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On receiving a black belt

On Tuesday night I was surprised and proud to receive my black belt from Robert Drysdale.

People often say things like “The journey only begins now” and so on when things like this occur, and they’re right, after a fashion. But the truth is you just get on the mat the next day and the same guys give you trouble that did the day before, and you get the same submissions and sweeps, and screw up the same positions you did the day before. You’re the same, and why wouldn’t you be.


So for me, the journey continues. Nothing changes. The belt has never been a real goal for me. I know that’s easy to say when you have it already, but it’s true. Lately I began to think that it would be good for the club and the guys I coach, but for me I have never used it as a goal. I enjoy the journey enough. I feel a little unworthy of it, but I’m around long enough to understand that you grow into these things. I’m confident in my abilities and I know Robert doesn’t give these out easy.

But I’ll use this occasion and the modest platform my blog gives me to say a few things.

First thanks to my students, who are my teachers and training partners. Particularly thanks to Grant, Amanda, Andy, Neil, and Rowan, who are and have been my main training partners for a long time. Thanks to my wife and sons who tolerate a guy who spends more time in the gym than at home. Thanks to all of my students, past and present, who have granted me the great privilege of choosing me to coach them.

What an honour! Someone walks into your gym and says “I choose you to teach me!” Incredible.

And to you who reads wondering how to get to this point, if a black belt is your goal, or even if a blue belt or just improving a little is. Stop reading this and go train. You probably don’t do it enough. You might instagram and tweet and facebook and ask people what is better, the worm guard or the berimbolo. All those things are fun. Debating which is the coolest gi is fun. Looking at videos of guys doing cool moves is fun. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the amount of social media posts related to training and actual skill.

Just do it all after you’ve trained. Keep the goal, the goal.

It’s not easy. In point of fact it’s very hard. But the main reason that it’s hard isn’t because of the hours you’ve spent being crushed by your training partners, or the push ups, or the countless shrimps, or the injuries. All of those things are difficult, but there’s one thing that makes it harder than anything else.

It’s that it’s so slow. It takes such a long time to improve even a little bit. If you want instant gratification, this is not the game for you because for every gain you make you will find 10 other things you didn’t even realise were in the game. Every door you open leads to 5 more doors, and they in turn to 5.

You can choose to be frustrated by this, or you can choose to embrace the fact that learning how to fight another skilled human is really, really, difficult. You can marvel at how over thousands of generations, from people clubbing each other over the head to people rolling on their shoulders to get behind someone to choke them, humans have discovered the most technical and efficient methods of fighting. That’s art. You don’t get to learn that and collect the tee shirt fast. It takes time and patience.

I can’t wait to train tonight. See you on the mat.



One thought on “On receiving a black belt

  1. Really good post! Much congratulations Mr. Grapplerman.

    Posted by Royal Grappling Academy | July 25, 2014, 11:26 am

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