It’s very common to hear people talk about “the white belt mentality.” The concept is that a white belt has an open mind, willing to learn anything from anyone. I don’t necessarily agree with this concept. The amount of information available today is staggering. That is true about any subject, but right now I’m talking specifically about jiu-jitsu.
Before I am willing to listen to anyone, I want to know who they are. I want to know why their opinion should matter to me. If Cobrinha says anything about the spider guard, you should probably listen. If you’re interested in the X guard, Marcelo Garcia is a fairly obvious place to start. But what about the thousands of blogs and youtube videos of people whose names aren’t so immediately recognizable? Use your critical thinking skills. Just because someone is wearing a black belt or claims to have one, does not mean that you should listen to them. Anyone can wear any belt they want to and make videos. It’s happened before and it will happen again. Consider the source. Is it possible to be a great MMA coach without having fought yourself? Greg Jackson has proven that you can, but not everyone is Greg Jackson. Would you bring in an American football player, even a great one, to be a strength and conditioning coach for a soccer team? Just because someone is a great sport jiu-jitsu competitor does not mean that they have any business being an MMA coach. So don’t expect me to listen to you unless you can prove why I should.
The internet is an interesting place. Absolutely anyone can post or comment about absolutely anything they want to. Of course, each and every person on the planet is entitled to their own opinion, but are all opinions created equal? In my opinion the answer is an obvious and emphatic no. I generally don’t post on internet forums anymore and I try not to even read comments on videos or posts. Everyone is an authority. With no requirement to identify yourself or state what your credentials are, it’s very easy to act in a rude or disrespectful way. I commonly see internet warriors that have never stepped on the mat arguing with seasoned competitors. People that learned how to fight from video games rudely disagreeing with professional fighters. The anonymity of the internet allows for this type of behavior from people that wouldn’t say a word face to face. Invariably, the louder and more obnoxious someone’s posts are, the more likely they are to be using an anonymous screen name.
So for the purpose of transparency, please allow me to introduce myself to anyone who may not know me. My name is Jake Whitfield. I am a Royce Gracie black belt and I am the head instructor of Gracie Goldsboro in Goldsboro, NC. I am a retired professional MMA fighter with a record of 12-1 (6-0 amateur, 6-1 pro). I have competed in hundreds of gi and no gi grappling matches. I don’t know exactly what my record is because I never bothered to keep track. A simple google or youtube search will show plenty of my matches, both wins and losses. Should you listen to me? That’s up to you to decide, but I sincerely hope that the next time you watch a video or read a blog that you will question the source before immediately accepting their opinion.