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I had to take the last two weeks to chew on this post and figure out what I wanted to say about this next chapter in my life.
On Saturday, January 30, 2021, a month and a handful of days shy of my four year anniversary of starting this Jiu-Jitsu journey (March 9th), my Professor called my name and wrapped a purple belt around my waist. As soon as the knot was tied, I felt this surge of power and these purple beams of light arcing through my veins (Think Thanos or Tony Stark with the Infinity Gauntlet), all the secret knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu was endowed upon me at that moment and…
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Two weeks ago was our quarterly promotion day, like many schools, we come together to celebrate and support those on our team who were about to enter into the next stage of their Jiu-jitsu journey. It is the mistake of the rookie as well as the ego centered belt chasers to focus on the dyed piece of cotton instead of on the process; the journey. I learned early on in my journey that you don’t ask for the promotion and you don’t expect it, just focus on the process. I spoke about this briefly in my first few stripe promotions as a white belt, as well as my progression to Blue (yep, all of those are separate links for you, you’re welcome).
As a human being, I believe you will always have some sort of battle with the Ego – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I personally believe Ego is good, if understood, tempered and controlled. Anyways. As my girlfriend and I drove to the academy, I admitted to her that in the far reaches of my mind there was this little voice, a 1% hope that maybe today I’d get promoted. As previously mentioned, I knew better than to give that voice room to grow. Given the year of 2020 and the challenges all of us faced (say no more there), plus losing out on training due to sickness and my own fun battle with the ‘Vid, I figured that I wouldn’t even be close to getting promoted for another year.
If memory serves, about halfway through my time as a blue belt, I did ask my Professor something to the effect of what does he look for in his purple belts and what things I should be trying to challenge myself with during my time as a blue belt. I was also mindful of these things and working on them, so again, I wasn’t even in the realm of expectation.
As an aside.
Asking that particular question is not the same thing as asking for a promotion. Also, asking that question is not a guarantee of promotion, either. At the time, I was asking for direction on my journey. I’ve done that a couple times. I’ve got some goals and aspirations for my life with BJJ and I know I’ll probably have another similar conversation again with my Professor, in time. But not yet. Now is the time for me to earn my place among the purple belts, to continue to help my team and the lower belts, to study and continue developing my game. Now it is just time for me to work, to let it sink in and keep doing what I have been doing and a little more.
So, back to the drive to the Academy. I’d settled that 1% voice and was looking forward to seeing who was moving up to Blue, I thought there could be one or two Purple promotions so I was looking forward to seeing that as well.
Professor Shane had some good things to say before promotions, reminders that we are here to support each other, admitting he is slow to promote so when he ties the belt around you that you should believe that you deserve to be there in your journey because he believes you deserve your shot to step up in that level, that the belt isn’t earned “today”, on promotion day, but every day you tie it on and get on the mat, and that each new level always requires more, more mat time, more studying, more checking the ego at the door, more helping the team, etc. It was a good Professor promotion speech. Not too long, not too short, but things some of us have never heard and also things said in a different way or that some of us needed to be reminded of.
There were a good handful of teammates who got promoted to Blue, I was happy to see them cross that mile marker in their journey. There was also a promotion to Purple by a teammate who has been on the team about as long as I have, perhaps a few months longer, and I was very happy to see his promotion.
And then it happened.
I was the last one to be called up. I’m sure the look of shock on my face matched what was going on inside of me, I wish someone would’ve been able to capture the moment so we could all laugh at it. No crazy powers, no secret knowledge. Just a deep sense of gratitude, a little bit of pride in myself and the journey, and a whole lot of shock and imposter syndrome. I quietly thanked my Professor as he tied the belt around me.
It is a bit weird and profound, this dyed piece of cotton now around my waist when I step on the mats. I’m still me. I’ve just survived and stayed on the mats for (almost) four years now, the great majority of people who were there when I started and many who started after me are no longer on the team. I think, if memory serves, there are four of us who remain from the couple months prior or just after I started. OG’s, in my mind, the original gangsters, with I the least among them.
It’s odd. Almost full-circle-like, for me becoming a purple belt. It was, after all, a purple belt who invited me to come try BJJ at the Academy. It was a purple belt who I got to work with a bunch during my white belt journey and helped me along the way. And that example stuck with me as I helped any newcomer to step on the mats.
So, welcome to the Purple Haze chapter of my BJJ journey!
I’m hoping to contribute to the BJJ community as well as to my team in a larger way with my writing at this stage, but, I’m not sure what that is going to look like.
Not yet, at least.
But I’ll keep writing, I’ll keep sharing and hopefully contribute something useful as I walk this next part of the journey.
As far as helpful tips or something useful to give back to you, dear reader, in closing this post, I’ll just say this:
Don’t quit. Just. Don’t. Quit.