What Are The Guidelines To Ethically Outing A Suspected “Fake” Black Belt?

On Monday morning I received a bunch of very upsetting messages from my friend Bill Jones. Bill is a legitimate black belt who owns Top Level Martial Arts in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio, a traditional Pedro Sauer affiliated Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school. One of Bill’s students and affiliates had been accused on Reddit of falsely claiming to be a black belt, and rather than contact Bill or the affiliate to check the veracity of the accusations another BJJ media outlet chose to pick up the story and publish it.  Bill has since put out a video outlining his thoughts on the guidelines to ethically outing a suspected fraud.

I occasionally visit Bill’s academy and am consistently impressed both by the friendly atmosphere largely fostered by Bill and his instructors, and the level of professionalism and transparency in their day to day dealings. There are some high-level competitors that train at this gym, but for the most part, it is not a competition gym but rather a jiu-jitsu academy where people of all ages can go to learn. It is my understanding that the student in question runs an academy that teaches a traditional martial art called Minna Jiu-jitsu AND offers classes in BJJ. The instructor is a black belt in Minna Jiu-Jitsu and is a blue belt in BJJ, and teaches both disciplines in their respective belts.

In response to these accusations and the situation at large, Bill put together this video in which he outlines the situation and what he thinks are the ways to address a suspected fraud:

Outing a Fake BJJ black belt

Posted by Bill Jones on Thursday, November 8, 2018

It is important to always make sure that if you intend on calling someone out on suspicion of fraud that you go through the motions of verifying whether or not they are actually a fraud. Situations like this one can harm the reputation of an academy or an association and ultimately dissuade students from ever stepping foot in an academy. We need to be better than these sorts of situations.

In his video, Jones explains that the first thing to do when you suspect an academy of fraud is to reach out to them and simply ask about the ranks of their instructor and lineage. If you suspect the rank to be fraudulent you can then reach out to the suspect’s claimed instructor and verify.

There are ways to ethically call someone out, and there are ways that are NOT ethical. What are some guidelines that you follow or would like to see followed when it comes to this?


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