of the internet and an active “dojo storming” culture within our community, we have done a pretty good job of outing would-be phonies.  And it is important that this keep on happening.

This type of misrepresentation can make the art look bad and can even cause death.  Think about it like this: if someone is masquerading as a black belt and they teach a bad technique, that technique may be attempted in a real life altercation, leading to the death of the unsuspecting victim.

If you’re a black belt in another martial art, don’t wear that black belt over a BJJ gi.  If you’re going to wear a black belt from another martial art over your BJJ gi, make sure it doesn’t look like a BJJ black belt.  It’s really just that simple.

Some martial arts allow children to become black belts.  That’s not my personal cup-of-tea, but that’s okay.  If children are wearing BJJ gis with their black belts, those black belts should not have red bars on them.  If they do, there is going to be uproar about it.  It’s safer to just wear a different garment altogether.

At the core of its conception, the belt system is flawed.  There are white and blue belts who can submit black belts.  But the belt system exists to indicate whose knowledge is worth learning.  The belt system exists to keep a certain degree of order and hierarchy within the art.

On the other side of things, if someone who is not a BJJ black belt gets caught on camera wearing a BJJ gi and a black belt with a red bar, no amount of excuses or explanations is sufficient.  Own your rank, train hard, and maybe one day, if you’re lucky, you’ll get promoted.

This shouldn’t have to be an article, but these incidents keep on popping up.


  1. While I agree with pretty much everything you said. It would have been good to explain the significance of why you are specifically pointing out black belts with red bars.

  2. Honestly, your article doesn’t actually have one cohesive point. I’m unable to follow along – it feels like you just got angry and wrote something, assuming what your readers are talking about. Not everyone knows what you’re discussing, especially when it comes to this. This needs some revision and a lot of clarifications.


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