There is a strange social anomaly that seems to happen whenever a celebrity is spotted training jiu-jitsu. The typically supportive, calm, and respectful collective consciousness of the general BJJ community seems to mutate into a jealousy-induced unrecognizable fireball of hate as everyone taps into their inner pubescent teenager and just carelessly word vomits all over the character of said celebrity as well as the instructor of said celebrity.
I often wonder how many celebrities don’t show the public that they train jiu-jitsu because they know the second they do, the BJJ keyboard warriors will break out their metaphorical pitchforks and torches and begin to protest through the imaginary internet streets (i.e. Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, BJJ Link). God knows the haters would never have enough self-respect to say something to those celebrity faces if they found themselves on the same mats. In fact, I bet the trolls would be the first to line up for a picture. In truth, they probably don’t give a crap either way. But who knows? They are only human.
The question that always plagues me is, why? Why does anyone care? Why do people care to spend their energy complaining about how other people choose to spend their training time? I understand that the jiu-jitsu community wants to protect the sanctity of the art. Meaning, as a community, we like to self-police the integrity of the sport/martial art by calling out anything that seems bullshitty, such as illegitimate or unverifiable black belts, students promoting themselves to a new belt level, or the one time some guy tried to give a child a “junior BJJ black belt.” I definitely get it. I appreciate the self-policing culture that our community maintains. I’ll be the first in line to call out a fake black belt, or someone who promoted themselves. But this isn’t really the case when celebrities are being attacked over their social media posts about the new stripe they received from their legitimate black belt instructor.
There’s a big difference between calling out someone who is falsely representing a black belt, and talking shit about someone who received a stripe from a long-standing, legitimate instructor. This is not self-policing the community. This is just being a massively insecure piece of crap. Jiu-jitsu promotion are supposed to make you feel good. Yeah, it’s just athletic tape on colored fabric, but to most people it means much more. It’s your instructors acknowledgement that you are improving. In my opinion, it’s massively disrespectful to call that into question.
Let’s not forget how it feels to begin the insanely difficult journey on the never-ending jiu-jitsu path. Don’t forget how difficult it was for you to even consider walking into that academy on that first day. The massive amounts of insecurity yammering around inside that skull of yours. How many times did you drive past the academy before you stopped and actually walked in? How many times did you think about going and then changed your mind because you were nervous? Now imagine being a celebrity and compound that nervousness by 10,000 because the second they walk in the door ever person in the room is going to be giving them the side-eye while awkwardly observing every move they make.
The truth is that it’s a great thing when celebrities train jiu-jitsu. It’s actually a great thing when anyone trains jiu-jitsu. However, celebrities have the ability to connect with more people around the world than the entire mass of non-celebrity jiu-jitsu practitioners combined. They are bringing a level of exposure to the jiu-jitsu community that none of us are capable of doing. For example, Caio Terra once acknowledged that every academy owner owes Joe Rogan a statement of gratitude for always publicly preaching the greatness of jiu-jitsu on JRE and while commentating the UFC. Surely, every academy owner around the world has had a customer walk into their academy because of Joe Rogan. Now imagine if dozens of highly popular celebrities started doing the same thing. The world at large might then actually give a crap about our sport. Imagine all the lives that can be saved and improved if more people trained jiu-jitsu.
Talking shit about a celebrity who received a new stripe, or who doesn’t train the way you think they should train, is really no different than talking shit about an awkward teenager who doesn’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Or the 70-year-old woman who received her new belt. Celebrities are people too. They are no better, and no worse than anyone else. They deserve the same respect and consideration as everyone else, including the introverted teenager, the shy kid who was bullied his entire life, the seemingly normal dude, the seemingly normal girl, the elderly man or woman who trains just to stay active and stay healthy. I wonder if they same haters that are hating on Ashton Kutcher would talk shit to the +70-year-old men and women who are being promoted to brown and black belt? Would the haters accuse them of buying their belt? Or talk shit because they aren’t training the way the observer thinks they should?
New flash, people… There are more than 5 levels to jiu-jitsu. There are levels within levels within levels to this sport. But most of the shit-talkers don’t even realize it because they are still stuck on level 0.1. If some badass world champion purple belt shows up to your academy and smashed your black belt instructor, does that devalue his or her black belt? The answer is obviously no. But what if it did? Would that then negate the promotions that you received from that black belt? Imagine that. Imagine you received your blue and purple belt from your beloved instructor, and then some hotshot ninja purple belt prodigy drops in to your academy and dismembers him or her in every conceivable way. Does his or her black belt become null and void? Does every promotion that person ever gave also become null and void? No, it sure AF doesn’t.
No one has perfected it. That’s the beauty of jiu-jitsu. It cannot be perfected. Everyone will make mistakes. Everyone will tap. Everyone will lose. Everyone will have good days and bad days. So stop comparing yourself to others. In my opinion, the only thing that can devalue a person is if they treat others badly.
It all comes down to self-respect. The haters don’t respect other people because they don’t even respect themselves. Because no self-respecting human feels the need to belittle other people who are trying to improve themselves.
Shout out to all the celebrities who represent jiu-jitsu. You’re a larger part of this community than the insecure little bitches who talk shit in the comments. Keep calm and carry on.
Anthony Bourdain (may he Rest In Peace)
Maynard James Keenan
Paul Walker (may he Rest In Peace)
Shawn Patrick Flanery
Michael Clarke Duncan (may he Rest In Peace)