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Earning My Second Stripe on My White Belt

It is difficult to go from most activities being goal and achievement oriented to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where the focus is on learning techniques and bettering yourself ahead of earning belts and stripes. BJJ remains the most humbling sport I have ever practiced. You can try to just out muscle your opponent but, in my experience, has just led me to gas out and have an even harder time. That’s especially true when facing someone bigger and stronger than me. No truer than when rolling with a more experienced practitioner who understands the fine art of using your effort against you.

My main focus in the last three months has been to regain what I learned three years ago and approach the whole experience in a different way. I’d love to say a more mature way but who am I kidding? Patience has been the key to any success that I’ve had on the mat since coming back. I have learned to take my time and wait for my openings rather than forcing it. Test my opponents’ reactions to small movements to guarantee a higher rate of success. And, as is frequently the case, when I’m unsuccessful, to manage my breathing and exertion so as to have energy for the entire round and beyond.

I have caught myself hoping and silently pleading for the end of class to come and to learn that I’d earned another stripe on my belt. It is the need for validation that I know all too well and that finds a way to creep back into my life. It is a feeling that I have longed for at different times and I have worked to manage more effectively. There is no more important time to manage that feeling than on the mat.

At the end of class today, the professor lined us up as he normally does with his call to “fix your belts, fix your gis.” We lined up in order from highest rank to lowest rank and I was content with my performance. At the first thought of whether today would be the day for that new stripe, I caught myself and refocused on the true goal of doing jiu-jitsu; I am here to learn and thrive on the process. That calmed my nerves and I was back. To my astonishment, Professor David called me to the front to give me my second stripe on my white belt. I could not have been prouder of my achievement in that moment save for one thing: I managed my expectation for validation and was simply happy. I was in the moment and being mindful. Validation that all of my hard work in the last few years is coming to fruition.

Now to continue learning more and getting after it

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