Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Confessions of a Crappy Black Belt

I promoted to Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Saturday.  I am having lots of conflicting thoughts and feelings.
On the one hand, I feel that I deserve the belt.  I have been training for 12 years now, and I feel that I have put the time in on the mat, paid my dues, took the injuries, and that my knowledge level is on par with most Black Belts.
I know the positions, I know the movements.  I can teach and execute them.
I'm not pushing any innovations, but neither am I behind in the new movements.

I know the rule set and scoring for IBJJF and the other most common tournaments.  I can run a fight camp and make sure that the students in the class are ready to compete at their level.

Functionally, my technique is good enough to overcome all but the higher belts at my gym, and I have worked favorably against others at other gyms.  When young, strong, athletic, wrestlers with no BJJ experience to speak of come to the gym, I am able to hold them off and finish them.

I know that in the overall bell curve of BJJ Black Belts, I am not at the bottom of the curve.

But, on the much bigger other hand, I don't feel that my ability to apply technique is at the Black Belt level.  I don't "feel" like a Black Belt.  Of course, my promotion is not up to me.  It is up to my instructors.  Samuel, who runs the gym feels I am at the Black Belt level.  Rodrigo Medeiros, Samuel's instructor stated that he feels that my technique is at the Black Belt level and allowed the promotion.  But I don't feel worthy of the belt.

This is very different from my promotions to Black Belt in other martial arts.  I promoted to Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do not more than 4 years after starting.  The same for Hap Ki Do.  It is fun to note that I stayed longer at Blue Belt in BJJ than I did in training for Black Belt in both Korean Martial Arts.
Despite the time factor, the big difference between the Korean Arts and BJJ was that I was at a school with a lot of TKD and HKD Black Belts.  It wasn't something over the top to see and train with a Black Belt.  They weren't mythical figures who's technique was so much better than my own.
However, when I started BJJ, my instructor was a newly promoted Purple Belt.  Just having a Blue Belt was very very special.  The Black Belts I knew were directly from Brazil.  They were former world champions, trained by the Gracie family, at the Gracie gyms in Brazil.
These guys were top of the food chain in Brazil, and accepted the sacrifice of moving to a different country because they loved BJJ, and wanted the art to grow.

However, if I would have looked back at their gyms in Brazil, what would I have seen?  I would have seen that the majority of Black Belts would have been just like I am today.  Guys with jobs.  Guys who have been training for years, who have the technique, but do not, nor will they ever, have the ability of the guys who went to the U.S. to teach.  They are hobbyists.  Just like me.

So, while I don't feel worthy of the belt, and I know for a stone cold fact that I would get my clock cleaned by many purple/brown belt competitors, I am still a Black Belt representing the BJJ Revolution and Carlson Gracie Jr. gyms through Samuel.  I will do my best to represent them and be worthy of the rank bestowed upon me.

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