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IBJJF Changes Belt System To Accommodate Teen Stars

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Bernardo Faria BJJ Foundations

FEBRUARY 20, 2020. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) has been one of the most strict grappling organizations in their pledge to keep our sport/martial art’s standard high. One of the ways they have chosen to accomplish this was by putting in place strict guidelines and time constraints for coaches to promote their students, particularly younger athletes/practitioners.

With the rise of teenage phenomenons such as Mica Galvão and the Ruotolo Brothers, there has been plenty of talk regarding an upgrade to these time constraints being applied by the sport’s most important organization, which have currently stood as such:

18 years old and above:
– Blue Belt, a minimum of 24 months spent in the rank before promotion
– Purple, a minimum of 18 months spent in the rank before promotion

16-17 years old:
– Purple, a minimum of 24 months spent in the rank before promotion

Although successfully providing a barrier for any under 17-year-olds to be ranked above purple belt, this system also stifled the progress of a handful of prodigy teen athletes who have been training and competing successfully since they were children. Among these competitors were names such as Micael Galvão (Alliance), who beat a black belt at a pro-superfight in Copa Podio back in 2019 (Mica being a 15YO blue belt at the time), or Tye Ruotolo, who competed in the ADCC last year, against the elite of jiu-jitsu, fairing incredibly well and placing 4th in the hardest no-gi tournament in the world.

In the eyes of these athletes’ coaches, to have such high-level teens waiting on the sidelines for 4 years, unable to compete against (at least) brown belts, even though they can challenge some of the sport’s top black belts, seemed like a waste of their time, at best. For this reason, coaches such as Alliance’s Melqui Galvão (coach and father of Mica Galvão) have been working in the backstages to have these rules changed.

Back in November 2019, Melqui decided to promote his (recently turned) 16-year-old son Mica to purple belt, as he had won everything there was to win in the juvenile blue belt division. The move to purple meant the young prodigy would be able to compete in the adult purple belt division of the UAEJJF circuit, but also meant he was stuck in the juvenile purple belt division of the IBJJF (no man’s land) and would have to wait 2 years for his brown belt promotion. Given that the largest competitive circuit is the one run by the IBJJF, the young teenager was stuck.

Yesterday, taking into consideration all the arguments put forth by the Alliance Manaus team leader, the IBJJF announced a new change to the belt guidelines. The minimum time spent at purple belt for athletes who, in the past, competed as Juvenile 1 blue belts (U16 years old) will now be 1 year (12 months), instead of the previous 24 months (2 years).

This will mean that athletes such as Mica and the Ruotolo’s will be able to compete as brown belts by the end of 2020, instead of 2021.

Submission Back Attacks Instructional by John Danaher

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