Is it harder to get a BJJ black belt now than it was 20 years ago? - Australian Combat Sports Academy

Is it harder to get a BJJ black belt now than it was 20 years ago?

BJJ Black Belt

BJJ Black Belt

Today’s top BJJ competitors would be able to beat those of two decades ago, especially under BJJ or grappling rules. It’s a natural progression, much like how any sport evolves. Today’s sprinters run faster than those from half a century ago.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harder for the average student to become a Black belt now than it was back then.

There is more information available about BJJ now than ever before so it’s easier to learn. More schools, More instructors, More instructional videos, and more online learning. It’s much easier to learn BJJ these days whereas in the past there were very few sources of information and there was a culture of instructors withholding information.

Attaining a BJJ black belt seems more attainable nowadays. The sport has become more accessible, with greater opportunities for training and learning. Consequently, more people are aware of BJJ & want to begin training. Overall BJJ training is much easier these days resulting in a higher retention rate and a subsequent increase in the number of black belts.

However, there’s been a big shift in the goals of most BJJ students. There’s an inevitable focus on training specifically to excel within the sport’s rules. When I first began training the 1990s, the focus was predominantly on real fighting. All the Techniques taught then were applicable not only in the sport of BJJ but also in MMA or self-defense.

Over time coaches & competitors began focusing more on techniques that would bring success in the sport but were unlikely to work in a real fight.
There’s a shift in the demographics of practitioners. In the early days, BJJ attracted those wanting to compete in no-holds-barred fights or seasoned martial artists seeking to enhance their skill set.

Today, a significant portion of BJJ students have no aspirations for competitive fighting. Instead, they’re primarily interested in mastering intricate techniques, often detached from real-world combat applications.

BJJ has gradually become more similar to traditional martial arts, emphasizing excessively complicated techniques that will only work under the BJJ rules but will usually fall apart when put under pressure. There are more and more techniques and nuances being added to the techniques but realistically these things are likely to be of little use in the real world.

Although the best BJJ grapplers of today would beat those of 20 years ago (under BJJ rules), I believe an average grappler from 20 years ago would beat today’s grapplers in a real fight. Back then, BJJ was simply a much tougher and less welcoming sport.

Those who didn’t have natural toughness didn’t make it past the first session. The students were not gently eased into training back then. All new students were smashed by the seniors in their first session to demonstrate the effectiveness of BJJ. The resulting ‘only the strong survive’ environment led to way fewer people taking part in the sport, but those who did were stronger and more resilient

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