Sunday, April 17, 2016



I must admit, this came as a surprise.

Yes, Earn My Blue Belt in Jiu Jitsu was on my list of goals to hopefully accomplish sometime in 2016.  And yes, I had met the minimal attendance requirement for my next promotion, although for my 4th stripe, I had tripled the attendance requirement before I actually received said stripe.  There was no reason for me to think that this promotion would be any different - if anything, I figured it would take even longer going from white to blue.

But at the conclusion of the seminar at the school today, we lined up and began belt promotions.  Our black belt coach described the rank of blue belt as "knowing the basics of jiu jitsu and being able to use this knowledge while in the course of free-rolling." One by one, he called up a couple of guys who were already there when I started training, and girl who had been training for many years and had just turned 16.  I was excited for them, and cheered them as they ran along the line, slapping hands with everyone.

And then my name was called.

I was stunned - just 3 days ago, the Guru's Guru had asked me when I might receive my blue belt and I had said, "Hopefully sometime this year; we'll see." Now it was being tied around my waist, and my beloved white belt with 4 stripes was tied in a knot (to hold the knowledge in).  Each of my instructors gave the knot a tug, hugged and congratulated me, and then I dashed away, slapping my teammates' outstretched hands.  I found my place in line with the other blue belts, my knotted white belt dangling from my hand, never to be worn again.

After the other belts were awarded and we bowed out, there were fist-bumps and hugs and congratulations all around.  My head was still spinning. In the changing room, I quickly asked a friend to snap a picture with my phone so I could tell my family and of course the Guru, who had just spent three days working with me and whose hours of patient attention had shoved me off the plateau I'd been on for months.  He congratulated me and told me our next lesson would cover ankle and wrist locks.

This was a good thing, because when I stepped back onto the mat as a blue belt for open rolling, the first thing the higher belts wanted to do was attack my legs and ankles.  White belts are not allowed those trickier submissions, nor are they expected to have to defend against them.  Now they were all fair game.  Just as I was becoming comfortable at recognizing when my arms and neck were in jeopardy, now I had to keep track of danger to my knees and ankles as well. Rolling suddenly required a whole new level of awareness.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining.  I'm thrilled to have received this vote of confidence from my coaches, and I'm determined to live up to the challenges of this new rank.  And despite the fact that it happened much sooner than I had expected, I am very glad that it came when I was on the "up" part of the up-and-down cycle I've grown accustomed to in the pursuit of jiu jitsu excellence.  The ups don't come as often as the downs, nor do they last as long, but they feel wonderful when they happen, and I was on a serious up going into today's seminar.  I felt more confident, more aggressive, and more powerful this week than I have probably ever felt in my life, and rolling, especially Friday, was absolute bliss.  So in that respect, the timing couldn't have been better.

It was a special day, and it wouldn't have been complete without a picture with my amazing coaches, who have supported and encouraged and pushed me for the last fifteen months in one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - pursuits of my life.

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