“Take that fucking belt off right now,” Ruben Alvarez, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) instructor commands to a student. Alvarez, an imposing presence in a white robe, was towering over his student, also robed, who lay sprawled on his back on a mat inside Black House, a Miami Beach martial arts studio. “You're not a fucking black belt. You're a fucking white belt. And you come in my gym, here, saying that you're a fucking black belt!”
The student, still on the ground, untied his belt. For nearly three minutes the verbal lashing continues, until Alvarez finally tells the student to get out. He walks out shrinking. “And when you decide to come back, you come back with a white belt!”
The exchange was filmed by another student, on a cell phone camera. The video went viral, shared on martial arts sites around the world. It also thrust Alvarez, a previously unknown 24-year-old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor—and yes, actual black belt—into the sport's spotlight. “It's blowing up the internet,” says the gym's manager, Ilan Xanthakis. Ninety percent of commenters, they gym manager said, supported his instructor. “The other 10 percent, [they're] a little bit more on the side of the other guy.”
In a later video interview, Alvarez explained the sequence of events: Several weeks earlier, the student had come into the gym and said he was a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt—among the martial arts' most prestigious designations—who had been trained under a famous Brazilian master known as Macaco. Alvarez welcomed him, eager to have such a distinguished student in his classes. But soon the ability of the student, a middle-aged man who spoke poor English, seemed nowhere near that of a former champion's: He seemed lost when the class did a basic shuffle. He struggled with a forward roll, then flubbed the backward roll.
“This guy's going to kill himself,” Alvarez thought.
Still, the instructor wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. The guy was older, and had said he had a back injury. Maybe the language barrier was also messing him up. “I'm thinking of every excuse in the book,” Alvarez said.
(Below, the Liveleak video of the exchange.)
Soon Alvarez grew more suspicious. He contacted other martial artists who knew Macaco, and the Brazilian master said he'd never met the guy. Then another student recognized the man as the same guy who claimed to be an experienced tattoo artist, then botched $600 worth of ink. “This guy's a fake, dude,” Alvarez said.
When the man showed up in class again, still wearing the black belt (which was tied funny), Alvarez decided to test him again. He told him to demonstrate 20 arm bar drills, another basic move. “He's like, 'what?'” Alvarez said.
That's when the instructor lost it. “Give me the belt!” he berated. “You lied to me! You don't deserve this belt! I fucking broke my leg. I fought MMA... to wear to this fucking belt! And you come here and you say you're a fucking black belt in my gym!” The man sheepishly apologized, calling it a “terrible accident.” Alvarez threatened to give him a “double” and punch him in the face. “Why shouldn't I do that right now!?”
After the video went out, which Alvarez himself posted, many commenters berated the instructor for being so harsh and losing his nerve—hardly black belt behavior. Others defended him for sticking up for the integrity of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Alvarez himself, in the explanatory interview, said he should haven't lost his cool but vehemently defended the lashing as a righteous exposure of a fraud. The guy was lucky, in fact, that he hadn't beat the lights out of him.
“Fake people have to be put out,” he said. “If I taught him a lesson and he could come back and better himself through Jiu Jitsu, that'd be great. Maybe one day I'll be able promoting him to black belt, and he'll be a legit black belt.”