Personal achievement Monday

Despite the fact that this blog is pretty much my opinion on assorted forms of pop culture, I don't often post about myself personally (that's what social media is for, ha!). However, I thought I might take this opportunity to share an achievement that crept up on me two weeks ago.

After five and a half years of training in the grappling art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - seven if you don't count an 18 month sabbatical  when I was unemployed, short on cash and just generally making excuses - I finally received my purple belt.

For the record, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, unlike some other martial arts, only has 5 belts for adults: white, blue, purple, brown and black (ignoring the red belts etc. for grand masters in the sport). Although there are sadly some BJJ academies where you can fast-track and essentially buy your belt, traditionally it should take you around two years of regular, at least twice-a-week training to progress to the next grade. In other words, unless you're exceptional, you really shouldn't become a black belt before eight to ten years.

General consensus is that the toughest jump to make is that between blue and purple, as this indicates you are a senior practitioner, beyond "beginner" white and "competent" blue. It's also worth noting at this point that BJJ grading is, unlike many of the other martial arts, very informal. Your progression is based less on being able to perform a set syllabus of techniques and more on your improvement in class, your performance in competition and the time you've spent just generally paying your dues in the sport, helping others etc.

Anyway, as class ended the other Monday, our instructor announced a surprise grading, with people receiving stripes or a new belt. I really wasn't expecting it, and frankly getting my purple belt is easily one of the greatest achievements of my life (Modern Family and Married... with Children actor Ed O'Neill ranks  receiving his black belt up alongside the birth of his children).

The reason for this? I am definitely NOT a natural at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To reach this point, there's been a lot of sweat, sprains, tears (of frustration) and even some blood. For five and a half years years, 80% of my time on the mat has just been me trying to survive as the typically smallest, and definitely weakest, member of the academy. A handful of other girls have appeared, but never stayed, so it's been me training with guys the whole time. Every class has been a lesson in humility, forcing me to let go of my pride or risk injury. (I wrecked my elbows a lot in my first year, refusing to tap out to armbars).

When it happened, it honestly didn't feel real receiving my my purple belt. I don't really feel worthy of it. I'm very aware of my technical weaknesses so I feel like a bit of a sham wearing it. It is however a marvellous incentive to train even harder, grow the sport and just generally prove my worthiness of it. I know I'm a 15 - 20 year black belt, so I have a long road to stick to for a very long time.

P.S. Our academy still follows the practice of "running the gauntlet": When you receive your new belt, you run in-between two columns of your classmates as they hit you on the back with their belts. This was my turn...


Stellalune said…
Awesome! Congrats! :D

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