My son called me yesterday. He’s been training in BJJ for a while now but is still a white and had just, for the first time, subbed a blue belt. This is a big deal when you are a beginner, because it shows you, without a doubt, that you’re making progress. Because the blue belts submit white belts for a very long time before the roles slowly start to reverse a little. The disparity in skill is just too big.
I told him I was proud of him and how he’ll quickly end up being a much better grappler than I am.
I remember being a young martial artist and having these benchmark moments. For me, the first time was when I sparred with a jiu-jitsu brown belt when visiting another school.
I was 16 and he was an adult. I hadn’t been training kung fu that long, but we sparred a lot and he clearly didn’t. But he was a brown belt, about to do the black belt exam, so I just assumed he would kick my ass. It was the reverse: I landed kicks and sweeps on him at will and he seemed very frustrated at the end.
Those moments stay with you forever, regardless of how your training goes afterward. For me, it planted a seed that, after overcoming many more hurdles, would bloom into self-confidence. Because if I could beat that brown belt, maybe if I trained real hard I could beat others who were better than him?
That was over 35 years ago. I’m still training and learning. The benchmark moments are different now and happen less often. When they do, the same feeling of joy and drive to train harder are still there.
Looking back at this post I wrote ten years ago, The aging martial artist: how to keep on fighting when you get older, I still agree with what I wrote there.
I look forward to writing about this again in ten years.