Wednesday, December 04, 2013

BJJ Black Belt 4th December 2013

I am nearly fifty-nine. About to start my sixtieth trip around the sun on this pale blue dot.

My goal was to achieve a Jiu Jitsu black belt before I was sixty. I have been fortunate beyond all expectation to have achieved that goal ahead of time. In realising my good fortune, I also realise I have much to be grateful for.

The saying is, "You don't get good at Jiu Jitsu by yourself." I started on a list of people I wanted to thank, but soon realised it would be enormously long and I'd probably leave important people out.

Jiu Jitsu is challenging and fun, but it can also be hard, frustrating and punishing. The best lessons come from losing. Every black belt has tapped out tens of thousands of times. So often what has made the difference to me has been a smile, a kind word, a gesture of welcome, friendship, encouragement, sympathy or inclusion, a shared wisecrack to lift the mood, or a helping hand. And not only from an instructor ... an insight, example, or gesture of support can come from a fellow student of the art with any belt colour. The is the Art Suave, the gentle art. Be kind to your training buds, even when you're slamming a clock choke on them.

I've had people tell me I have been a role model or inspiration to them, people about whom I've felt exactly the same in reverse. I've met true warriors of both genders and all ages, and only a small proportion of them are black belts.

There *are* some fine human beings who do deserve a special mention.

My wife and best friend Patricia Nerlich, who has provided the home base of love, support, and stability, putting up with my three nights and one weekend day away for decades, and enduring on occasion some very strange martial arts related situations, along with the usual trials of dealing with a martial arts obsessive-compulsive that most of our significant others have to deal with.

When I told John Will (one of the finest martial artists on the planet in his own right) that I had started training with Anthony Lange, John, completely unsolicited, said something like, "With Anthony it's about YOU ... while with X, Y and Z its about THEM". Damn straight. Anthony to me exemplifies the modern martial artist, the modern warrior. The motto of Langes MMA is "Developing the individual" ... and that's what Anthony does. He is a man of his word and a man of integrity ... qualities that should be universal amongst martial arts instructors, though I have found them to be much rarer than they should be. Had I not met Anthony, I would not be a black belt today. That simple.

Peter King and Darko Zaric have also been essential parts of my Jiu Jitsu education and development. Knowing both gentlemen has been a pleasure and a privilege.

Rick Spain introduced Jiu Jitsu to his Wing Chun academy via John Will about fifteen years ago. He was my principal BJJ coach most of the way to purple belt. He also helped me realise that nearly all perceived limitations can eventually be overcome, even some physical ones.

David Crook started me off with Bac Fu Do Kung Fu back in the days when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Much of it was basically free private lessons, just me and him in a park near our office. He showed me that you don't have to hate people who practice martial arts other than your own, or even more to the point people who practice the same art as you but at a different school, and that I had the inner strength to transcend wimphood and pursue warriorhood. He also set the bar very high for any other instructor I was going to consider training with.

Jiu Jitsu has introduced me to many other intriguing and challenging subjects and people: Tool, Alex Grey, the various guests on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the not-jiu-jitsu-but-still-sort-of-jiu-jitsu stuff John Will talks about, etc.

Just about everyone says it, but its true; black belt is just the beginning of where the real learning starts. I really feel a need to go back to square one and relearn the fundamentals properly this time. What I can do properly is a tiny proportion of what I know, and what I know is a tiny proportion of everything there is to know.

My Jiu Jitsu goals are on track! Black belt a few days ago, setting me up for a coral belt at age 89, and a red belt when I'm 107!

Peace. Love. JIU JITSU.