BJJ Globetrotters banned from the IBJJF

A little over three days ago, I received an email from the IBJJF, letting me know that BJJ Globetrotters, as an association, has been suspended from their federation. The accusation is that we have been approving and signing for athletes that have no relation with the signing black belt instructor. According to them, we are going “against the integrity of the martial art and safety of the athletes” since “it is important that athletes train under the overall guidance of a Black Belt professor”.

Naturally, I immediately responded to their email:

  • We sign IBJJF forms for all our members to be able to compete, just like any other affiliation in the world.
  • Our team signing the forms are high level, highly decorated black belts with decades of combined experience in the art.
  • We verify the belt ranks of anyone we sign for with their day-to-day instructors. For black belts, we require rank confirmation from five black belts. Last week, we announced that all members must have verified their belt ranks with, which will ensure even more trustworthiness of their rank, as well as allow us to always keep up-to-date with any controversy around their promotions, should this arise.

This is not different than how pretty much every major BJJ affiliation around the world works. The head black belts who sign the forms for their affiliate academies’ members have, in most cases, no more relationship with the athletes than we do. In fact, our community is very tight knit, as more than 1,800 of our members meet around the world at our camps over 10 times every year. Everyone at all levels train hard, network and make friends. On a regular basis at the camps, I see and train with countless of the athletes I have signed IBJJF forms for. These are people I consider great friends and valuable training partners. Some of those who do not have instructors at home, choose to receive their belt evaluations from the combined opinions of the camp instructors. But apparently this is not enough to qualify as “overall guidance” from my and the other black belts’ side.

At the end of the day, the main difference between BJJ Globetrotters and any other large affiliation is, that we charge no money for what we do.

I have to this date still not received a reply to my email, but all our members’ IBJJF memberships have been abruptly cancelled and we are getting a lot of emails from concerned athletes with upcoming competitions, so we can not postpone this announcement any longer.

I am deeply sorry on behalf of our many hundreds of athletes around the world who are actively competing for BJJ Globetrotters, producing fantastic results at all levels, from white to black belt, from amateurs to professionals. While we are not an affiliation in the traditional (IBJJF-)sense, we ARE a community of highly passionate practitioners who believe that training relationships in Jiu Jitsu should be based on friendship, not business. That everyone should be treated equal on and off the mats. That people should be allowed to train with who ever they want. And that access to competition should not be based on contractual agreements with anyone at the top of an imaginary hierarchy based on pieces of tape on cotton belts.

While IBJJF is a private, for-profit company that can make whatever rules they like, I don’t think anyone should have monopoly on how a BJJ affiliation is defined. For those who agree that what we do also qualify as one, we are in fact the biggest in the world, with more than 750 registered academies. And I’m incredibly proud that we are so many who stand up against common perception of how things are “supposed to be done”. We’re not going away any time soon.

If you are affected by this recent decision by IBJJF, I suggest that you email them directly on [email protected] and let your opinion be heard. I’ll keep doing the same for you.

– Christian Graugart