Abusive Traditions 

Recently a video came out where a guy, who appeared to be a Purple Belt, proceeded to choke a White Belt unconscious during training. The guy holds the choke even after the White Belt furiously taps. After reviving him, that same Purple Belt continued to force a series of submissions and taps on the White Belt, one after another. Not knowing specifically what the point of this was I can only speculate. In all honesty, but it was probably a test to see tough he was. From the looks of it, the guy on the receiving end of all of this was a four stripe White Belt. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all part of some sort of promotion ceremony. A tradition that was passed down from one instructor or student to another.  

My response to this is one of disgust. 

I know some will say, who am I to tell adults how to live their lives. To a certain degree, I agree with that but this sort of thing shouldn’t take place at any Jiu-Jitsu gym. It’s a form of hazing that actually doesn’t prove anyone’s toughness or show if one is worthy of a promotion. It’s outdated, but more importantly it’s unsafe. 

White belts and young practitioners can easily be influenced to think that there’s value in this. A younger version of me for example, may not have questioned if this was appropriate. I may have felt a little uneasy about it all, but there’s a strong chance that I would have stayed quiet and went along with it not knowing any better. For someone who’s older and lived a bit, this is nothing more than abuse.  

While not on the same scale, I witnessed “The Gauntlet” a few years back. For those who are unfamiliar, it’s a practice that’s done at some schools after a belt promotion. After stripping their Gi top off, the newly promoted student ends up walking between two rows of fellow students who proceed to whip on along the back with their belts. At the Gauntlet that I watched, no one was bullied, no one was forced to participate. Everyone involved was excited, but I just refused to be a part of it. 

If a gym is going to ask its students to sign a waiver clearing them of responsibility, yet put its students in the kind of unnecessary harm that’s in that video, they don’t deserve the students they do have. The only reason Jiu-Jitsu works so well, is because there’s an understanding between its practitioners. We can simulate murder with the agreement that when I tap, you’re going to let go. That when I’ve had enough, you won’t view it as a moment of weakness. Instead we will just reset and start it all over again.  

Jiu-Jitsu is constantly evolving, new guards, sweeps, and attacks are always popping up. As we evolve, we also discard some of the things that we find less effective over time. Let’s continue to do the same with some of our outdated practices.  

They’re just not necessary.

David Figueroa-Martinez 

Twitter: @JiuJitsuJournal  

Portfolio: https://www.clippings.me/figueroamartinezd