On March 5th I received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under my friend and mentor Chris McCune of McCune’s Martial arts.
I’ve just been taking the time to absorb this in for a bit; it still feels like someone is going to come up and say, “sorry , that was meant for the other bald guy, we are taking it back.” I admit it, there would be great sadness and crying would occur; however, as it happens, Chris has not changed his mind and I’m grateful.
Being my own worst critic at times made me second guess my performance and question my abilities. While normally never satisfied, or entirely happy with my technique, at least I felt like I was progressing. Then I received the test date, March 5th at a Rigan Machado seminar. I started to prepare, not just for myself, for my goal of obtaining the Black Belt. But also for those who have supported and believed in me over the years. Chris, my friends, my BJJ family and most importantly my very, very patient wife.
March 5th finally came. The test date. I’ll admit it, I was a little nervous; I took 4 ibuprofen got on the mat and did the best I could. There were other students testing , blue, purple, brown belts as well as my friend and training partner Roland Larson , going for his black belt. It was an hour and a half of demonstrating techniques, teaching and of course live rolls with multiple partners. I had 7 rounds in all, some were my students as well as students and coaches from other academies. Everyone pushing me, making me work for every inch; by the end I was a big puddle of tired and luckily I made it through without anything going too bad . I could definitely feel my knee complaining and the tendons and muscles shaking but i was nothing to the satisfaction of being done with the test.
When we started the test; Chris was the only one in front of us, watching intently, making sure that we were on point. However; when we lined up at the end of the test waiting to receive the belts, there were 9 other black belts opposite of us lined up behind Chris in a room with well over a hundred people watching. A little awe inspiring for me. When my turn came and I heard my name called out I walked up to Chris and I was darn near teary. I admit it. I was about to say something and knew I would probably lose it and decided that for once, I’d shut up a little. It was unexpectedly more emotional than I was prepared for.
When the belt was tied around my waist and the final knot pulled tight, it was one of the best moments of my life. After spending over 25 years on BJJ. After persisting through times of not having instructors, through injuries, setbacks and all the little things that make one question “why am I doing this” or “wouldn’t it be easier to just stop?”.
To finally make it to this point, to reach this achievement and be recognized and welcomed by my peers is something that I still have a hard time expressing into words; I think grateful is a good start. I feel gratitude for all everyone in the BBJ family that have shared mat time with me. Gratitude for coaches that shared their game with me and even for mistakes that I’ve made and learned from.
Thank you to my BJJ family that has put up with years of horrible jokes while I taught and learned but still kept coming back. Most importantly, a heartfelt thank you to my wife; that has put up with so many years of gym stuff, stinky gi’s and injuries.
I am grateful and so thankful to all of them.
The saying ” a black belt is a white belt that never gave up” has a whole new appreciation for me. Don’t stop chasing what you want.