On Sunday, the 18th of November I was promoted to brown belt. This might get soppy. Bear in mind I can remember the shock, followed by being completely enamoured with being promoted to blue belt. It seemed so alien to me at the time, and such a privilege. I didn’t ever really think about the possibility of becoming a blue belt, so it goes without saying that I didn’t ever see myself surpassing that. When I started all this, there really wasn’t BJJ in Dundee. Sure there were a few places doing NoGi grappling, but let’s for a moment make the distinction and suggest that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is in the Gi. That’s what people think of in their mind’s eye when someone says BJJ. Pyjama fighting, innit.
Way back when (eight years ago) – Billy, Grant and myself grabbed the bull by the dick and started trying to familiarise ourselves with the gi (Billy had already dabbled, he was a seasoned blue belt). In its infancy, I’m not even sure whether the aim was actually to build something or not, but that became a byproduct of what we were doing. For months we trained on a Sunday when the gym was free, and we’d dabble at open mats too. The love for the Gi was just there for us, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe it just clicked. We built a relationship with David ‘Speedy’ Elliot our now head coach, we visited him and he visited us regularly – helping us grow our repotoire of techniques. Fast forward a little bit, and there’s now multiple classes in Dundee and the surrounding area hosted by us Origin Jiu-Jitsu coaches. Somehow, we did that. Our influence has made its stamp, that’s pretty weird to think of.
Credit where credit is due – I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this if it wasn’t for Dundee Mixed Martial Arts welcoming me into their little club.
The grappling scene around this neck of the woods is also now healthier than it’s ever been. There’s Judo, Sambo, Freestyle Wrestling, NoGi, Catch & to top it all off Gracie Barra also run some classes in Dundee. This place is flourishing!
If you dig grappling, Dundee’s a pretty fucking decent place to be now with differing views and schools of thought on how to approach all of this limb destruction. Spread your wings a little further, and the world’s your lobster with places like Fair City Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie Barra Fife, Jax MMA, and Results Gym to name a few. That’s not even going far from Dundee. Scotland as a whole now has reclaimed its title as a land of the savages, but we no longer weild Claymores. It’s all double legs and kimura traps now.
Let’s get back on track before I put you to sleep with words instead of chokes.
On Sunday, Speedy hosted another interclub. He does this twice a year. The bi-annual interclub extravaganza.
The turnout was immense, the matches on the day were fun, technical and great to watch and be a part of. The level at each belt division is going through the bloody roof, because of the hard work that all the coaches are putting into their individual teams. A white belt when I started compared to now, is a very different thing. It’s great for us all to come together, on one big day (well two) to celebrate how far we’ve come. As a coach, that’s pretty god damn cool to see how my guys stack up against their guys in a non-threatening environment. Before and after your own matches, you can help coach friends, drill/spar or just hang out and enjoy the day. It’s ace.
The day has become a bit of blur. One minute myself and my chauffeur Danny are arriving in Newcastle, next minute we’re fighting in our retrospective categories (I was really impressed with Danny on the day), and then I’m standing in line alongside Grant and a fuckload of Origin black belts as promotions are being handed out to each team – one by one. It was immense to see some of the guys that I work with on a weekly basis get promoted. Whether that was stripes, or belts.
The big one for me though, was seeing my main man Tony getting his shiny new purple belt. It came as a complete surprise to him, because Grant and I had finished our promotions and Speedy gave him the belt personally. He’s improved so much since getting his blue it’s frightening, and there isn’t a person in the club that doesn’t value him as a training partner. He’s just the best fucking dude you’re ever likely to meet.
Once the team promotions were handed out, Speedy asked that the coloured belts go back into line so that only the black belts were at the front of the room. This didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary at the time, but my team freaked out as Grant and I walked back into the group. It’s like they realised what was about to happen before we did.
Barely a minute removed from the lineup, Speedy mentioned that today was going to be a special day and he had a few more promotions to give out. The next people to be promoted would be joining the Jiu-Jitsu elite as he put it. That next big step. Speedy doesn’t give out promotions lightly. He promotes when he believes you’re ready, and not a moment before.
That’s helped me immensely whenever I’ve doubted whether I should be wearing the belt around my waist, or how well I’m doing – I take a moment and remember who promoted me, and the standard he holds people to. It’s a small comfort when you’re sliding down the side of a hill, into a deep dark valley of despair (or in Grant’s case, being pulled off of his feet by his daft dog Hugo!).
To Grant and I it seemed obvious what was coming; Billy and Mighele were getting their brown belts. They’re two of Darlington’s finest – absolute gentleman off the mats, and utterly terrifying to compete against on the mats.
Speedy mentioned that he was going to call out these next people together so that they could ALL be promoted at the same damn time.
Mighele. Billy. Barry. Grant. Fahad. What the fucking fuck.
As I walked up, I was fucking shitting myself. My team went mental seeing myself and Grant getting called up; just like Dom’s and Speedy’s teams did seeing their own guys called up too.
I can’t explain how nervous I was, but I had to hold focus so that I didn’t burst into tears like a wee bairn. Had I been promoted alone, I would have been fine, stoic and locked in on the moment – but this was different, I felt so privileged to have shared that little moment with those four people in particular, because of how much I admire them all as individuals. They’re great people. It felt rare and special – and it’s one that I’m going to remember for a long time because of what it means to me. I’m sentimental like that, for the cantankerous cunt that I am.
I’ve had belts before, but this was different. For a brief moment, five purple belts stood ahead of five black belts and we were welcomed to that next level. I’m in good company here, supported by friends and team members to be the best I can possibly be as a brown belt.
The reception I’ve received upon getting back to Dundee has been incredible.
My self-deprecating appraoch has likely clouded my judgement on whether I’m actually good at this stuff – but I certainly didn’t expect so many people to say how happy they were to see me get my brown belt, or how much I deserved it for the amount I train, time I put into helping people, and the techniques I use/show on a regular basis. It has been surreal, but highly appreciated.
Going forward, the aim is the same as it’s always been. I want to be better at Jiu-Jitsu today, than I was yesterday. I know that the people around me will help me achieve that goal.
Right, fuck off. x