An Unexpected Milestone

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.

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8 Responses to An Unexpected Milestone

  1. Jason Brinn says:

    CONGRATULATIONS TONY! You definitely deserve it man. And I met Carlson back in 99 and what a cool guy who certainly wouldn’t promote someone who didn’t have it in them. What most people think, especially the young bucks out there today, about what it means and takes to become a black belt is totally wrong. You deserve it simply for the fact that it makes you want to do more and try harder that is what a black belt is truly about.

  2. Oscar Kallet says:

    Tony, any seasoned martial artist will recognize the depth of your understanding as a practitioner and instructor. I have trained with the some of the best instructors in the world in Brazilian Jiujitsu and other martial arts. You have the ability to analyze technique and convey instruction. It is a rare talent. I appreciate your instruction and friendship.

  3. Tony, a late congratulations here to you on your blog! It is a massive accomplishment and enjoy it, embrace it and most of all live up to it!!!

  4. Darren Cowan says:

    Don’t doubt yourself. I saw your comment about not feeling like a bad ass. You are a bad ass. Your instructors saw it in you, no illusion. You are a black belt in the most effective martial arts style in the world! That’s something to be proud of, bro! Bows.

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