For years now, jiu-jitsu competitors and fans have all agreed that the toughest challenge if you are a competitor is making that jump up to the black belt rank from brown belt, and then competing on the highest level.
In the end, everyone that agrees with that statement is in fact correct—there is no doubt that there is no tougher challenge than trying to find success soon after you get your black belt. The reason that it’s so difficult is due to the fact that you will be competing with athletes that have had more experience and have already competed numerous times at the highest level. There is always that possibility that a rookie black belt could be matched up with a black belt of ten years; that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic loss, but experience does count for a lot in this sport.
But in the last few years, a new trend has been growing, proving all the doubters wrong. Those first- and second-year black belts are already becoming World champions at the highest rank, and they are dominating.
Just look at Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, for example. The young CheckMat ace is only a two-year black belt and has already won nearly every major title there is to win in the black belt category, including the World Championships, where he won at weight and absolute. In the process of claiming his World titles, “Buchecha” ran through much more experienced champions such as “Pe de Pano,” Leo Leite and Rodolfo Vieira.
Other competitors who ran rampant through the competition, even in the earlier stages of their black belt careers, are Roberto Satoshi, Leandro “Lo” Nascimento, Ary Farias, Leo Nogueira, Antonio “Cara de Sapato” and, of course, the Mendes Brothers—Rafael and Guilherme.
The question is now: what is the key to this change in results by the newer generation of black belts?
Are they training harder? Longer? Smarter?
There have been debates about what really is the answer, but what the majority seem to agree on is that this generation simply competes more. These World champion black belts went up in the ranks competing almost every single weekend at any tournament they could find. It didn’t matter whether it was a major IBJJF tournament or a low B-rate local competition, they would be there competing and more importantly, gaining experience.
Competing a lot is important for the up-and-coming black belt because once they start competing with the black belt veterans, there is no longer that experience edge. The more the rising youngster competes, the more experience he will gain and the more he will learn. Then once that youngster gets to black belt, he has all the experience he needs to handle fighting at the highest level and becoming an elite competitor early on in his career.
Now, in this past weekend, the jiu-jitsu competition scene has already shown us a glimpse of what the future holds with a new set of black belts in DJ Jackson of Lloyd Irvin and Renato Cardoso of CheckMat. Both made their debuts at black, and both dominated their competition, winning all of the matches besides one that Cardoso lost to Claudio Calasans by a single advantage point.
Who agrees with this theory that the more one competes, the better they will be once they reach the black belt level? Comment below and let your voice be heard! Osss!
Photo: Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida is one of the new breed of BJJ practitioners that quickly rise to dominance after achieving the level of black belt (Facebook/Marcus Almeida Buchecha)