A Brief History of the Belt Ranking System

The modern martial arts belt ranking system first started emerging in 1907 when the creator of Judo, Jigoro Kano, introduced the iconic Judo uniform and belt. Before that, his students practiced in traditional Japanese kimonos. However, back then there existed only two belt colors: white and black. White belts were those in the process of learning the fundamentals while black belts were students who mastered the basics, knew how to use them functionally and were ready to pursue Judo on a more serious and advanced level. The white coloring represented purity, avoidance of ego, and simplicity while the black symbolized a fuller repertoire of knowledge. Read More

Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh 2011 Recap

Two thousand twelve is here! The past year went really fast for me so writing this was a nice way to reflect on all the good memories. Challenges overcome are always good memories so I’ll start with those. The toughest challenges were thrown at guys most of us respect. First, Lance Thompson had a very serious injury last December. I’ve heard that the number one reason purple belts don’t move up the ranks is due to injuries. This is understandable having had one myself. It is amazing how such an obstacle can change your mental state. Injuries give some people a powerful reason to quit something, even when it is positive for them. Lance underwent surgery and came back even better than when he left! Mike Wilkins faced a different kind of challenge. After establishing himself as one of the areas best amateur MMA fighters, he decided to step up a level and go professional against the advice of the armchair critics and other people involved in mixed martial arts. He finally got a fight in Costa Rica. He lost at the very end of the first round (which he dominated) to a submission. It was a difficult way to lose after spending almost a year on improving his grappling. The critics and naysayers were vindicated, right? Wrong. Mike came back and had a dominating win in his first official pro fight right here in Pennsylvania. Heather Wiederstein also came back from injuries and losses. Read More

Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh 2010 Recap

The new year is here! Looking back on our first year I am surprised at how well it has gone. First of all we have grown in membership from zero to the point where some of our classes are full! From my experience with other academies once the the membership numbers that we have now are reached academies only grow exponentially. This means new workout partners, new friends, and a solid business base. The later should allow us to do more fun extra events such as our trip to NYC and the main Renzo Gracie Academy last July. We had a few other members who where not along for the July trip, individually take advantage of the training at the main school. At Renzo Gracie NYC world champions including two current ufc champions (Edgar and St. Pierre), two of the best jiu jitsu competitors of all times (Roger Gracie and Braulio Estima) as well as many other world level competitors train regularly. While in NYC we had some belt promotions. Logan Stout, Noah Nieman, and Mike Wilkins where awarded blue belts. All of them had at least a year of training in jiu jitsu before starting at RGA Pittsburgh academy, lots of talent, and where long overdue promotions (sandbaggers!!!). Lance Thompson was awarded his purple after only about two and a half years of training including his first year and a half at Steel City (another BJJ academy located South of RGA Pittsburgh). I had the great honor of getting my Black Belt from Renzo Gracie himself with many other of my teachers, friends, and mentors including Shawn Williams, John Danaher, Daniel Gracie, and the Brothers Rolles, Igor, and Gregor Gracie there supporting me. Rolles, it has been a lot of living passing since Cuiaba, Brazil, for me (probably for both of us) but Jiu jitsu has been a constant. Thank you Renzo and thank you to my students and training partners including past and present in Brazil, Costa Rica, California, State College, and now Pittsburgh for helping me past this milestone. We had two other belt promotions including Anthony Previte (officially the second person to join RGA Pittsburgh). Anthony was my first belt promotion. Earlier Daniel Gracie awarded talented Lucas Burdette his Blue Belt as well. Read More