Martial Arts Self Promotions

In the martial arts world, self promotion is a thing of taboo. This Halloween, A Jiu Jitsu Purple belt, Joe McCaffery, took it upon himself to promote himself from the rank of Purple belt to the rank of Brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As soon as he posted the video of his self-promotion online, he, quite predictably, suffered a huge back-lash. Several martial artists, especially Jiu Jitsu practitioners, expressed heavy disapproval to put it lightly. But why? Why is it so frowned upon for a person to promote themselves especially is this world of “be who you feel you are.” If a man feels like a woman, the progressives in society say that he should dress, act, and in every sense of the word, be a woman. Why then are people so upset with a person who feels as though they are a brown belt, to dress like a brown belt? Well, here’s why…

1. It’s Disrespectful to your Martial Arts Instructor

If you’re instructor has not yet promoted you in rank, there is probably a reason for it. Maybe he believes your skill isn’t good enough to be the rank. Maybe your instructor is waiting for a time when the promotion would be more meaningful for you. Maybe he or she wants to see how you do in a competition at your current rank. Maybe he or she feels that you do not yet have enough knowledge. Maybe you aren’t ready to be a teacher or an ambassador of the art. For whatever reason, your instructor has not yet seen fit to promote you. By taking it upon themselves to self-promote, a person de-values, thus disrespects, the belief, opinion, or insight of their instructor. It says that you believe you know better than your instructor.

2. It’s incredibly difficult, nearly impossible, to honestly assess yourself in anything

When we attempt to analyze ourselves, our assessment is often very accurate… to us! Our analysis is usually in line with however we see ourselves. If we have high self-esteem and are borderline narcissistic (Like I would imagine Joe McCaffery is based on the videos I’ve seen of him) we are likely to believe that we are better than we actually are. Conversely, a person with low self-esteem will often see themselves as below-average in whatever they happen to be grading themselves in. This inability to accurately assess ourselves is why teachers grade our reports in school, why bosses conduct our performance reviews at work, and why martial arts instructors promote us within our art.

3. It sets a precedent and is the first step toward the watering down of martial arts

To restate my previous point, people often evaluate themselves incorrectly. When I started Jiu Jitsu, there was a man who owned and operated a nearby martial arts gym. Believing himself to be better than he actually was, he challenged my coach to an MMA fight at a local show. In short, he was taken down, my instructor delivered several knees to his ribs causing multiple rib fractures, was mounted, and ground and pounded to unconsciousness. The fight was incredibly 1 sided. Literally, less than 1 year later, he re-challenged my coach to another MMA fight an another local show. My coach didn’t even want to take the fight, but this delusional man insisted. In the 2nd fight, my coach took him down, and as soon as my coach was able to posture up and was about to ground and pound, the man tapped out. He then feigned a neck injury in an attempt to save face and waited for medics to take him out in a stretcher so that his submission looked like a legitimate inability to continue to fight instead of submission by fear.

This man continued to own, operate, and coach at his local gym despite the fact that he couldn’t effectively execute any techniques, and quite frankly, didn’t look like he even knew martial arts. This man was a black belt (not in Jiu Jitsu, but in some art), but it was unclear who awarded him his black belt. It’s also worth noting that at the time of the fight, my instructor was a blue belt (albeit, probably skills equal to that of a brown belt at the time). When someone promotes themselves to a high ranking belt, and proceeds to teach the art to others, he is very likely teaching incorrect or ineffective techniques. He will likely promote students and these promoted students have no idea that they are learning ineffective or incorrect techniques. After a few years, you have a gym full of purple belts who are ineffective and can’t really defend themselves or successfully compete. This happening sporadically a couple times here and there isn’t detrimental, but as it happens more and more, pretty soon 50% of “Jiu Jitsu practitioners” are training in a way that isn’t preparing them for a real self-defense situation, and then Jiu Jitsu will be seen as ineffective as many of the other martial arts out there are currently viewed. It’s up to us to prevent this from happening by not recognizing the rank of someone who promotes themselves and by being vocal and adamant about our concern for such an act.