I had something neat happen this morning. I was doing some Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ) training at the gym with my friend and coach when he said he had to make a call.
He came back with the phone and said it was our head coach in Nashville, TN, and he wanted to talk with me. As we were talking, he said he wanted to congratulate me on reaching my Purple Belt!
For a moment, I was speechless (pretty unusual, I know). I’ve trained with him in the past, and even visited his school in Nashville. To hear him recognizing my accomplishment was quite an honor.
I wasn’t even aware that I’d been testing. Now you have to understand something. I’ve been training for over 30 years in the art of Taekwondo, which is a Korean form of Karate.
In 2005, I was promoted to 6th Degree Black Belt, and was made a Master in 2006. It doesn’t mean I’m all that or anything, but I’m pretty experienced.
But it’s primarily a standing and striking art. If some big dude was able to get their hands on you and put you on your back on the ground, many of those skills would become meaningless. I’ve experienced it first hand.
So ten years ago, I started also training in Brazilian JiuJitsu. This is a martial art that occurs almost exclusively on the ground, with chokes, joint locks, and sweeps to turn your opponent over and get them off you.
It’s a very subtle art, where you knowing something your opponent doesn’t, gives you a huge advantage. It also uses leverage in a big way, which allows someone smaller to defeat a much larger opponent (unless they know it too)!
Since it’s so subtle, little adjustments often make the difference between a technique working or not. It takes a lot of mat time and practice to develop these skills.
Other martial arts, like Taekwondo (which I still love), allow you to pick things up faster, and move up through the ranks faster. In Brazilian JiuJitsu, it just takes much more time.
Starting with White Belt, your focus is usually learning how to defend against a variety of chokes and locks. I’d started competing right away, and won some tournaments as a BJJ White Belt.
After a couple years, my coaches promoted me, and I actually started winning as a Blue Belt over 7 years ago. I thought so much of the techniques that I started teaching it in to all our kids classes as part of their training.
But it was getting harder to get away to seminars and competitions, with all the classes I was teaching. And my instructor wasn’t able to get over here nearly as much anymore.
He would drop by from time to time to see how I was doing. I’d also get to BJJ seminars every so often, so I could keep learning. It gave me a chance to keep rolling. with other, more experienced practitioners.
I also had some old friends come over occasionally to work out and share techniques. But the main thing was I always kept training a few people here at the gym. I’ve made it a practice to share everything when I teach.
My goal was to get them so good at defending me, that I had to get creative and find new ways to catch them with techniques. So even though I was more experienced, it gave me a way to keep growing too. It was a win-win situation.
I guess it worked. My coach said I’d gotten much better, was moving really well, and it was long past time to be promoted. It really meant a lot to me.
Persistence pays off. I call it winning through stamina. You just outlast the obstacles. In my case it was time. Many people get there in 3-4 years. It took me ten. So when I talk to people about taking the time they need to change their life in other ways, I try to get them to see the big picture.
So it’s going to take a year for you to lose the weight? So what? It’s got to come off, and it’s really only just a year. Then you’ve got it.
And these last ten years in BJJ? It seems like I just got started. I’m looking forward to the next ten!