Monday, August 22, 2011

Something Blue

The new TJJ blue belts - Hameed, Chris, me, Harold, and Timber

Today I received a present from Royce Gracie black belt, Billy Dowey, in a very lovely shade of blue. (OK, not a present per se. I paid a handsome $10 for the belt later, but that's beside the point).

This new belt is, without a doubt, the most valuable article of clothing I own. See, rank is very hard to achieve in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - blue belts take on average 1-2 years to earn,while black belts take 10-15 years. This is not a martial art where you can pay dues to your gym, study some material, perform techniques in a static environment and - presto!- you get promoted. Rather, I trained my ass off for a year, competed whenever possible against EVERYONE possible (against girls much smaller than me, and some girls more than 100 pounds bigger than me, never saying no to a match), and  bled, sweat, and cried on the mats until I really, truly, beyond the doubt of anyone who rolls with me, knew the basics...only then was I considered for blue belt promotion.

But this is why I love BJJ. Belts actually MEAN something. You can't buy a belt with money, time on the mats, or academic knowledge. You have to show that you can actually use your skills. Otherwise, what's the point?

So to commemorate my first big step on the long road to becoming a BJJ black belt (aka a lethal, ground-fighting assassin), I thought of some lessons I've learned so far:

1) You are only as good as the school where you train. When choosing a school, ask yourself - Is your instructor respected in the jiu jitsu community? Do you feel comfortable with your teammates? If you have any hesitation, shop around a little more. 

2) There always is someone better than you; there always is someone worse than you (not in your own gym, necessarily, but in the grand scheme of things). Don't worry so much about how you are doing compared to everyone else. Just try to get a little better every time you roll.

3) Be nice to people who outrank you. They know more than you and have been training longer. Good training partners are happy to help and can give you tips to improve your game. But if you spaz on them or go for cheap moves, you will piss them off and they will whoop you.

4) Be nice to the new people. Remember when you first started and you were like - you want me to do what  with my legs? What was once sketchy and undignified to you is now sketchy and undignified to the new guy. Try to make him or her feel welcome.

5) Winning or losing is very important in competition - not so much in practice. If you train with good people, put yourself in bad spots, and keep rolling until you're exhausted, you're setting yourself up to learn and get better - but also to get tapped in practice. This is not a bad thing.

6) Compete as much as you can - and video tape your matches. If you are female, you might have to go outside your comfort zone and compete in matches that aren't "fair" - against girls of different sizes and skill levels than you. Unfortunately, there aren't enough BJJ women to fill out all the weight classes at local tournaments. But if you refuse to compete, you miss out on a major opportunity to learn.

7) Buy a cool gi or pimp out your old gi. Gis are like wedding dresses - they turn regular people into white, amorphous blobs, difficult to distinguish from one another in a line up. This doesn't have to happen to you. If you look good, you will feel good, and then you might roll good.

8) Take notes! BJJ techniques are very heavy on the details - and the details are what make them work. If you remember 85% of what was covered in class, consider yourself very enough to get a B+...but perhaps not smart enough to use the actual moves that were covered. Doh! Missing a step or two can be the difference between pulling off a move and failing miserably.  So write this shit down.

9) Don't wash your belt. Your belt houses all of your jiu jitsu mojo. Sure, you can get Staph, HPV, and all sorts of icky germs from the mats, your gym equipment, and your teammates. But your belt?!? No, your belt is sacred. It will never hurt you.

10) Don't make eye contact. 'Nuff said


  1. This is the greatest blog ever. I'm a girl just starting BJJ and thought I was the only one. My gym doesn't have any girls, but I hope one day that it'll be just as popular with girls as it is with guys. We are tough, too (probably tougher)!

  2. Nice post! My only gripe is with the title of the blog. BJJ players are much nicer than the stereotypical wrestler! :) Plus, while my belt is indeed sacred, it is never scared--or, at least I hope it's not since that would be kinda fucked up!

    Word verification: Befater

  3. Awesome blog!

    Mike from Bushido

  4. I love you're posts :)
    I just started a short time ago & I'm struggling with it.
    Mostly battling out my normal, boring, obnoxious college life with my Jiu Jitsu life with my..everything else life.
    The time management thing isn't workin out so well for me.
    But congratulations on your belt & I hope you keep bloggin :)

  5. First, I can vouch for Kim taking every match that comes her way at tournaments.

    Second, congrats on that blue belt. Well deserved!

    Third, WASH YOUR BELT. Screw those silly ideas about washing the mojo out of it. Wash the STAPH out. Don't make me get out the pictures. You know I have them.

    See you in September!

  6. Cool: not noticed this blog before, but just saw Fenom link it on Facebook. And yeah, Chrissy is right: read this before you decided to never wash your belt. :)