Monday, March 2, 2015

The Reason I "Disavowed" A Student's Blue Belt.



I recently made a post on my Facebook page about “disavowing” a former student’s belt. This post, in my mind, was really a cautionary tale for my students and my affiliates so that they would know that while I’m a nice guy I’m no push over and won’t tolerate dishonesty.  It was subsequently picked up by White Belt BJJ (with my permission) and the post went viral.  

To say it has been a popular post is an understatement.  They told me that their site crashed for a while and that the post got over a million hits! For those of you who haven’t read my post here it is from my Facebook page:

“I disavowed someone’s belt today.

I awarded someone a blue belt last year and they showed a COMPLETE lack of integrity AND dishonesty in some dealings with another person. I don't think it's right to take a belt away because people truly earn the belts I present them BUT I can certainly disown and disavow them.


If anyone asks me about this person in the future I will say "I no longer sanction their belt because of " A Lack of Honesty and Integrity."

Please Please don't think I'm trying to hold myself up as some kind of poster child for perfection in all things ethical. BUT I'm trying to make a good faith effort to be a better person and only surround myself with people in my life, school and affiliation who are trying too as well.

What this person did was inexcusable and I'm not putting up with it. Let that be a lesson to everyone who is my student or affiliate.”


As you can see I made no reference to a person, area or gender, I simply talked about an action and I thought that was going to be the end of  that.  I also never took anyone’s belt.  I simply “disavowed” it. They can be a blue belt but I don’t recognize it.  This person can simply go on their way. 

The person who I was speaking of decided to come forward and let themselves be known including the school this student now goes to.  The new instructor decided to become vocal as well.  I was thinking, “Wow, why do they care so much that I am saying this, they aren't known?” Well as you will find out in a minute… I found out why they cared so much. 

I am going to say right now that I will in no way use the ex -student’s name nor the new “instructor’s” name or anyone associated in this.  If you want to find out then all you have to do is look around.  I never wanted to bring names out in the open nor do I want to really hammer this instructor by name out of respect for his association.  They are good people and don’t need to be brought into this by me.

Writing this blog post is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Writing this offends me to no end.  I enjoy talking about ideas and not about people and that’s why I hate doing this so much.   I will however say that I am going to defend myself and my actions from all the online attacks and I will pull no punches.  Everything I’m speaking here is the truth and I have witnesses and documentation to back it up.  I will limit my opinions as much as I can and present the facts as I have proof.

My affiliate had a young woman who began training at another school late last year, while simultaneously training and working as a “karma” exchange student with my affiliate. This student was actively involved with my affiliates front end operations and was privy to private business information.

As time went on she spent less time training at my affiliate’s school but was still working with them, and talking with their students.   After giving her notice to leave the karma program to "go traveling" with her boyfriend, she stopped training completely. She told my affiliate that she would return sometime after her travels. My affiliate was contacting her at this point and hereafter asking where she was and why she hadn't returned to class…because he cared. 

This student would continuously make excuses but said she would be in soon.  One day my affiliate sees a post on Facebook that this female student is now getting her second stripe on her white belt at this other school.  The only problem is that she is a blue belt at my affiliate’s school!  She never came clean that she was getting ranked at another school and what’s more she is starting over.

My affiliate sent her a private message addressing the disappointment over finding out this news, and he c.c’d me.  Now let me start out by saying that I have given out somewhere between twenty to thirty blue belts to women.  My blue belt test is very challenging.  It’s 30 to 45 minutes of intense cardio, followed by the student showing 88 Jiu-Jitsu moves and ending by grappling for a half hour to forty five minutes. Its purpose is to give the student a feeling that they can handle anything they put their mind too.  A sense of pride that they “earned” that belt and that no one “gave” it to them.   I have failed numerous people on my blue belt tests and I probably will again.

This girl did outstandingly well on the test.  I was very impressed with her performance, she passed with flying colors, and I was proud.  She set a great example for all the ladies. It was a complete and utter shock that this young lady would not only change schools but disregard her blue belt that she rightfully “earned”! 

I was a hurt over this and let her know in no uncertain terms that I was disappointed.  Not as much for me but for her and my affiliate.  This begs the question…This new instructor’s school has such “high standards” that they make her start back at white belt?  What? Who does that? She isn’t even good enough to have 4 stripes?  Right there I began to think some brainwashing was taking place.  I could not figure it out.  I found out the real reason and I will tell you later.

