"Here lies Epictetus, a slave maimed in body, the ultimate in poverty, and
favored by the gods." -- Epitaph of Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher(c. 50 - c. 135)
I have often felt gratitude since discovering Jiu-Jitsu about five years ago. So
far and on and off, I have been to three great schools and met exemplary people
who were strong and more importantly positive and great characters. I still
remember Mr. Lee, a wiry Asian guy in his late 50s with his bluebelt son in the
same gym, told me four years ago: "You guys (me and Tim) are on exactly the same
path we were."
Wednesday, a few folks were promoted to bluebelts among whom was Tim, a slender
Asian of about 140 lbs in his late 30s or early 40s. Not particularly strong or
fast, he was hard to control on the mat and always seemed to know what to do
next. His promotion gave me hope.
A Jiu-jitsu blackbelt is often called professor and usually takes more than 10
years, which reminds me of the academia. From an undergrad to a Ph.D. can take
about the same amount of time. In both systems, you show promise early in school
and persist long enough and eventually reach professorship.
Which one is harder? Here is my back-of-the-envolope estimate. According to
Google, out of the world's near 8 billion people, 1.5 million are faculty
members. Among jiu-jitsu practitioners, there is a saying that out of 100 that
walk in the dojo, one gets a bluebelt, and out of 100 bluebelts, one blackbelt.
Accordingly and assuming every homo sapien is interested in jiu-jitsu, there
would be less than 800 thousand blackbelts, about half of the size of faculty.
So the selection in the martial art seems twice as strict.
The past month has been the best in my training so far. Minor injuries from the
initial adaptation have healed, the chronical pains in the left hip and the
right leg have improved, there have been no sick days or new injuries, and I
have slept well and taken four or five lessons a week. I have especially enjoyed
the self-defense and takedown (arm-drag, judo, Russian tie, etc.) lessons in the
last two weeks.
Maybe it was because of my age and the nature of jiu-jitsu which allows full
force in sparring, the coaches were protective. Both Eric and Roni reminded me
of the correct grips to avoid injury. Anytime I met one with taped fingers, I
was thankful for the lesson. Early on, Eric jokingly reminded the teenagers to
be careful rolling with me. Gene broke up my spar with Mike, a big wrestler who
just joined. "Let him go with the bigger guys for now." I since learnt to avoid
a few new guys who used a lot of brute strength. I had to accrue time on the mat
to get better and injuries were the last thing I needed. Indeed, I witnessed two
serious accidents so far and noticed that a few guys had stopped coming.
In the last class of the month, Gene again took my partner, Nick, away before
the roll. "It was part of a senior protection protocol." I quipped to the 200lb+
whitebelt. When Michael, a bluebelt(and a great guy by the way), who just came
back from yet another injury, asked "You are still here! You still like it?" I
told him "Why not? I am a whitebelt and everyone is nice to me!"