Quality of Judo Blackbelts

From what I understand, in BJJ, a person can know the relative quality of a blackbelt by knowing under whom they trained and received their blackbelt. For example, if they are a "Jean Jacque Machado blackbelt", we can be reasonably assured that they are quality blackbelts. And BJJists go to great lengths to record the "Lineage" of Instructors to show how each blackbelt who is of quality should have received their blackbelt from an instructor who received, from an instructor who received, etc., their blackbelt from someone who was of quality, going all the way back to Carlos Gracie Sr.

In Judo, how can one be assured of the quality of a person's blackbelt? Can quality be judged by what organization an instructor is affiliated with? Or is the way of ascertaining the quality of Judo blackbelt similar to that of BJJ in that one must know, through word of mouth and performance records on the mat, who the quality instructors are and thus, before deciding to learn under a relatively unknown blackbelt, ask them about as to who they received their belts under and then verify the quality of the instructor under whom they received their black belt?

Need a response guys.

I disagree with that assertion only because it place the responsibility of skill in the activity or sport (in this case Judo and Bjj) on the instructor instead of the individual.

Most people "think" a person is of good quality because of the instructor they trained with or under. BUT a good instructor is only a part of the overall picture.

What is more important and what is a bigger factor in an individual's quality of skill is their training and practice habits.

Not all the student that Carlos Gracie or even JJ Machado are of high quality. Only the ones who actually took the knowledge that was given to them by those two instructor and "actually" did something with it.

I read the "history of Jiujitsu" on Fernando Pinduka's websight and there is a section which talks about how Carlos Gracie was recruiting people to help spread Jiujitsu to the northern part of Brazil. He had very strict standards as who he would choose to train. Alot of people applied but Carlos only chose a few AND of those few only ONE was really really good. This student simply took the training much more seriously than the others AND put more individual practice time to develop HIS jiujitsu skills.

Famous Judoka Donn Draeger made an excellent point about Judo in his book "Judo Training Methods". This point can apply to Bjj as well as most physical activities and sports.

"learning Judo is a self-activity" A teacher or instructor can only provide information and guidance BUT it is up to the student to do something with it.

There are alot of people in both Judo and Bjj that are allergic to practice. The assume (wrongly) that they'll be good in Judo or Bjj if they simply take classes. They NEVER taking any initiative to practice and train on their own or to take what they have learned and do something with it. So ultimately they suck and are of poor quality. And they have the nerve to blame the instructor, the system or the program for their lack of skill.

In my experience, the only way to judge the quality of a Judo blackbelt is to get on the mat with him (or her).

Competition records are some indication, but I've known guys who were great competitors who had quite weak newaza skills. I respect the achievement, but I feel that's incomplete Judo. To know this kind of thing about a guy, you'd have to work out with him.

That said, if you knew a lot about your local instructors, you could probably make a good guess about the quality of a certain player.

Mostly, in Judo, people have individual reputations. Rank has some meaning, but it's really not your best indicator of player quality. There are recreational players out there who have been brown belts for ten years because they can't be bothered to test for shodan. If you judged one of these guys as weaker than a blackbelt on the basis of belt colour, you'd be in for a nasty surprise.

dont judge anything in judo by rank or who taught who in the same manner you are tlaking about in bjj..

fact, i dont even give a shit about that whole bjj lineage. whats that mean? beaucse your coach was a good athlete that you will be too?? BULLSHIT. if that held true at all then i know a ton of the best judo players in the US who sure as shit shouldnt be anywhere near where they are today (myself included).

if that were true then wouldnt every student of every world champion be able to become a world champion his or herself? point made i think. fuck WHO gave somebody a promotion... that dont mean jack shit to me until ive seen the guy/gal roll/randori/teach for myself or know through undeniable resources that its true.

if i walked into an academy and the instructor said "im good becuase i learned from so and so under so and so" id walk right the fuck out. dont name drop to me. 1) for all i know those could be false names 2) those people are not the ones teaching me-- YOU ARE 3) it means you are using the coattails of another person to validate yourself.

"i warn you.. im a 4th degree shoe-in-ryu-fusecn-gaschi BB under who-choo-wing-man the secret master of the evade and escape style.. so, dont mess with me"

youll know a good instructor when you see one-- youll know cause he wont trump his own horn. he wont drop names to validate anything. he wont try to sell himself to you. he will, if you ask, be able to show you certificates from his BB-- either from the USJI, USJA or USJF/kodokan. if the certificate is AAU or something else, turn the other way and run for the hills.

You will need to observe them teaching over several classes, talk to his/her students, check out the rank/coaching/teaching certificates, do Judo with him/her, etc.

The lineage thing in Judo isn't really emphasized that I know of. A poor student can have a great teacher (as MG suggested) and end up lousy at the art and be an even worse teacher.

Ben Reinhardt

CBT: I firmly agree with you on this. I have only had ONE coach out of the five Judo coaches in my life that was a high level competitor. One of the best coaches in the bunch was not a good or even mediocre competitor, but he has impeccable technique and can teach Judo, which is so important.

Being able to convey information properly and break down a technique is so much more important than being a great competitor once you become a coach, imo. I wish more people believed that and supported the smaller local YMCA Judo clubs.


