For us BJJ white belts, there are two unwritten rules: 1. Techniques gleaned from YouTube videos NEVER work in real life. and 2. Moves taught in class ALMOST never work during subsequent sparring sessions. This may seem overstated, but the upper belts smile knowingly, and fellow white belts sympathetically shrug when I state this. The reason for this is simple, we are white belts. To be effective, BJJ must be drilled, re-drilled, and then drilled some more. White belts simply don’t have the time on the mats to make any technique work as it should. As practice makes perfect, a white belt hasn’t practiced enough to be proficient.
So, yesterday, when my upper-belt training partner shouts, “class move” as I successfully complete a sweep that had been taught in class earlier, I tried not to laugh too hard. As satisfying as the move was, I knew that Jim had let me have the sweep. After all, an Ewok-sized, ratty white belt wearing, sliver of a person in reality doesn’t have a glimmer of hope against a purple belt the size of an NBA swing-man. But that’s the beauty of the sport. The ratty white eventually becomes a belt of another color who will no longer need a “nice” training partner to execute the class move. Belt colors change through time on the mats and repetition.
I am thankful that my white belt is ratty and the stripes are starting to fall off for I know this means my time on the mats is starting to add up, and as a result, I occasionally pull off a class move. You learn to live for these brief moments of validation and trust the void between these moments will shorten. Provably not all that different from the golfer who lives for that one perfect swing, — momentary excellence to stop him from wrapping his club around a tree in frustration. Learning to live for these insignificant advances is what separates the ratty white belt and the glittery white belt. As a new white belt with a background in another martial art where belt advancements came relatively quickly, I was unprepared for the grind of BJJ. I thought the cry of “CLASS MOVE” should come each time I stepped on the mats. When it didn’t, I became a very unhappy white belt. Unhappy white belts have two choice: they can quit, or they can keep coming back. I chose to keep coming back.
What are the results of my coming back? Definitely NOT a significant increase in “class move” moments. In reality, they probably come further apart now as training partners increase their intensity as I improve my skill set. Perhaps my BJJ game now (at times) resembles Jiu Jitsu, though this depends on the intensity of the sparring partner as well. Because of coming back night, after night, the result is I am now comfortable being uncomfortable. The possibility of failure doesn’t scare me as much anymore, both in BJJ and in life. I have accepted the beauty of the grind of Jiu Jitsu, and this has seeped into my life as a whole. Life, like BJJ is a grind. I keep coming back!