For those of you who don't know, there has been quite a brouhaha recently over some shenanigans involving what are known as Gracie Certified Training Centers. What, you ask, is a Gracie Certified Training Center? Apparently, it's what people who don't have the fortitude to go through the decade of training it usually takes to earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu look to in an attempt to purchase pseudo-legitimacy when they decide that they are just as entitled to teach a very complex art as someone who has devoted their life to understanding it. It appears that 65% of Gracie certified instructors are blue belts and 42% of their CTCs are run by blue belts. Now, just to be clear right off the bat, we are not saying that no blue belt should ever teach BJJ, but if you are a blue belt and you run a school, unless it's in the middle of nowhere and there are no legit black or brown belts around, then you are making an incredibly powerful statement. You are saying that you are so far along in your BJJ journey that you can afford to ignore your own growth and development participating regularly in a class led by a black belt, and instead should be leading a class yourself. It is difficult to devote the time and energy necessary to run an academy, teach, roll with your students, and still find time to tend to expanding and progressing your game, but as a black belt, you have a far greater understanding of what you need to refine. As a blue belt, you have really only taken your first step on said journey, so turning around and yelling "follow me!" at a bunch of rubes who don't know any better is, well, it's the sort of narcissism that runs rampant in our society. And wherever you find the need to feel important without having done anything of value to earn being important, you will find the greed to sell bogus credentials to self aggrandizing hucksters willing to fleece the unwary.
The fact that a few CTC blue belt instructors have recently been caught wearing black belts is of course not even slightly surprising, because the sort of folks who feel entitled to teach BJJ despite being woefully unqualified don't possess the sort of intergity that would prevent them from inflating their rank even further. This is true of the entire culture of ridiculous claims put forth by the Gracie Academy, the notion that they are doing "pure" jiu-jitsu, or that their jiu-jitsu is somehow superior for self defense, is so laughable to anyone with the slightest grounding in logic that it is amazing their rhetoric sways anyone... Wait, no it isn't. How many people in our society possess functional critical thinking skills that can actually subvert the tendency towards tribalism and cognitive bias? The answer is nowhere near e-goddamn-nough, which is why they have been able to convince a bunch of rubes that doing glorified kata and not sparring is superior to the one thing that sets BJJ apart from traditional, non-effective martial arts LARPers, i.e. pressure testing, live sparring, having to perform under genuine stress, evolution of technique due to the vagaries of combat. Throw in a bit of (or a lot of) cult of personality surrounding Saint Helio Gracie, who apparently invented leverage in the 1920s (someone should really tell Archimedes), and you have the perfect recipe for people who suck at life to poison the well for those who aspire not to. Now we have kids getting their own CTC locations for their super sweet 16, and since we've glorified teenagers to an absurd degree in our society (putting a ton of power in the hands of people with disposable income and terrible judgment is a good way to boost a struggling economy with a glut of crappy products of every ilk, but a terrible way to run a culture), that fact in and of itself is not enough to send them spiralling out of business.
Why is it that the market is unable to remove such utter charlatans? The answer lies in a pernicious word: "hater". Somewhere along the way, popular culture either forgot or was mislead about the fact that one of the keys to a vibrant free society is something called the marketplace of ideas, which requires the ability to criticize idiotic notions and expose them for what they are. Alas, people who sling bullshit for a living discovered that by coopting the word "hater", which originally meant an unjustified critic who was simply jealous of someone else's success, they could twist it to provide a catch-all dismissal for any crticism whatsoever. And somehow this facile, mind numbingly banal notion gained traction, to the point that if you call people out, without hyperbole, employing straight facts, for being utter garbage at what they do, there is a significant percentage of the population that will believe these snake oil purveyors when they dismiss you as a hater. Here's a thought, people who are terrible at jiu-jitsu who purchase ersatz legitimacy and try to decieve the uninformed that training with a blue belt is somehow better than training with a black belt deserve hate, not in the literal sense, but in the sense of the sort of valid criticism that we are working too hard as a culture to inoculate ourselves against. They are stealing the beauty of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from their students, they are compromising what is at heart a path of growth for their own instant gratification, aggrandizement, and unethical financial gain. And the folks that enable them are just as bad. There is nothing wrong with keeping it playful, but let's also keep it real.