I have been reflecting on what my white belt means to me, and has meant to me during my journey in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I first donned the white belt and stepped onto the mats nearly ten years ago, aged 22, and it was 9 years ago since my instructor put the first two stripes on my white belt.
I still palpably remember the feeling of achievement that came with those stripes:
- It’s going to sound silly but I felt it legitimised my presence within the BJJ community. I felt it said “you’re here and we know you’ve got a rough idea of what you’re doing”.
- It’s also been the hardest thing I’ve had to earn and in sport it was my most treasured achievement because I knew there had been no politics involved.
- Prior to that, I’d have said my proudest sporting achievement was making the county rugby team, six years earlier, after a series of injuries and difficulties but on reflection I feel that my selection to the squad was marred by the accusations of politics in the selections of other players, who wouldn’t have made the squad under different selectors.
This achievement gave me the confidence to continue training and compete in tournaments. My first competition after the stripes was at the Bristol Open in 2008. At this event I medalled, and won third place, although I’ve felt I should’ve done better. But who’s happy with their performances at competitions? There’s always something we can improve.
Soon after this I got hurt in rugby, then re-injured at a No Gi class, and then my life got in the way through University and other faces. Coming back in 2016, nearly ten years older and a lot heavier, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has taught me a number of things about myself:
- It has shown me that I don’t quit when it’s hard, I’ll struggle on and put my heart into it.
- Learning Jiu-Jitsu when you’re lighter is real easy when you can get your body to do what you want it to do but when you’re heavier and bigger it’s a struggle. Your core muscles aren’t there and your legs don’t work the same way with the same movement. They still aren’t there for me and I’ve been working out, and losing weight, now for 9 months since January. I can only pray that they come back sooner than later.
- After six months training at home, with Gracie Barra, I entered my first competition since returning enterring both Gi and No Gi divisions. I learned a lot from my Gi fights and I enjoyed them immensely, even if the results weren’t what I wanted, but hat’s what happens when you compete against people who are on the same level. In the No Gi, I earned a silver medal.
- I need and crave competition to help progress my Jiu Jitsu, even if I’m never going to be on the same level of competition as my instructor, and this is what is going to keep me training – the lure of winning medals at competitions. This has pushed me to organise going to Lisbon for the Europeans and Rio for the Rio Open in 2017.
- My training in Jiu Jitsu helped me with a period of workplace bullying because through my training I was experienced in wethering difficult and uncomfortable situations before I would get the dominant position on my training partners and submit them.
- My white belt has seen a number of girlfriends come and go, and that tells me that Jiu Jitsu is the constant in my life. This is something that helps me in my outlook going forward continue to be positive.
- It’s taught me a lot about my values: acknowledging hard work, respecting superiors, treating inferiors equally.
- It’s shown me I can achieve anything I want when I put the hard work in. Most of all, my journey at white belt has taught me I can make it to Black a Belt. I just need to keep training consistently, and with the life I have now that’s always going to happen.