What makes a black belt?

| July 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

 

 

Enson Inoue’s Journey Continues

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Recently retired MMA fighter, and BJJ black belt Enson Inoue caused some controversy by demoting himself from black belt to purple belt. While this alone may or may not seem a bit odd, the controversy seemed to erupt online reaching a tipping point of criticism from one of the original ‘dirty dozen,’(the first 12 non-Brazilian BJJ Black Belts) Chris Haueter, and seventh-degree red-and-black belt Fabio Santos. The discussion amongst the BJJ community was intense, to say the least, as many respected members offered their opinions of either support or dissent.
Inoue obviously put some sincere thought into his self-demotion. In a lengthy facebook post, the retired fighter described what he felt was lack of keeping up with the sports evolution as the cause for his demotion. As someone who focused on MMA for most of his career, Inoue felt he had fallen behind as new techniques have been perfected by people half his age.image He felt out of date with his knowledge, writing on Facebook, “…I jumped off the BJJ bandwagon 10 years ago and it has pulled far far ahead.” Inoue further wrote, “At the time I got promoted to black belt, I was a black belt at that time. However, what BJJ has become I can honestly say I am NOT a black belt. Yeah it’s cool to be a black belt but to me a true black belt should be technically and spiritually sound. I feel confident spiritually but not technically.” This all came to Inoue as he attended the beginner’s class at the academy he trains at. Inoue felt that all of the moves taught that day were foreign to him.
While Inoue was in a mental battle trying to figure out what he felt was the most honorable, respectful decision he could make, Chris Haueter called it a ‘False humility’ stating “Adapt to your handicaps, be it age, injury, time off the mat or a lack of understanding ‘the new game’ or some new technique. Respect the professor who ranked you. Unless you promoted yourself, you can’t demote yourself. Drive on. Don’t quit.”
Inoue, who is an American born black belt under John Lewis (another member of the ‘dirty dozen’), did reach out to his professor and mentor for advice. The decision to demote himself from black belt to purple belt is a decision he did not take lightly. He told John Lewis, “I wish no disrespect to you my brother but I felt I was disrespecting the art and not being true to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I will not settle at purple belt but plan to work my way back up to black. I treasure the black belt you gave me and more the reason why I want to represent it to make you proud. Thank you for understanding my brother.” Lewis told him that he respected Inoue’s decision and to do what he needed to do, but he did not agree with the decision. The level of honesty, respect, and open dialogue within the community was at an all-time high. Nobody became upset, or challenged anyone to a fight, but everyone certainly had an opinion. After just a few short days as a purple belt and a very hectic few days of actually listening to the opinions of others he respected, Inoue changed his mind and went back to a black belt.
Enson continued to have email exchanges with the person who gave him his black belt, John Lewis, who wrote to him:
“this has become a real topic of conversation I see. Just want to tell you my final thoughts but I am sure your mind is already made up. In a post about you comparing the black belt with selling cell phones. That’s not the right comparison. The comparison is a doctor who received his masters or Ph.D 20 years ago. Once you received it, it cannot be undone. Even if medicine has evolved, if the DR. wanted to be updated to the latest medical practices, he would just seek further education. I’m going to leave it at that and wish you the best with the choice you decide to make.”
That’s when it hit him. Inoue wrote on Facebook, “John was right. I can admit that I’m no longer at the current black belt level and be willing to become a student again and learn, but I can do it with my black belt still around my waist. I didn’t need to put on a purple belt to show everyone that I am being true to myself because my actions and wiliness to become a student again will.”
imageIn the year 2016, we are privileged to be able to have a first class social media ticket to accompany someone like Enson Inoue on his journey as a martial artist. There are so many stories and videos about horrible black belts who either fake being a black belt or bully their students to form a small cult-like atmosphere that watching an MMA icon like Inoue go back-and-forth over a decision like this has been a great experience. Inoue could have easily said, “I don’t care what other people thing.” He didn’t. He took what other people thought into consideration to make a decision he felt was best for him. Inoue, who in 2013, walked 1.360 miles in Japan to raise awareness for the victims of the 2011 tsunami, showed a considerable amount of class, honor, respect, and integrity. Not only can white belts, and purple belts take notice and learn from him, but so can other black belts.

Enson Inoue

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