I immediately told her that I was not going to go along with this and that I was “disavowing” her belt.  I know I used the word “disavow” but I’m not the world’s most elegant man and it was the only word I could think of at the time. “Disassociate” might be a better word.   I never took away her belt, she is the one who did that and I wasn’t going to stand behind this action and let this other instructor make her start over.  

I truly didn’t think she cared too much anyway about what I thought or she wouldn’t have done it.  She would get her blue belt from this new instructor anyway. Right? Who cares what I think?  I also was disappointed on her lack of transparency on how she handled changing schools. It really bothered me.  It’s no problem to change schools just be up front and tell the instructor. Let me repeat that, “Be upfront and tell the instructor.”

The female student would later tell my affiliate that she doesn’t have to say anything when she quits and this is merely a business transaction and she can spend her money where ever she likes.  

 I bring this up only because for the bjj students reading this I would like you to walk up to your current instructor and look him or her straight in the eye and say, “Professor, ya…um….you know these belts your giving me?...Well I’m just going to let you know that when I find a better deal from some other instructor I’m outta here! I just don’t know when that’s going to be.  Don’t count on my loyalty. This thing that we are doing is nothing but a business transaction and really I’m going to take my money elsewhere when I see fit.”  See what they say about that. 

If you’re an instructor then simply go in front of your class and say…”Look everyone..this class that you’re having right now..ya well this is only a business transaction for me..ya see I’m going to give belts to the highest bidder so the more money you pay me the sooner you can get belted. See how the students react. 

Ok, so there you have it.  That is the extent of why I originally did what I did.  As a former cop I was suspicious that there was more to her decision but I just wasn’t privy to it.  I made my decision and I felt fine about it.   I posted it in a very vague way so that no person would be identified and that was that.  Or so I thought.

Then she decides to identify herself, or should I say her instructor makes a post naming the female student.  I was shocked and horrified!  This girl is young and while I “disavowed” “A” belt, I in no way wanted to subject “her” to public humiliation.  Her current instructor decided to do that job instead.  I immediately wrote him a Facebook message.


“(instructors name), I know this is going to sound like an odd request but can I ask you to take (female students) name off of your post?  I know you don’t agree with what I wrote nor am I under the illusion that you might like me but we don’t need to publicly parade her name out.

I’m in the public eye all the time I can handle all the name calling but you don’t need to put a student through that. There was no way I was going to publicly name her I just don’t think that’s right. I was merely highlighting an action and not a person. If I would have known that this whole thing was going to blow up on the internet and that YOU were going to publicly name her I STILL WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME THING I just wouldn’t have published it to Facebook.


She is your student now and I hope she is more loyal and ethical to you. I think as an instructor you can have YOUR NAME out there “taking me on” if you like….but you certainly have an opportunity to shield your students from the unnecessary abuse of troll nation. I really hope you take these words into consideration.”

I got no response nor was her name taken down.  Her name is out there for all to see, like he wanted to make her look like a victim and me this totally mean guy.  What am I going to do?

The next day I get a message from a student who trains with this young lady.  It turns out that this young lady (the one I disavowed) has been secretly dating the head instructor of this new school.  Yes the very one who made her give up her blue belt and outed her on the internet.  The very one who sits and openly criticizes me for doing something wrong.   

She got tangled with this guy back in October of last year and this student tells me that over time, on the down low, she started talking badly about my affiliate (while she was in the Karma Program) and how my affiliate’s school now suddenly “sucks.” All throughout this time she was working AT my affiliate’s school at the front desk. This person who sent me the email counseled her to go tell my affiliate and be honest and upfront.  She wouldn’t do it.   

Do you see a conflict of interest here? Do you see a lack of professionalism here on his part dating my affiliate’s student (or I guess his student) and not letting it be known?  I know I do.   Finding this out literally blew me away.  It made so much sense to me then as to why this young girl would simply toss away her blue belt.

After my amazement wore off anger set in.  Why didn’t she just tell my affiliate that she was in love and dating this instructor?  My affiliate would have approved.  You can’t stop love.  She would have been more than welcome back anytime. This whole mess would never have had to happen. But there was an ethics problem.

I think after a million hits the fire online got a bit intense for them because out of nowhere this instructor messages me again:

“Hi Keith, I appreciate you reaching out, I have a proposition. I will remove my entire post if you do the same. We could replace it with a post saying you will reinstate her blue belt, and I will ask her to wear it at our club, that we are choosing to rise above politics and hasty actions. And that (female student) is welcome to train at (your affiliate’s school) again and be around the friends she has made there. What do you think?

