Friday, December 14, 2018

Blue Belt

 A few days ago I was promoted to the rank of blue belt in Brazilian  Jiu Jitsu. BJJ is a martial art that has become extremely popular since the advent of mixed martial arts fighting and the UFC. BJJ concentrates on grappling, ground fighting and submissions/chokes to subdue your opponent. The BJJ lineage starts with Japanese Jiu Jitsu through Judo to BJJ. In UFC 1 Royce Gracie showed the world the effectiveness of BJJ against other fighting styles and now BJJ is one of the dominant disciplines in the sport. No serious MMA fighter gets very far without a basic knowledge of BJJ or grappling.

BJJ is an extremely complicated and complex martial art. It is not uncommon for individuals to take 10-15 years of consistent training to achieve black belt status. No juvenile is eligible for black belt status . Blue Belt is the first rank that signifies you are no longer a beginner. Stripes of tape are used by some academies to denote intermediate proficiency within each belt. 

Image result for bjj rank system

I am affiliated with the Ribiero Bros BJJ Association. Saulo and Xande Ribiero are multiple time world champions and are known for an aggressive and dominating style of BJJ focusing on pressure. 
Image result for ribeiro jiu jitsu

The academy I train at is Iowa City Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Professor Jason Clarke. Jason is an extremely dedicated and knowledgeable instructor. I appreciate the fact that he concentrates his instruction on self defense applications and has taught/hosted multiple seminars integrating weapons based grappling techniques. Check out his website, Instagrams and Facebook feeds.

My journey in BJJ started 2.5 years ago. I never considered myself a martial artist prior to my retirement form the military. I had wrestled in high school and been a wrestling official. Wrestling was and is my favorite sport. I also had participated in the hodgepodge of hand to hand combat and defensive tactics training during my military and law enforcement endeavors. However no formal sustained training. But prior to starting BJJ I had been taking Commando Krav Maga for a little over a year and had made some progress. However I attended a weapons based grappling seminar and found the techniques difficult to apply under actual pressure. The instructor mentioned that if we were serious about self defense we should take Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) or BJJ for a year to get the basics. Since Muay Thai was not readily available in my area I settled on BJJ. ICBJJ was recommended to me by some mutual friends.

ICBJJ is a fantastic place to learn. The people are welcoming and great training partners. Jason and his instructors will guide and mentor you in the art of BJJ. Pushing you while making it a safe, and an environment conducive to learning. Initially I was not committed as I should have been to the process. I would find any excuse not to go to practice because lets face it BJJ is hard. However eventually I committed to attending training at least once a week, no excuses. Since that time I have completed, to date, over 70 weeks of uninterrupted training.

One thing that separates BJJ in my mind from other martial arts is that there is hard contact live sparring occurring on a regular basis. You find out very quickly if you are doing something correctly one someone is trying to keep you from doing it. One of my challenges as an older guy is managing injury while I continue to train. Sometimes it is quite the challenge. On a regular basis I experience soreness and fatigue. I am easily 20 years older than the majority of students at the academy ( I may be the oldest student, not sure on that). I have also experienced a broken finger and some severe toe injuries during the course of training. However lots of tape and being selective with how hard I spar when injured has helped me to continue to train as I heal.

2-3 years is the average time needed to qualify for blue belt in the Ribiero system. My 2.5 years puts me solidly in the middle of that demographic. Professor Clarke has a simple standard for his blue belts. " My blue belts should be able to survive for 5 minutes with any untrained person in the world." I like that he is not saying you will win, he is not saying if the other person has any training you will even survive 5 minutes. There are no guarantees. What he is saying, however is that if in a fight, with the majority of human beings you will have the skills to survive at least 5 minutes. This gives you options, and options are always good when your life is at risk.

As a blue belt candidate I had to pass a test consisting of demonstrating over 50 individual BJJ techniques followed by a pressure test with a committed attacker punching me a grounded weaponless fighter. Worse case scenario. The test was difficult,as it should be, Since I was the last one in our group of candidates to take the test I was solo and got all the attention. This was good and bad. Lots of test anxiety but I also got some individual  correction and instruction as well. The test did not go 100% flawless. I had some issues. Jason corrected those issues and had me re-perform the technique correctly if I would stumble. The test also turned into a great learning experience as I picked up some small details throughout that will make me more dangerous.

I mentioned after the test that knowing my resume and history that some may find it odd I consider this one of my life's significant achievements.  The hard work and dedication I put in, the grind and the hard sparring sessions. Making it to class 2-3 times per week around a insane work schedule. Physically competing against much younger opponents on a regular basis. Finally becoming more immersed in The Way. The Way in my mind being a lifetime habit of fitness,knowledge,learning, character development and  humbleness. All these things make me proud of this accomplishment.

It is said that more people quit BJJ after achieving blue belt status than possibly any other belt. The "Blue Belt Blues" is a common phrase thrown around. Many hypothesize that people quit at Blue Belt because they believe they have made it or that once reaching this initial goal they are not sure what is next. Since my goal in BJJ is to strengthen my ability to defend myself my goal continues. I am not sure how long I will be actively practicing BJJ. Age is a factor no matter what people say. On average to get to the next level of Purple belt I need to spend 4-5 years more on the mats. This will put me at close to 60 years old. Will I physically be able to handle the rigors of training? I think so, there are BJJ practitioners into their 80's. I will just keep going to practice and try to get 1% better everyday.

No comments:

Post a Comment