The other day I found myself in a bit of a quandry: for the first time in all my time doing BJJ
, I didn't have my belt. It was an honest mistake. I left my gi bag in my wife's car on Saturday and hadn't expected to have the time to roll come Monday. I was wrong... and s*** out of luck.
But I really
wanted to roll, so I knew that sacrifice was needed. I have several Moya Brand
gis (my favorite) and each gi comes with a complimentary white belt. Until that point they had always stayed in their original packaging, strewn around my house. I really didn't want to wear any of my actual previous belts, so I figured, what the hell?
In turn, I stumbled across an interesting scenario that kind of played out like a scene from Undercover Boss: The BJJ Edition.
Rolling at a gym not my own
, there were those that knew me, but the lower belts didn't. I felt no need to tell them my actual rank, instead opting to just roll. I mean, what difference does it really make what color your belt is? No one would know the difference if it was no gi.
What I experienced was something unexpected: they rolled really hard. That isn't to say that when I actually wear my appropriate rank that other grapplers don't roll hard, but there was a different kind of urgency to it. Maybe it was due to rolling against someone with a brand new, still stiff white belt or maybe it was just rolling against any old white belt, but there was a different kind of tenacity to it all. Positions t
hat I have otherwise experienced grapplers giving up the sub lead to immediate and long-lasting resistance.
It was an interesting moment and it made me think back on my own BJJ past. I remember rolling with one of my first instructors, still a white belt and getting a loop choke sunk in pretty well. It was a good grip and he had to actively defend, then I just let it go. There was something about the idea of tapping him out that made me give it away. It was the only time I ever came close to subbing him and I gave it up.
To this day, I couldn't fully explain why. I don't think it is something necessarily held by everyone, but it was kind of like the idea of beating your dad for the first time at a game of one-on-one or something. Like if you won, that meant something more that maybe you weren't ready to handle.
This may be a bit over-dramatic in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
terms and maybe it was just some good old Minnesota nice kicking in, but there was definitely a different feel to it all. Like I had my place on the hierarchy and that was that.
And it was total bulls***.
Rank is earned through success, failure and a lot of mat time. As I've said before, it takes a lot of tears to turn that white belt blue. A lot of blood to turn that blue belt purpl