Check out our latest blog from MTT BJJ Coach, Jon Grilz:
Recently, I had the pleasure to be there to watch as five of MTT’s grapplers got promoted as we added two blue belts and three purple belts to our ranks.
As a coach and a grappler, I am very proud to have been a part of the opportunity to see the guys earn their new ranks. I also probably take too much pride in the moment as, if I am being realistic, my part in the process was incredibly small. Achievements and promotions are from dedication and work. The coach is just a means to an end. Still, I lost sleep the days preceding it. I got nervous for them. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they earned it, but I wanted them to be as comfortable and ready for their tests as possible. I wanted them to knock it out of the park.
And they did.
It made me look down at my belt, the grime on the stripes, the streaks of white from where the colors has faded or the stitching given away from tying and retying and it made me wonder, what is the point of our belts? Sure, as far as competitions go it makes things easier to bracket, but doesn’t it just come down to either you can do it or you can’t?
In this sport, there really aren’t any hard and true requirements for what it takes to get a promotion. Someone like BJ Penn or Caio Terra can fly through the ranks and get a black belt in the same amount of time it takes someone else to get their purple. I think that belts are medals of honor for martial arts.
People outside of BJJ don’t understand what it takes. This is a sport not just of technique, but about being able to successfully implement the technique against someone who knows as much or more than you do. If we based BJJ success off of being able to do it against a novice, then we would be black belts in a year or less…like some other martial arts that will remain nameless. On the other hand, there is a strange aura in looking at a worn out belt, or the stripes on the belt. We each give our own meaning to the ranks and styles of our opponent. We can look at someone of a higher rank and know (with fairly high certainty) that they put in their dues.
The belts become a tool by which we are reminded that while we might not see it, our skills and abilities have improved. Our instructors and professors have taken notice of our efforts and want us to know that we have grown. I look at my belt and I know to the day when I got it. I know when I got my last stripe. I know how it will feel the moment I pick it up and start to tie it. I could probably do it blind from a pile of other belts and know that it is mine. I just got a strange “Full Metal Jacket” feel from that, but it’s true. This belt is mine. It is unique and special. It is with with me for nearly every minute of every hour that I’ve rolled in a gi.
I look at my students' belts and I want them to change color. I want them to improve and excel and push me to my absolute limits. I want them to look down at their new belts and not only know that they earned it, but also be proud of what it took to earn it. I used to get mad at people that “bought” belts or lied about rank. Now I just feel sorry for them. They think that the belt makes the man, but it’s the man that makes the belt.
The belt is just a symbol of our successes and failures. It is a way to show everyone else on the mat what we earned, but we still have to live up to the standard.