Under The Table Belt Promotions in BJJ

For two years I studied and practiced Kendo when I was in my teens.  I was diligent and worked hard at it.  I really enjoyed Kendo.  Every once and a while the president of the Rocky Mountain Kendo Federation would come out and we would test.  Each time it would take months to get test results.  We never received a certificate or any thing other then word of mouth about the results and our new rank except from our, aged and well loved sensei.  RMKF happily accepted our testing fees and the money we paid for them to visit and do the testing each time.  So if I were to start Kendo again would I be accepted at the rank I was told I had?  I doubt it.  I doubt there is any record of it.  I don’t have any documentation.  My sensei has since died.  It has left a bad taste in my mouth.  I spend time and money to earn that rank.  It would be the equivalent of a associates degree with no proof.

So when I tested for my blue belt in BJJ I thought things would be different.  I went to a local affiliate school.  I didn’t have a intermediary.  I would be talking directly to the person testing me.  The test result I knew would be delivered at the end of the test.  I paid my testing fee.

I passed the test.  I was given the blue belt on the spot.  Things were looking good.  I left the test elated that after 2 1/2 hours of testing I had passed.  That was the end of the warm fuzzes.  I neglected to ask about documentation.  Later when I realized that, I started by sending e-mails asking about a certificate.  My e-mails to the testing school had been answered before but this time there was no reply.  I asked my instructor if I should have received a certificate. He said they were usually mailed to the school.  I waited and nothing came.  I asked my instructor again about it.  He made a call to the testing school and left a voice mail.  I waited and time passed.  I forgot about my quest for legitimate rank. 

A new set of white belts in my school had matured and were sent for testing.  They returned and my thoughts turned back to finding documentation.  I asked one of them if they had received a certificate.  Maybe I was just the odd man out.  He said no.  Something seemed fishy now to me and I began to get that old feeling from the Kendo days.  I went to the affiliate website and found that I had to pay $50 a year for official membership that would allow me to obtain rank under this organization.  If I paid the membership and tested at an affiliate school I would be listed on the website with my rank.  I couldn’t find anywhere on the site that had any listing of anyone’s ranking but the "Professor’s" or the head of the school.  I decided to pay the $50 membership anyway.  Now there would be no excuse for not giving me some documentation.  When my membership kit comes I’ll start my inquires again.  I’ll start with a direct call to the person that tested me.

At this moment I feel like there are "under the table" belt promotions happening throughout the BJJ world.  Fees and belts are exchanged but without documentation it is all dust in the wind as my Kendo story points out.

Have you had a similar experience?

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