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In The Arena Blog

Enson Inoue Speaks on Humility as a Black Belt

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At his seminar last weekend, MMA Legend Enson Inoue explained to the group about his decision to demote himself from black belt to purple belt, after feeling modern Jiu Jitsu has passed him by. This was a great perspective discussion for everyone that trains for a lifetime.


Enson Inoue:
Did you guys ever hear about that whole situation where I demoted myself to purple belt? When I came back into Jiu Jitsu, after laying off for a long time, I just didn’t feel like I was a black belt or black belt level. So I decided that I’m going to put on a purple, just a personal journey. And I have like maybe like 13 black belts in my gym in Japan. And because they’re up with the game, they would give me that idea, like, Okay, Enson, you’ve improved the enough to get your purple belt now, I mean, brown belt. Put on a brown belt now.” That’s all I did. And I put on my purple belt, my students hated it. They were like, “Don’t put on your purple belt.” I was like, “Don’t worry about it. It’s for me, it’s my journey.”

John Lewis is the one who gave me my black belt. So I notified him of the decision and he said, “Whatever you think is best.” And then I felt a sense of a little bit of a hesitation on his side. So I called him and I said, “Hey, John, so what’s up? Are you seriously okay with it.?” He goes, “Well, you’re one of my proudest black belts. I don’t give out many black belts. And I just feel really bummed that you’re going to go back to purple.” And I explained to him that I’m not. When I put on my black again, I’m not going to say that I got it from someone else. I’ll always be your black belt, but it’s a personal journey. And he says, “Why do you think that you need to put on your purple belt?” And this is the example I gave him.

And I told him that if I was a cell phone expert I went to prison for 10 years and I came out, I was a cell phone expert back in the day when we had flip phones, those Nokia phones, those flip phones. And I went to prison for 10 years and I came out of prison and there’s these fricking smartphones That you can actually go on the internet and shit. I don’t think I could call myself a cell phone expert. So when I told him that he goes, “Enson, how dare you consider a black belt in Jiu Jitsu like a cell phone expert?” He said, “I see a black belt in Jiu Jitsu more like a doctorate.” And I was like, “Okay. Where’s he going from here?” And he goes, “If a doctor stops practicing and he decides 10 years later to get into the field again, he’s not going to update all the research and update all the practices and the techniques that they have changed by taking away the doctor out of his name and go back to college and go back to med school. He’s going to update himself as a doctor.”

So John told me he believes that I should get my skills back as a black belt, being a black belt. And I was like, “Ah, yeah,” but I didn’t feel like it was a statement. And the funny thing is John reached out to me and said, “Do you know why you don’t want to put on your black belt anymore?” And up until then, most of the guys were saying, “Well, this is such a good proof of humility. There’s so much fake black belts and you’re demoting yourself. It’s so humble.” And I didn’t think it was humble. I thought, “Maybe I’m humble without knowing it, but I said, ‘What the hell.'”

And he told me, John Lewis through a whole curve on me. He said, “There’s a lack of humility as a black belt.” And I was like, “Oh, lack of humility as a black belt.” And he says, “Yeah, you feel uncomfortable being a black belt and not being able to pass a purple belt’s guard.” And when he mentioned that, I sat back and thought about, I realized that he was right. So, I had to learn more humility, put back on my black belt and still suck, but still working on it.

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