Last month Roots BJJ had their bi-annual seminar. I always strongly encourage all my students to attend, as it is a great opportunity for them to meet their peers and instructors from different gyms, as well as learn their favourite BJJ techniques and have a roll with people from other gyms to build up their experience.
But most importantly, the reason why I tell my guys to attend the seminar is to support their team mates who are being graded and to watch and see what is expected from them when it is their turn.
A few of my students used to dislike the fact that gradings were conducted externally.They preferred to be graded internally i.e. within our own gym, as ultimately, I see their progress and in a sense ‘grade’ them everyday. And to a large extent, I agree with them.
However, what makes BJJ so reputable and difficult to get graded in required bothon and off the mats. And that is why I think gradings should be done externally, as an external grading in front of all your peers and other instructors watching, is a true test of these benchmarks.
Ultimately, the purpose of a grading is to see one’s knowledge and proficiency in understanding the techniques in BJJ against a resisting opponent and the ability to perform under duress. The external grading does this nicely.
Firstly, your opponent is selected at random by the head instructor. This eliminates any pre-arranged choreography by the parties when performing the required techniques.
Secondly, when you are called out to the centre in front of all your peers and instructors, what was just another day on the mats performing moves that you have already done hundreds of times before, suddenly becomes a lot more difficult. This is an important element to experience and eventually master, as when it comes time to actually use your techniques to defend yourself or your loved ones, the emotions you experience won’t be foreign to you.
Third point, to maintain the integrity of the art and to be true to the lineage in BJJ, the grading is conducted and judged by the highest ranked instructor in Australia. This I believe is an important process. As an instructor, when I put someone up for a grading, in my eyes they are ready for the rank they are going for, else I wouldn’t be nominating them in the first place. To have a more senior instructor grade my student, under duress and sub optimal conditions and to have them pass, only proves that they are more than ready to be promoted.
Finally, because it’s a grading, a pass is not a given. One will either pass or fail. In today’s world where instant gratification is the norm, for martial arts and in particular BJJ, hard work is paid upfront not in arrears.