Jiu-Jitsu is a funny old sport and to use the Shrek ogre/onion analogy, it has many layers. All walks of life do it for different reasons. There’s fitness, confidence, competitiveness, self defense and millions of other reasons to do it. We’re all on our own ‘journey’, taking different paths and routes at different speeds and trajectories but if we stick at it, we should all end up at the same place together in perfect violent harmony. The illusive black belt. It’s a multi-layered and deeply personal martial art, which I guess is why so many are put off. For me, it’s part of what attracts me to this sport. I’ve never been interested in the Kata based martial arts, because I never was a good dancer. OOH BURN! But seriously, the differences in styles in Jiu-Jitsu can make for a very interesting fight every time you meet someone new or someone old. This isn’t pugilism. We’re not limiting ourselves to the mastery of fists, we’re grabbing at everything we can.
As a gamer leveling up is validation that you’re doing something right, even if you don’t know what. I’ve known for a while that with each belt I receive, people are going to look at me very differently. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Bullseye patch for my Gi, but I don’t want to look like a Mod (I’m a rocker). So it falls into my very own hands to prove my worth, not only to myself but to others. Their opinion shouldn’t matter, but it would be ignorant for it not to. They are the reason why I’m here today. Without your training partners, good and bad you wouldn’t be the grappler you are today. It’s your ability to deal with each that matters, because there will be those that praise you, and those that doubt you. Knowing when to be humble, and when to be confident is important. Don’t ever allow yourself to be arrogant though, because as the posh folk say, it’s unbecoming.
Stepping onto the mats and tentatively tying that belt around your waist for the first time is a daunting moment. Your brain is awash with thoughts that quickly conflict one another. You’re happy, proud & anxious all at the same time. You lock eyes with familiar faces around the gym, and wonder what it is they’re thinking. Being realistic if you’re a blue belt yesterday and a purple belt today, very little has changed but some just don’t see it that way. Your game may be no further forward in your eyes, but in the eyes of others, your game has been upped, so they have to up their game too. As a result you quickly find yourself fighting a battle that isn’t really there. You’re fighting back against your peers, when all they’re doing is what they’ve always done, trained with you. They’re only pushing you to get the best out of you. And whether they’re sharks or not, we all need to be fed. For all you know, confidence bashed or not you may well be a shark to someone else. That person constantly pushing ‘lesser’ grapplers to be better. There’s something twisted in there, but it’s also very very positive.
So, Feed the Sharks.