Beware Of The False Champions With Medals They Don't Deserve

Beware Of The False Champions With Medals They Don't Deserve

It is a well-known fact that frauds, fake champions, and false prophets plague the martial arts industry. Many people view the stereotypical dojo setting wi

Jul 20, 2016 by Joshua Hinger
Beware Of The False Champions With Medals They Don't Deserve
It is a well-known fact that frauds, fake champions, and false prophets plague the martial arts industry. Many people view the stereotypical dojo setting with grave skepticism since the average consumer is uneducated on how exactly to identify a quality martial arts instructor.

It does not help that the internet is filled with videos of comical group demonstrations of karate or taekwondo practitioners flailing about in what seems like a cross between a demonic possession, a seizure, and Master Ken's famous "Hurticane" technique.

One common measurement that consumers and prospective students may use to identify high-quality instructors is looking at how many championships they possess, including the amount won by their competition teams and students.

One might assume that if the instructor and students have a lot of bling to show at their academy, then he or she must be an effective martial arts instructor or coach.

However, dozens of gold medals may not accurately reflect the quality of an instructor.

In the event that a registered competitor does not have any opponents in his or her category (also known as a single-man or single-woman bracket), most major jiu-jitsu competitions allow competitors the option of getting their registration fee refunded or claiming a default gold medal.

If they choose the latter, they get to take their photo on the podium and go home as what I like to refer to as "A False Champion."

The false champion is the guy or gal who forfeited their registration fee in order to claim a $5 gold medal without having a single match. They then declare themselves a gold medalist on their social media accounts.

For the owner of an academy, it is likely that the unearned gold medal will end up in a showcase, and down the road future customers will never ever realize that no matches were won in order to obtain that gold medal. In my humble opinion, this is false advertising, unethical, and an all-around disgrace to the sport.

Sure, some people will claim that they could be declared the champion since "no one else had the guts to show up and compete." Maybe false champions justify their actions in their own minds as "mental domination" -- everyone else mentally submitted by not registering.

However, I say nay. I call BS. Champions have to fight, and gold medals should be earned.


Now, allow me to clarify that I am not ripping on anyone who fights in a division with a small numbers of opponents. If a competitor only has one match and he or she wins, then more power to him or her. These athletes earned their gold medals, and they should wear it proudly. But this brings me to my next point: the silver medalist who lost his or her only match.

Too many times, I have witnessed competitors announcing to the jiu-jitsu world via social media that they "took home the silver." What they failed to mention was that they only had one match for the day, and they lost. This includes individuals who take a bronze medal away from a three-person bracket.

It always seems that people in these situations like to take pictures with their medals anywhere else except the actual podium. This is because if you saw the podium picture for the silver medalist, you would see that there is no one standing in the third-place position.

The point here is that details matter. If someone wants to be proud of his or her silver medal, then great, but at least be honest about taking silver from a two-person bracket instead of allowing the world to believe it was an average-sized 8-10 person bracket. There is a notable difference in taking silver from a 24-person bracket and taking silver from a two-person bracket.

Articles Matter: "A" vs. "The"

Additionally, I would like to give a shout-out to all the masters division falsifiers. Winning the masters division is great. I have fought in masters divisions, and I can tell you that some masters divisions are tough as nails.

But winning a major IBJJF tournament at purple belt master 1 middleweight is NOT the same as winning the purple belt adult middleweight division. You can declare yourself "a purple belt middleweight champion," but you are certainly not THE purple belt middle weight champion. What you should say is that you are a "purple belt, masters 1, middleweight champion."

Ambiguous World Champions

On this note, it is very tiresome to watch black belts promote themselves as "black belt world champions" when in fact they are black belt masters world champions.

Winning the IBJJF Worlds and winning the IBJJF Master Worlds are not the same thing. I would like to strongly encourage all those individuals who ambiguously promote themselves as world champions to be honest with themselves about whether they actually earned a gold medal at the IBJJF Worlds or if they instead earned gold medal at the Master Worlds in the masters 4 category.

Additionally, black belts who won the Worlds at blue or purple belt should most definitely stop promoting themselves ambiguously as world champions. They need to specify that they are blue or purple or brown belt world champions or just stop using the nonspecific title altogether until they earn the title at their current belt level.

This also applies to anyone who won any other type of "world championship." For example, I know the guy who won the black belt open class at the 2015 Gracie Worlds -- and he most definitely has never referred to himself as a world champion.

If someone takes a gold medal from the NABJJF Worlds, then he or she can proudly be referred to as an NABJJF World Champion. But to ambiguously promote themselves as world champions is misleading, unethical, and all-around annoying.

I challenge you as students and consumers of jiu-jitsu to take it upon yourselves to verify the titles you see instructors advertise. If you see a flier for an upcoming seminar that contains a long list of championship medals earned, take a moment and do some quick research on the websites of those federations or organizations. You may be shocked to see a number of their gold medals were claimed from single-person brackets, or worse yet, their silver medals claimed from two-person brackets.

The photo credit for the banner image goes to and was edited for publication. The image is used under a 2.0 creative commons license (CC BY 2.0) that allows for commercial use and adaptation.

Josh Hinger is an IBJJF 2016 black belt no-gi world champion representing Atos Jiu-Jitsu. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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