Monday, November 7, 2011

Meeting the Legend

This weekend was a big one for North Carolina jiu jitsu. Royce Gracie was coming. Royce Gracie was coming! The buzz in the air was similar to what I remember from the late 80's, when I was a young lass at St. Rose of Lima Elementary. Back then, the pope was coming!  Here's how the visits from the two legends stack up:

Pope John Paul II visits Miami

Royce Gracie visits NC
-          Local Catholics brush up on doctrine
          Local jiu jitsu practitioners brush up on self defense fundamentals
-          The faithful don their Sunday best
          Athletes don freshly washed gis
-          Portraits of saints and crucifixes are displayed prominently on church walls
           Portraits of Helio Gracie and tournament medals are displayed prominently on padded walls
-          Special people get blessings
           Special people get promoted
-          Volunteers work diligently to clean up the city
          Most of the gym works diligently to clean up their language; a few are placed under gag order
-          People stress about nervously forgetting to genuflect
         People stress about nervously forgetting to stand in base

As you can see, the two are very similar. And since I have never been particularly religious, I found myself way more excited about the visit from Royce.

I was told that there was some bad news about the Royce seminar, and my heart sank. There wasn't enough room for my team at the seminar in Raleigh. After all our preparation, we wouldn't be able to attend. But then came the good news - Royce Gracie was coming to Durham, to my gym, to give a seminar exclusively to Triangle Jiu Jitsu. That's right folks - I know people who have Royce's phone number. 

Royce Gracie commands quite a presence when he walks into a room. He is, after all, the biggest bad ass of our time. And when he puts you on the spot, you can feel like a pretty big idiot. I know I'm not a dumb person in general. Overall, I don't feel like I'm a slow learner at jiu jitsu either. But my visual memory is not so great. So my ability to watch a move and then replicate it is not my strong point. I am known at practice as the person who says "Can I see that one more time?" Only no one says that to at times I felt pretty lost. And suddenly, for the very first time, I felt insecure in my blue belt. Royce Gracie was looking at me with the eyes of scrutiny and I wasn't sure I measured up.

Then he split us up and asked us to roll, and instantly I felt more comfortable. For my first roll I got paired with a class A bad ass (Brad) and as expected, I got tapped. My second roll was much more competitive and after several minutes, Royce stood us up and said "Put stripes on their belts."

I was pretty thrilled to get this stripe for the following reasons:
a) They don't run trains for stripes. So I was not going to get beat up any time in the immediate future.
b) It's affirmation that I'm moving forward. Right now, the blue belt is a nebulous realm with no clear end point. The steps from going from white belt to blue belt were pretty clear  - spend time on the mats, learn the blue belt curriculum, and do well in tournaments. But how to move up as a blue belt is much less clear. I know it will be a few years before my belt changes color again, but at least now I know I'm moving in the right direction.

After I got my stripe, Royce Gracie said to me "you're doing really well." And suddenly I no longer felt stupid.

In bigger news, 2 of my instructors got promoted this weekend:

First, Ryan Hanseler got his purple belt

Then, Seth Shamp got his brown belt

Both of these belts were undoubtedly well earned. Rank is very hard to achieve in Brazilian jiu jitsu....and both of these guys spent more than 4 years at their previous belts. When they wear their new belts in competition, I know that people are going to say "it's about time!" I, for one, am proud to train with both of you.


  1. Interesting: do you mean there is a specific blue belt curriculum at Royce's organisation?

  2. Appreciate the time you took to write this