I reached a major milestone in my training yesterday – being promoted to brown belt in BJJ.
I’ve been practicing the martial arts in various forms for over 30 years. I hold black belt
ranking in a couple of arts and lower ranks in a few more. I think I can honestly say that
my journey to brown belt in BJJ involved as much time, sweat, pain, effort, and overall
learning as all my training in other arts combined.
It feels a little odd. I appreciate the acknowledgment of the work I have put into the art.
I’m confident that I deserved it. Still, a part of me thinks “a BJJ brown belt should be a
real badass on the mat. I’m competent, but I’m not really a badass.” Partly that’s because
I train with a lot of tough people. Partly it’s because I’ve learned enough to begin to see
how much more I have ahead of me still to learn. Partly it’s because I’m 49 years old with
a desk job. I’m not particularly strong or fast or athletic. My style on the mat is to
protect myself and frustrate my opponent until he gets tired or sloppy and leaves me an
opening. This sort of approach requires patience and letting go of the ego-driven thought
that I should just be able to impose my will on my opponent.
Still, it’s nice to have some validation of the fact that I’m making progress. Jiu-jitsu is
a lifetime’s study. As we learn, our standards and goalposts move along with our skills.
Sometimes they move even faster, making it hard to realize that we’re actually improving at all. Every so often it’s good to get feedback saying “yeah, you’re really getting