This post floored me as well.  Why do you care that I re-instate her blue belt? You’re the one who was giving it to her now?….oh ya..cause you’re secretly dating her and in my opinion you don’t want that known or the fact you really hate my affiliate.  This, in my opinion, is the real reason for the goofy email. To make the unexpected heat go away and to make me look like I just gave in and did the wrong thing.

So here is my reply…Which I must say I should have waited on.  I want to reiterate that I am not the most eloquent man and my wording gets me into trouble sometimes.  You might ask if I regret my choice of words and under the circumstances….a little but it's the way I feel, I’m just fuming…. Here is my reply.

“How about this....You give me and (my affiliate) a complete written apology on Facebook about your totally unethical and dishonest behavior. Before you publish it you can send it to us for editing and don’t forget anything (you know what you did). 

(This student) will get nothing from me and she is no longer welcome at (my student’s academy). .I know you know why …you unethical worthless cur so get to writing. This will be your only shot at redeeming yourself.  What do you think? "

I know I know…not appropriate but this reply would see the light of day most likely so I might as well let you know it upfront.   As I re-read it I would simply like to think of it as a cross between Wyatt Earp in Tombstone yelling at Ike Clanton from down the train tracks after he gave him the spur and William Wallace in Brave heart giving his own unique terms to the English General when the nobles are trying to negotiate. “We’ll I’d say that’s a little less cordial then he is used to.”   

I should have handled it better, I know, It's really me being rude and I'm sorry for that. No excuse. That’s what anger does. 

I never threatened him nor did I tell him I knew of him secretly “seeing” his student.  I gave him the option to come clean and admit to his shenanigans.  He chose not to.  I will assume that he will say that they weren't hiding anything and their dating was out in the open.  It wasn't out in the open at my affiliate's school I will tell you that. In fact it was actively being hidden there as the undermining was going on.  If he denies it then I hope his student's never see him "suddenly dating her later." 

I have tried to keep my opinions to a minimum and let documented fact lead the way. You can be the judge as to what you are reading. Many of my detractors will focus on certain snippets to try to paint me as the bad guy in all this.  I am in no way sorry for my original face book post.  As an instructor it is in my discretion to do those things, just like it's in his to make people start back at white.    

Again, I won’t be taking her blue belt away but I’m going to go on “disavowing” it.  I feel it comes down to being truthful on their part. This whole thing would never have happened if these people would have quit trying to hide things and just told the truth.

To sum this up the only reasons I’m writing this post is because I’m explaining my motives as to why I don’t recognize her belt, because of actions they took, also to protect my affiliate’s reputation and to highlight why I think integrity is important in BJJ...


And it is.








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7 comments:

  1. All the best to you, Professor.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cory, it's actually "You're"...an Idiot and Yes I am. =)

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  3. Kieth - I fail to see why this is so important... People change schools all the time, for whatever reason. Are you saying as an instructor that you need to know these reasons? All of them? What if their reasons are not something they are comfortable sharing with you (or your affiliate)?

    Maybe I'm missing the link between you "disavowing" the belt, and her starting over. What if her starting over was indeed solely her decision, not her significant other's?

    Thanks, and best wishes.

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  4. Wow, just wow! I thought there was supposed to be no ego in BJJ. Yours is the size of a planet!

    You have a set of your own standards that you expect everyone who pays to train with you must follow. You value her blue belt more than she does. What she chooses to do with her life and money and time is entirely her concern. You do not believe that it is right for a student to change or want to change BJJ schools, by your own misjudged words here: http://keith-owen.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/creonte.html.

    You talk about loyalty, respect and almost ownership of the student by the instructor. Is it BJJ you are teaching or is it a cult you are promoting? Tell me, do you accept money in exchange for your teaching? If you don't, I can almost respect that if not agree with your opinion, if not, you are hypocritical, because the exchange of money for goods and services is the very definition of a BUSINESS transaction!

    In the Land of the Free, the student is free to cross the road to another school, date the instructor of another school if they wish, choose to start again if they want and any other number of other freedoms fought for by our forefathers.

    So to reiterate, you have chosen to dedicate your life to BJJ which is commendable, but other people who study at your school and that of your affiliate have not, to them it is a hobby or another sport and it is quite understandable that they would wish to avoid your strident views on how they should conduct themselves. Chill out and live and let live.

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  5. I would never wanna train at a place like that, and honestly I would have left with her had I trained there and would have encouraged my fellow training partners to do the same... pathetic Keith, just pathetic

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