For the promotion, I thought I still needed a couple of months and maybe should
shoot for my 50th birthday. I sucked when sparring with Eric, our head coach,
the first week and forgot some basic combinations and he caught my arm twice.
(For my excuse, I just had minor injuries in the right hip and knee). Our
six-minute roll was a test and I believed that I had failed.
Friday Nov 18 was open-mat. After I sparred with Anthony, Brenda lined us up and
called Natasha forward to receive her fourth stripe. Next, the professor called
out the 'young man' by which she referred to me all the time. It was like a
dream come true and I sleepwalked through the ceremony.
People loved it! In our 103-member Facebook group, Brenda's post won 35 likes
and loves and 18 comments that day. Pablo, who tied my belt, wrote
"Had the honor of promoting W to blue belt. He is truly a hard worker; his
jiu jitsu shows patience and understanding."
I can live with that from a blackbelt and champion.
And that says a lot about the American culture that I have experienced since
joining the gym. People have been so generous, supportive, and inspiring. I've
trained with college professors and students, medical doctors, chefs, car repair
workers, business owners, the police, etc. We share knowledge to make each other
better. If a society of communities like this is what the West have traded in
their blood-centric clans for, it doesn't seem a bad deal after all.
As for the art, I love it for many reasons and, in particular, the thought that
I could do something toward finishing this giant puzzle, even just by a tiny
bit, draws me to the gym every day. Kung Fu movies are entertaining, the
masters' instruction videos are enlightening, but as Bruce Lee said, "knowing is
not enough, we must apply." Leverage and technique can overcome strength and
seeing it so clearly in the mind's eye only drives me to practice.
If I were to list the holes in my game, I wouldn't know where to begin. John
Danaher says "if you're a blue belt and you're being pinned and held down by
white belts, you're not ready to be a blue belt." For me, big strong white
belts, especially if they are former wrestlers and striped, could probably still
hold me down for minutes.
In a significant way, however, I've set the ball rolling. 16 months and about
400 cycles of suffering and recovery have molded my body to be able to handle
six-day training weeks. Sparring, I recognize patterns and sometimes can plan
ahead. I am not fazed by big guys anymore as I know the right moves and only
need to grow experience.
Seeing my belt, Tim went silent after a short "Congratulations." I was expecting
more enthusiasm, given that we shared the interest for so long. It only dawned
on me what happened the next day on the mat when Nick asked: "Was Tim jealous?"
It was a big deal to the kid and I don't mind his response at all. I was glad
that he took it seriously as he vowed later to earn his blue belt once robotics
I have quickly got over the promotion and found myself enjoying the drills and
rolls even more. I have re-discovered some details which make my moves more
effective. I've heard a lot about plateaus and people quitting at different
levels. When am I going to get my purple belt? I don't really care. I am happy
that I keep making progress.