In a recent video, catch wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Chris Crossan heavily criticized the belt ranking system in BJJ as being primarily a money-making scheme.
Crossan called the culture of BJJ practitioners chasing after higher belt grades and paying large fees to attend seminars to get promoted by famous black belts a “cult.”
He lamented how many BJJ practitioners believe that achieving a high belt rank like black belt automatically makes them a competent grappler who can “strangle anybody” or “put them to sleep.”
Crossan is not alone in this concern. A number of MMA stars including UFC champion Islam Makhachev pointed out the huge discrepancy between levels of various BJJ black belts on the UFC roster.
According to Crossan, there is no consistent standard or measuring stick for what constitutes each BJJ belt level. He notes how every BJJ school has its own criteria and pace for promotions, which are frequently driven by financial incentives rather than legitimate skill.
Crossan called for the colored belt ranking system to be abolished in BJJ, seeing it as an arbitrary and inconsistent benchmark.
He advocates that grapplers should simply focus on having fun and continuing to develop their skills on the mats rather than pursuing flashy belt promotions as a status symbol. There’s definitely an argument to be made for a more standardized promotion criteria.
The catch wrestling veteran’s controversial remarks speak to a growing skepticism of the belt systems in some martial arts as being susceptible to commercial interests and politics over true merit. While BJJ promoters will likely dismiss his criticism, Crossan’s provocative comments reflect wider concerns that belt rankings have become an end in themselves rather than a means to measure progress.