Black Belts Need Skill and Character

At our fantasy football draft this year, one of the other owners asked me who I thought was the best mixed martial artist of all time.  I told him that based on skill, the greatest mixed martial artist of all time was Jon “Bones” Jones.  However, Jones’ frequent problems outside of the Octagon would keep him from being considered the GOAT.

Jones accomplishments are legendary.  Jones won the UFC Light Heavyweight World Championship at 23 years of age.  Jones has defeated 6 former or current UFC Light Heavyweight Champions.  Only one contender, Alexander Gustaffson, truly threatened Jones in a fight the champ clearly won in the 4th and 5th Rounds.  Jones attributes this close call with Gustaffson to partying leading up to the fight.


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As dominating as Jones has been in the cage, his career is mostly known for problems outside the Octagon.  Jones is known for frequent run-ins for impaired driving including an accident involving a pregnant driver, where he ran from the scene.  Jones has also failed three drug tests, one for recreational drugs and two for performance enhancing drugs.

These problems have caused him to have 4 fights in 4 years with lengthy time off for suspensions.  Jones is currently facing a 2 to 4 year suspension for his most recent test failure.  It is impossible to tell how this case will turn out as Jones has the right to have his case properly adjudicated.  However, these incidents do tarnish what should be a legendary legacy.

What does this situation have to do with traditional martial arts rankings?  If Jon Jones held a rank in mixed martial arts, he would be a 6th degree black belt. It would be higher if not for his age.  Jones would be a future 9th degree black belt for sure, if you only took skill into account.

My instructor didn’t just figure skills into her promotions.  Skill is important but character is what defines us as both people and martial artists.  If a student couldn’t show respect to parents, instructors or peers, they would not test for black belt until they improved in this area.  I agree with this approach 100 percent.

Do you want someone walking around with your school’s name on their black belt, who don’t exhibit the proper attitude of a martial artists?  We’ve seen black belts throw water bottles at officials, kick chairs and berate students for losing a competition.  If you worked hard your whole life to develop a reputation for integrity, do you want someone to tarnish that name?

Skill is important but so is character.  Let’s make sure all black belts exhibit that character.

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