For those who have taken the time to read my pedagogy and philosophy link, you will recognize the following as the first chapter of that section. I was reviewing it and found it to be withstanding the tests of time. I hope you enjoy and are furthered by it!
PRIDE COMETH BEFORE A FALL
“Why boasteth thyself, o evil men? Playing smart but then not being clever. I say you’re working inequity to achieve vanity. But the goodness of Jah Jah idureth for iver. So if you are the Big Tree, we are the small axe, sharp and ready.”
-Small Axe by Bob Marley and The Wailers
I have come to find that in Jiu-Jitsu, it is easy to believe that the color of your uniform, the patch on the back, or the brand of your rash guard will make you feared by opponents. Also, with the adaptation of techniques, students often desire to know the latest and greatest techniques, even if they have not mastered the core fundamental techniques. I came to know this because I was guilty of it.
I too, have been guilty of belt envy. This is the admiration, aspiration, and all consuming desire to obtain the next piece of colored cloth to cover my waist. One must be cautious not to let his or her vanity consume the practice of jiu jitsu! If one becomes too focused on belt color, then failure is close. Professor Caique has a poster in his academy that says, “A black belt is a white belt who never quit.” I had heard this before, but at a time in my life when I was thinking that blue belt was my final resting place, I saw this poster, thought about what Caique was saying by having it up in his academy (a place where there are few posters, flare, or pictures). It sunk in. I was not going to quit. Neither are you!
Forget about the belts. They will come faster and in due time if you are focused more on learning than on progressing. Throwing away vanity is difficult in a materialistic society, but in the practice of Jiu-Jitsu, it is necessary.
Next, it is of dire importance that my students understand that the core fundamentals I have chosen have been instilled in me as the basis for developing a personal Jiu-Jitsu that is effective and practical. It is more important that you be able to escape a mount, submit an opponent from cross-side, pass the guard, or perform an effective sweep, than it is to have the latest and greatest brand of gi or rash guard. I want my students confident that they can enter a competition, defend a real life attack, or at a minimum teach a technique wearing the simplest of outfits. Patches, medals, brands, and other material attractions mean nothing in this martial art/sport and that is why I love it! It is you and me, and our skills, not our money and good looks that will determine who is going to end victorious.
The belt promotion process is a long haul. It will feel nearly like a lifetime. Part of that purpose is to determine loyalty, not only to an instructor, but to the martial art. There will be flavors of the day that will tempt you away from BJJ. Belts come easier in other art forms, so those gratified by cloth will leave for other styles. BJJ requires extreme time and emotional commitment. It is often said that a blue belt is at an experiential equivalent to a black belt in many of the traditional martial arts (hereinafter TMA). I want this to be true of my Small Axe Jiu-Jiteiro. Blue belts better be able to run a class, bring up white belts, and understand the philosophy of BJJ thoroughly.
Summary: If you are worrying about the next belt promotion, you are wasting energy that could be used on improving. To restate my ladder metaphor again; progressing through BJJ is like climbing the ladder to a high dive. The steps upward are narrow and defined (i.e. you are progressing to the next belt level with your peer group and the measurement is more or less uniform). However, once you plunge into the pool of Black Belt, there are no narrow steps, just a deep pool in which one must learn to swim, tread, sink, or float (i.e. the black belt level encompasses a broad spectrum of ability). Thus, worrying about the time it takes it go from white to blue, or blue to purple will seem very insignificant and will seem like wasted energy when you reach black belt and are finding your place in the pool.
I hope this chapter spurs thought.