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Paying For Belt Promotions

A growing controversy within the Jiu-Jitsu community has revolved around the practice of charging students for belt promotions. In this blog post, we'll delve into the issues surrounding this trend and explore the clash between the traditional values of martial arts and the commercialization of the art.

Tradition vs. Commercialization:

Traditionally, the promotion through the belt system in Jiu-Jitsu has been a symbol of a practitioner's dedication, skill, and time invested in the art. Many argue that introducing a monetary component disrupts the purity of this tradition, turning a sacred rite of passage into a commercial transaction.

Some gyms will charge you for the physical bet, others will charge a belt testing fee. I'm personally not a fan of either of these models. I remember being promoted to Purple Belt and the front desk sheepishly approaching me the next time I was in letting me know that I owed the gym twenty dollars for the belt. While it's not the worst thing, it's odd. Why not just factor that into the cost of doing business and the monthly fee?

The Purity of Skill Assessment:

Charging for belt promotions raises questions about the integrity of the evaluation process. If financial contributions play a role in belt advancements, it opens the door to doubts about the authenticity of a practitioner's skills. The core essence of Jiu-Jitsu lies in the mastery of technique, discipline, and personal growth, and introducing a financial element can blur the lines between genuine accomplishment and purchased recognition.

Is your motivating factor producing better students or is it lining your pockets?

Inequality Among Students:

The economic aspect of belt promotions also brings to light issues of inequality among students. Those who can afford to pay for promotions might progress faster than their peers who face financial constraints. This creates a divide within your own community, where advancement is not solely based on merit but also on financial capacity. Such a system can breed resentment and erode the sense of camaraderie that is integral to martial arts communities.

Some might argue, isn't that created by the fact that students can purchase private lessons? To a small degree, maybe. The issue is, that the private lessons are not mandatory, it's an option for those who can afford it. There's nothing wrong with upselling services, the additional fee(s) should never impede a student from participating in promotions.

Exploring Alternative Models:

To address the issues raised by charging for belt promotions, some academies are exploring alternative models. This includes transparent and merit-based assessment criteria, where promotions are solely based on a student's proficiency, dedication, and adherence to the principles of the art. By prioritizing skill over financial contributions, these academies aim to preserve the traditional values of the martial art.


As the community grapples with this issue, it is essential to find a balance that preserves the integrity of the art while ensuring the viability of Jiu-Jitsu academies in an ever-evolving landscape. Ultimately, the heart of Jiu-Jitsu lies in its practitioners' dedication, skill, and mutual respect, and any deviation from these values risks diluting the essence of this revered martial art.

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