Friday, December 20, 2013

Blue Belt Retrospective

It sounds clich├ęd to say, but I honestly wasn't expecting to get promoted this past weekend. Our school is notoriously stringent with promotions and much is considered before promotion.
I would not have been at all surprised to spend more time at blue belt competing and polishing the beginning components of what is starting to represent Jiu-Jitsu as it expresses itself when I roll.

Rather than wax generalities about faixa azul, I'll narrow it down to the focus that blue belt held a lot of important (and by important I mean formatively painful) moments for me:

I blew out my knee/had reconstructive ACL surgery.
I had to wait 9 months to have the surgery due to work and scheduling then I'd say there's another good 6-9 months before you're really starting to move again. I came to realize how important Jiu-Jitsu was to me and how much it had become a part of my daily life. The time away, though I did not realize it, ultimately was a good thing and was what I needed. I needed a mental break from the daily grind and my body had simply given out.
I came back and was forced to do things very differently and for quite awhile concede positions, learn to go to other positions (it was a long time before I felt comfortable going to mount, but as a result I developed my knee on belly/a position I had previously avoided). I also learned to play reverse de la riva guard and to invert rather than play closed guard or de la riva.
18 months of my time at blue belt was either spent injured or doing very little Jiu-Jitsu as I recovered from major knee surgery.

I competed 3x in MMA and lost each time. From each fight I learned things about avoiding overtraining, not neglecting parts of your overall skillset, and that my heart was not entirely in fighting any longer. I had proved to myself what I needed to in MMA, and it wasn't entirely for me anymore. I will fight again, eventually, before I am too old, but only to demonstrate to myself that I can properly go through training camp and embrace the process effectively.
I was never injured despite some very, very tough fights and time spent in bad positions.

I visited Brazil and trained.

I had actually never won a blue belt division outright until I came back from knee surgery. Prior to that I had closed out divisions with teammates, flipped a coin/gentlemen's agreement, but had never won a bracket outright.
Coming back from knee surgery, 10 months post-op, I won the adult and 30+ featherweight at a submission only, then did the same at a points tournament a month later.

Returning to the black belt division in Judo was another major mental hurdle.
I ended up competing at a tournament I had not prepared for because I realized the only reason I would not compete was fear of losing, rather than fear of injury. It had been almost 2 1/2 years since I had competed in Judo.
I took 3rd after a terrible call, but played well and could easily have taken 2nd my first tournament back with little preparation and the new rule changes (thanks IJF!) and in the face of the mental fear that I could get hurt again and be off the mats for months and months again.

I competed in Judo again in a couple months later in Maryland as part of a very tough tournament, doing two weight classes, taking 2nd to a very good player in the 66kg. Again, a major mental hurdle, winning very tough matches and playing well both in the 66kg and 73kg divisions, my 2nd tournament back from a very long layoff. I utilized my groundwork much more effectively, winning all of my matches save one on the mat.

I look back over who I was as a new blue belt versus now and I can't even recognize that person.

I look forward to the time I will spend at purple belt and know that it will hold both incredible joy and crushing letdown, but I look forward to it because I know I will come through it on the other side a completely different person and in the end, life is change.


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