Two weeks ago, I was a struggling purple belt. Today, I’m a struggling brown belt.
Many of my teammates have asked me how it feels to be a brown belt. The truth is that it feels exactly the same as being a purple belt. I tell them:
“I didn’t get a book called “The Secret Techniques of Jiu-Jitsu. The Professor didn’t show me a secret handshake. Hell, I didn’t even get a key to the executive washroom. Nothin’.”
It feels exactly the same.
I remember when I first started training that even a blue belt was a magical thing. Purple belt was unimaginable. Brown was magical. Black? Mystical.
I may have been a blue belt longer than any person on the planet. I wore that belt - on and off - for over 15 years. Being a blue belt was very comfortable.
When I was promoted to purple, I was horrified. Shocked. I was out of my comfort zone. Purple? Insane.
I wore that purple belt for over three years. I took four to six classes per week, plenty of open mats, private classes, and teaching. I put my time in on the mat. Again, I was comfortable.
But I was resigned that, soon or later, I would be promoted.
I asked my Professor not to mercy promote me. “Don’t promote me because I’m old (I’m almost 50). Don’t promote me because I’m here all the time. Don’t promote me because I’ll teach when you ask me to teach. Promote me when you feel, when you know, I’m a brown belt. Until then, I’m in no rush.”
My brother-in-law told me the secret to getting a black belt. “Don’t die,” he said. “They have to give it to you sometime.”
A couple of years ago I had a heart attack. I didn’t die.
Now I’m a brown belt.
I have a couple of more things I want to write about this, but this is the internet, I need to keep things short.
The next few things I write will be what I think it means to be a white, blue, purple, brown, and black belts. The black belt part I will be speculating on. I have experience in the others, albeit limited in brown.
I also want to comment on what it means to me personally to be promoted to brown.
And I’ve always wanted to write a piece I call “The Long Con.” The long con being the belt system itself.
Anyway, that’s for another day.