Prof. Draculino On The Meaning Of Black Belt

“Graduating my son Igor to the black belt is a dream come true.”
What does it mean to graduate to Gracie Barra Black Belt? One of Gracie Barra’s most experienced instructors offers his perspective on what makes a black belt and the importance of maintaining the integrity of the art of jiu-jitsu.
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GB: Prof. Draculino, you have been teaching and growing jiu-jitsu students for many years both in Brazil and in Texas. How many students have you graduated to the Black Belt?
Prof. Draculino: I have graduated – directly under me – over 400. And students under my students that I had the privilege to graduate to black belt as well, not just in Brazil and Texas but all over the world, in Europe and Asia, Mexico, everywhere. There is like, I would say 1200 to 1300. There is a lot of people all over the world. I have a guy who has a basic database. Greece also has a lot of black belts under me. I would it’s about 1300.
GB: In the last year, you had the honor and pride of awarding your son his Black Belt in jiu-Jitsu. Can you talk about what that meant to you and your son?
Prof. Draculino: Graduating my son Igor to the black belt is a dream come true. He has been training since he was a little kid. He always also went to school. He is going to law school at the moment. It was one of the biggest, if not THE biggest honor of my life as a professor, as a teacher. Graduating from him means the world to me.
GB: Many Gracie Barra students ask “What is a Black Belt in Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu?” How would you define or describe a student that is ready for the black belt graduation?
Prof. Draculino: The black belt means maturity. I think maturity. Maturity is enough to understand why Jiu-Jitsu is so important to people’s lives. How Jiu-Jitsu changes our life for the best. Of course a good technical level, you have to have a good technical level no matter what.
This is only done through dedication and persistence. And also of course minimum time (at the brown belt). I never graduate anyone to the black belt or degrees on the black belt without the minimum time required. I never do that.
So I think that the black belt means more than anything maturity but also means that every one that is on the training mat area in the dojo looks up to a black belt. They should first of all be inspired and second of all grateful for all of the commitment that the person put into the art. And this person deserves the ultimate respect.
I’m sure that not every black belt is a good person. Not every black belt is great on the mats. Not every black belt did what needs to be done. But in Gracie Barra, we try our best to keep the legacy alive by having high-quality black belts.
GB: Can you share your feelings on the importance of maintaining the Gracie Barra standards for minimum time and skill for the belt graduations?
Prof. Draculino: Maintaining the integrity of the art. One of the points to maintain is to go by the guidelines of minimum time and a technical level in order to give the belts. A lot of people think and have the misconception that Gracie Barra promotes solely by time. You know…you come to this many classes during this many months or whatever, and then you get your new belt.
It’s not exactly true. The minimum time is a prerequisite, but it’s up to the professors and the instructor’s staff to decide when this person will get the next belt or not. I think that this is the best criteria because we have experienced enough to know each individual’s needs and possibilities. You can not create a general rule.
You have age, you have a physical condition, and you have a lot of things that come into play that you can not create a general rule. But minimum time is the MINIMUM like I said. Every single person – it doesn’t matter if one person is the champion of the world or just a person who trains regularly because of the lifestyle and he likes it – every single one has to have the minimum time.
I recently made a video about something that is happening right now. Especially on the black belt that people are rushing their degrees on the black belt just because of the fact that they let their ego be bigger than their martial arts spirit.
And I think this is totally wrong. We have a great example inside of our organization of people who never cheated the system such as Master Carlos Gracie Jr, and pretty much most of his higher belts, professors, and students. I believe that minimum time should not be practiced by Gracie Barra but by every single jiu-jitsu school and organization in the world.
We can not allow our beloved jiu-jitsu to be diluted and discredited because of attitudes like some people take.
GB: What do you feel are the responsibilities for the new Gracie Barra Black Belt within both their GB school and in jiu-jitsu?
Prof. Draculino: A Gracie Barra Black Belt is an amazing accomplishment and even a title to be a Gracie Barra Black Belt but that will not make you a superhero. You have to be a role model. You have to have the maturity – again talking about maturity – to understand that people look up to you. And this means a lot.
See also on GB Blog: GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt