This past weekend after 14 years of training I was awarded my black belt from my professor, mentor and best friend Caio Terra. There are so many people to thank but to avoid sounded like some one who won an academy award I'm going to condense it to the 3 people who played the biggest part in my life and journey and thank them in Part 2. Before that though I'd like to tell a story.
Getting a black belt was never something on my bucket list, I never dreamed of being a black belt, and it was never a goal of mine (I do believe strongly in setting goals though).
When I started training it was at the Oregon Pound where we had a tradition that after Saturday practice we would go get coffee. One morning as I was drinking my coffee my instructor, Rylan Lizares, asked me why I never bothered to fill out my attendance card. I told him because belts don't matter to me, I was chasing the skill not the belt and hoped to be a white belt who could catch black belts. At first he didn't say much but after some time he pretty angrily looked at me and called me a coward. I was perplexed, he went on to explain that I was hiding behind my white belt and didn't want the responsibilities of an upper belt. He then asked if I went to another gym today how would they treat me? I said like any other new student. He said exactly, now if I tied a brown belt around your waste how would they treat me? He made his point and from that day on I filled out my attendance card. The following year two months before Professor Pedor Sauer was supposed to come, Mike and Rylan got a group of us together and told us we would be testing for our blues. I was beyond excited, I had the hours, felt I had the ability and knew the curriculum backward and forward.
The day of the seminar I put on my best gi and tied my white belt at home for what I believed was the last time (yes, I drove in my gi to the seminar). I told my wife lets go to dinner to celebrate as I was leaving the house, I was so stoked to be getting my blue belt. I got to the seminar plenty early, started warming up and was excited about life. As the people started coming in I noticed that some of the guys that were supposed to be testing with me were wearing blue belts. I was confused, very confused, and as the seminar started I realized everyone who was supposed to test had blue belts on! I asked Mike, "I thought the test was after the seminar", and he said "no, they tested the night before." I felt betrayed, I asked him why wasn't I invited and he said talk to Rylan. When I talked to Rylan he said I didn't test because the last month I didn't come and didn't communicate if something was wrong. If he promoted me to blue belt would I still continue to train? He wasn't sure I would continue if he promoted me and wanted Jiu Jitsu to be a part of my life. I was completely devastated. I remember going home and having to tell my wife who was beyond happy for me that I didn't get promoted.
After this experience I give up on Jiu Jitsu for the first, and only time in my journey. I would still come in and roll once a month, my goal wasn't to learn but to try and prove I was deserving of the belt. One day, during one of my monthly trains, this blue belt named Dave Hawley tapped me out with an armlock. My ego was hurt, I asked him how long have you been training because I have never seen him before. He looked at me with a smile and said, 6 months. I got upset and as the round ended I asked if we could roll again. This time he caught me with the same armbar and he still had the same smile the whole time. As the round ended I asked if we could roll another round. He said I don't know if its a good idea, you seem pretty upset. I kept coming back to Jiu Jitsu to beat Dave Hawley but the weirdest thing happened. As I started training again, I forgot about Dave and fell back in love with Jiu Jitsu. I am still grateful to Dave who reminded me why I started training in the first place, and thankful to Rylan for showing me the way, Jiu Jitsu is amazing.
If I have any advice to new students it's to NEVER make getting a belt your goal. If you do your journey will probably be filled with lots of disappointment and heart ache. You will question your friends, your professor, and yourself. Be positive, enjoy the journey, chase the skill, set your goals to things you can control and surround yourself with amazing people and your journey will be a much better one.
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