A couple of years back, a student asked Rickson Gracie, "What's your advice to athletes and practitioners who don't feel like they deserve a promotion? How can they become comfortable in their new rank?"
Rickson's answer, provided below, includes advice for both students and teachers.
"Some teachers, they promote based on agenda, or schedule. I feel like promotions... You don't go to practice jiu-jitsu to get the black belt. You're supposed not to go in that intent. Your goal is supposed to be learning something for you to feel better, and feel empowered, and feel good. And not only feel good, but feel like you're able to roll, to defend yourself—so it makes you spiritually feel good and makes you physically feel good.
"So that's the goal of the practice—it's enhancing your potential. And this comes with a belt. But it's not a good sign when you promote somebody who feels like, 'Wow... I don't deserve that.' That's a bad sign, because all my students, they talk to me and say, 'Finally I get this belt.'
"I kind of hold a little bit on the belts; I don't intend to give belts for good. I think that is not something that makes the student proud or makes the teacher proud. So I'm more than happy to give the belt to the student when he feels like it's well deserved, and he's using the belt with pride.
"So, I don't know how the academies are ruled; it's very complex, the way teachers do, and sometimes the teacher feels like, 'I have to give the blue belt, or the purple belt, to keep the student in my class, or in my academy.' And, that way, you pretty much sell your soul to the devil, you know—when you play the money thing, the belt thing, and this promotion without the knowledge, without the effectiveness.
"So I'm very skeptical with that. I'm not here to judge who deserves and who doesn't; but the professor is supposed to be a little more serious about giving belts, you know? Not only in any level, but even the coral belt now. We see so many guys using the coral belt who never taught one class in jiu-jitsu. So things are a little messy in terms of the belt, and I think JJGF will eventually create a commission to make, once and for all, a unified regulation about belts, about rules of tournaments and so on. But we're a little ways from that yet. But at least make sure the belt you use on your waist... you have to be proud of it. And tell your friends also the same thing."