Today, 10/10/19 I got my fourth stripe on my brown belt in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. This is the last stripe, on the last belt before black belt. To earn a black belt in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu isn’t like other martial arts. It is literal blood, sweat and tears for an average of 10-12 years of consistent training (It’s been 14 combined years so far for me). It’s putting on a cold Gi in the dead of winter that you left in the car. It’s a having a persons sweat drip into your open eye like Visine. It’s jammed fingers, bloody lips, and hurt body parts. It’s building a level of confidence just to have it smashed the very next day. It’s being scared to walk in the dojo to try something new. It’s welcoming the brave new souls that want to try this silly sport.
This little piece of tape has triggered a flood of emotion for me. Mostly appreciation and gratitude with some pride and a hint of sadness. Appreciation for the kinesthetic language that the art has taught me. A language that has application throughout life. If I had a dollar for every time I said “It’s like in Jiu Jitsu when…” I have a deep feeling of gratitude toward my sensei Jon Friedland who risked everything to open a dojo that has grown into a safe, enjoyable, and top notch place where people can’t wait to strangle each other. I have a sense of pride in myself as I know it has been hard work, and when we do hard work it inspires a sense of pride. I feel a sprinkle of sadness as this is the last stripe that Jon will voluntarily give me (Black belt stripes operate a bit differently)
All these thoughts seem to culminate into one idea. That idea of enjoying the journey. I used to think of black belt as a seemingly impossible goal. Being on the precipice of that “goal” I now look at it as a milestone. I will appreciate the accomplishment of Black belt knowing that the sport and lifestyle have so much more to teach me. I will then appreciate all the new struggles that will come my way as I hit other milestones in my Jiu Jitsu career.
Finishing up this blog remembering fondly other milestones. I remember walking into Dave Strassers house gym back in 2000, I remember putting on a gi for the first time at Henry Matamores, I remember puking after my first tournament, I remember teaching my first class, I remember the unlimited amount of dumb shit my Jiu Jitsu friends and I would do. I don’t remember goals like 3 stripes on my blue belt or risking all to submit that tough guy in practice. I say that for any newer practitioner that may feel like they are not progressing, or they should have more stripes or be a higher belt. You won’t remember any of that. If you do it right you will enjoy all those personal struggles as they make you the hero of your own Jiu Jitsu narrative.