A few weeks ago I was having fun at a Carlson Gracie Jr. seminar when my instructor pulled me over and informed me that I was being promoted to black belt.
This was, to put it mildly, a shock. I had just told a friend that I had at least a year, maybe two, to go before being promoted. I had been enjoying myself while rolling secure in the thought that I was not one of the people being considered for promotion.
If it had just been my instructor, I might even have argued with him to give me more time to work on the holes in my game. However, the decision apparently came from Carlson himself. (Later on, my instructor told me: “It’s was Carlson’s decision – but I have veto power. If I didn’t think you were ready, I would have said no.”)
I think Carlson may have been taking my age into account. There were 3 other brown belts at the seminar who deserve the promotion at least as much as I do. Carlson gestured towards them and said “They’re young. They have plenty of time.” (Geeze, Carlson. I’m only 50! Do I not have plenty of time? Do you think I’m going to keel over before the next time you come to town? Do you know something I don’t?)
I’m still ambivalent about the new rank. Shouldn’t a BJJ black belt be a total bad ass? I don’t feel like a total badass. Sure, I’m pretty tough compared to any other 50 year old computer programmer I know, but I train in a gym full of young athletes where there are lots of guys who can give me a hard time. Maybe I’ll feel better about it once my equally deserving peers receive their promotions.
The promotion has given me motivation to up my game, so as to not embarrass the rank. I realized that Carlson has always seen me rolling at my best since he only sees me at seminars and I’m usually in the zone after a few hours of drilling techniques and watching him teach. Knowing that I’m capable of rolling like that, I have been trying to be more consistent about maintaining a relaxed, technical, and super-focused mindset whenever I roll. I think this determination has helped to raise my performance baseline over the last few weeks.
For anyone who wonders what it takes to get a black belt in BJJ, in my case it took something like 5000-6000 hours of getting my butt kicked on a regular basis. Given that I am naturally neither athletic or coordinated, if I can do it, then anyone can. You just have to keep going and never give up.