On another note, plain and simply it is not uncommon for someone just to spring up and show aptitude no matter what type of coaching they have. I have two examples of black belts that were from other schools that train under me that fit this. One is a Shodan and kicks butt all day long and is a very hands on learner. He has only been a Shodan maybe a year. The other has been Shodan a few years and is just atrocious. The good Shodan came from a coach that was not a good competitor at all, but can teach. The not so good Shodan came from a coach that is an IJF ref, considered a good coach by US Judo and has a much better facility.

Again the one kids gym(I know I'm old now because I just called a 26 year old man a kid*sigh*)is in a Boys Club and is small. For the most part his contemporaries are solid Judoka, recreational, but solid. The other kids gym has the numbers, the large air conditioned facility and the 'name' coach, but with up to 65 students as opposed to 13 they might have 6 good Judoka and maybe 4 good competitors.

Somewhere along the line these guys took it upon themselves to apply what they had learned and put their own stamp on it. That is what makes it their Judo and different from everyone else's.


if i walked into an academy and the instructor said "im good becuase i learned from so and so under so and so" id walk right the fuck out. dont name drop to me. 1) for all i know those could be false names 2) those people are not the ones teaching me-- YOU ARE 3) it means you are using the coattails of another person to validate yourself.


Exactly - one of my instructors once said, "We cares what your instructor has done...what have YOU done?"

Words to live by.

Use your instructor(s) for inspiration/instruction, not as validation.

I disagree. I do both bjj and judo. BJJ's methodology and instruction are very systematized. The Machado's (Pedro Sauer, Renzo etc.) are all excellent teachers. They are open with techniques, teach in a systematic manner, etc. If you are high ranked in the system, you are probably pretty good.

I think that is different from what I've experienced where I do Judo. It's much more randori heavy then technique training. I think that's more of a reflection of the fact that it a lot of ex competition guys who want to just get together and randori.

I wouldn't be as confident that anyone from our judo school would be a technical instructor even if the coach is awesome in judo.

my 2 cents.

I think the point most of you are elluding too is that it all depends on the individual, and not on the background. Just because a person studied at Harvard doesnt mean they are smarter then someone who went to a community college. There are too many variables that can influence how someones background is formed. I for one know several shodans (and higher for that matter) who are absolutely terrible teachers, and quite frankly werent very good competitors from what ive heard. However, I know several brown belts, and a couple of blue even, who are considerably better coaches and competitors. The only thing lineage in judo means is that the opportunity for a more advanced learning base is there, but its only what the person makes of it.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is Scalability. I don't have any hard facts, but the number of global Judo practicioners is WAY higher than the number of BJJ practicioners.

Once BJJ reaches the giant global scale that judo has reached after decades of integration into Olympic sport, military, schoolastic programs etc, it will be much more difficult to trace the "lineage" of one's education.

I don't think I've ever told anybody that I was trained by SoandSo. When somebody tells me they were taught by Grandmaster Flash or whoever, I usually think they are blowing hot air to impress me. Most of the time, I can tell by the way somebody carries themselves whether they can roll or not.

What I am interested in is probabilities. It is more likely that graduates from Harvard School of Business, all other things being equal, will be better prepared to do well in the business world than someone graduating from, say, Ohio State. It is not an absolute truth that a Harvard graduate will do better, just more likely. So what I'm interested in here is likelihoods, not absolute truths.

If you're looking for probabilities, I'd look to see a competition record more than the instructor they studied under.

There are some really strong clubs around the world (too many to name), and a few that definitely rise to the top of the crowd on a domestic US level. SJSU, Pedro/Morris's, Cohens, Budokan FL, OTC, all have good judo & tough competitors in the US. If they practice at a good club, it's an indicator that they have exposure to some good instruction....Other than that, roll with them & see how tough they are, then judge for yourself.

In Judo, some people are awarded for time in service/particpation and what they add to the sport on and off the mat, not necessarily their toughness or ability. Given that, and the family atmosphere at many clubs, I doubt that you'll find any Bellweather measuring sticks to judge Judo players by.

"Just because a person studied at Harvard doesnt mean they are smarter then someone who went to a community college."

Ain't that the truth.

When somebody tells me they were taught by Grandmaster Flash or whoever, I usually think they are blowing hot air to impress me.


All my students must pass the most rigorous of tests to be certified by me. To say otherwise is a grave insult to the Shaolin Temple.

I agree w/ LeroyJ. You can use as part of your criteria (not the single most important) for judging somebody's ability who they trained under and where they trained. For example, if somebody trained at the Cohen's and got their BB from them odds are they are going to be pretty good. Now, that doesn't mean that they will be able to transfer that knowledge to you because they may be a shity teacher.

In other words, look at the total package.

BTW, where are you located?

I'm in Seattle and practice at the Budokan there. Bert Mackey is my Grandmaster. /bow

Unfortunately, he likes expensive beer. It's tough to keep him happy.

cappone says hi. =)

oh.. and, it was niec having ya down. sorry i didnt graba beer with ya.. next time i swear it.

BTW.. kick that lil grandmasta in the balls for me.. i owe him. =)

mizuno makes a really good belt and the little M on the end looks pretty slick. i hope this helps


"mizuno makes a really good belt and the little M on the end looks pretty slick. i hope this helps"

*rimshot*........*crickets chirping*

It was a good try though Spiff haha.