So, a couple weeks back, my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
(BJJ) professor/coach promoted me to the the first belt rank above the beginner's white belt -- the Blue Belt
. And, like I tweet above, it has been quite the journey.
I was reflecting this past weekend on my journey so far, primarily the recent 6-8 weeks. Even prior to that, I actually felt a little lost in my BJJ journey. I was promoted to a 4-stripe white belt a while ago and felt that I hit some type of mental ceiling soon after. I was lost between choice techniques, making all sorts of brand new white belt mistakes... and, my coach was calling me out.
"What... what are you doing...? Who...... common!"
That was his general response and my own personal response to my mistakes as well. I was doing weird things that were never taught to me nor were even conceptually advisable within martial arts. I asked him for his guidance and thoughts and he basically put it down to two things:
1) I was either getting comfortable or lazy.
2) I was losing focus on what I've been taught... essentially, do what I'm taught, not what I thought.
So, for many weeks following, I did exactly that. I was told to focus on one type of guard, one type of guard pass, and one submission. And, so I did. With some faltering to obvious temptations (like someone not guarding for a choke), I basically only went for the classical armbar. I only drilled the knee cutter pass (with some faltering to leg drags), and, basically only used the butterfly guard... and, had my guard passed over and over and over again.
Then, something magical happened. About 4-6 weeks ago, I suddenly felt a revival in my BJJ game. I sparred with this huge 3 stripe white belt who was transferring from another academy. And, I was basically all over the guy. I caught him with two collar chokes which was spawned from well defended armbars. And, I caught him in two armbars, once which he tried to stack me with and once from s-mount. I was practically never in danger and barely felt like I broke a sweat. This was weird to me because my other 3-stripe white belt training partners typically put up a pretty good fight.
Then, weeks to follow, I tapped out one of my favorite training partners for the first time with an under-arm-pit-armbar from north south. I also managed to tap out a purple belt who let me get position on him... which I've never been able to do even when he's done similar things to let me have a fighting chance before -- great training partner by the way. He has REALLY helped me tighten up the details and technical aspects of my game.
THEN, I sparred with a very skilled and highly intimidating judo black belt. He's one of the nicest guys I know and is an excellent training partner. But, I've never been able to submit him, far less even make it a fair fight -- oh yeah, did I mention he out muscles me by 50 pounds or so? This last time, I tapped him out with an armbar from s-mount. I think much of that had to do with the fact that we were playing no-gi and judo is a gi based system. Nevertheless, I also didn't feel all that threatened positionally... which is NOT normal when sparring against him.
Either way, looking back, I had a bit of fear in terms of the Imposter Syndrome
. I remember that being given my 4th stripe as a white belt, I thought to myself, "Sure! I got this. I'm about to be blue. It's next. Totally have this under control.
" I felt like I could represent 4 stripes with confidence as a white belt. Then, moments later, feeling like I didn't deserve it. Then, with the blue belt, I was like "Oh no... it's an entirely new rank. And, now I'm a target.
But, I guess I'm not so worried anymore. BJJ is all about training hard and training harder. You have to beat your own fears before you can survive to beat your opponent. It's about technique over strength, and many times, mind over matter. As in, it doesn't matter if you're put on your back. You just got to get your positioning and figure it out from there. Always stick to the fundamentals; they are your foundations and strong foundations are hard to shake.
I know for a fact that my professor does NOT promote simply due to loyalty or money paid. He only promotes when he feels that people are able to represent their belt color.
Well, it is time to represent. I'm so very happy I've trained for nearly 3 years in this excellent sport and martial art system. And, I am looking forward to another 3+ years that it will probably take for me to earn the purple belt.
If I've learned anything, I've learned this:
- Train hard. Never get lazy. Never get comfortable. Always push yourself.
- Train smart. Do what you are taught. Leave your ego at the door. Be technical.
- Train consistently. Even if you can only train once a week, dedicate yourself regularly & intentionally -- you will see the results.
I know there is SOOOO much for me to learn. Despite a life long journey in so many areas of martial arts, I've definitely found a home in BJJ -- it's become a part of my lifestyle and I'm so glad that after all these years, I finally hunkered down to train in BJJ.