Black belt is the top rank in BJJ and is typically awarded after an 8 to 12 year journey. On Thursday, October 10, 2019, Ralph Gracie awarded the first black belt at the Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu – San Jose dojo. The recipient, John So has been training jiu-jitsu at our gym for over 11 years, and also holds the rank of black belt in Judo.
The Big Moment
Ralph’s visits are always memorable and unpredictable. The evening started out with Ralph teaching several moves from the guard position in a way that only Ralph can do. Suddenly everyone was instructed to drop down for 100 push ups for no particular reason. Somewhere before the count hit 100, Ralph pulls a blue belt out of his gi and promotes CJ. Just when we thought that was the big moment, he reaches again for a black belt and the mat erupted in celebration.
Just 15 minutes before the promotion, John is shown in the video below as a brown belt, with Ralph demonstrating a sweep from guard technique to the rest of the class.
Machine’s First Black Belt
Another milestone occurred at this event as John So becomes Head Instructor Justin “Machine” Holder’s first black belt. Since taking over leadership of the academy in 2017, Machine has only given the nod to a few blue belts and a few purple belts. John has been a close training partner for Machine on the jiu-jitsu mats and a closer comrade off the mats. So this was a big step marked by Machine giving up his own personal black belt for the award.
John So started at Ralph Gracie Mountain View as a white belt. He had previous experience in Judo but was seeking deeper skills in the grappling arts which are emphasized in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Perhaps aided by the judo experience, John stood out at white and blue belt levels, completely embracing the marital art as a lifestyle. John is shown below being awarded purple belt by Ralph Gracie in Mountain View.