On Progression: “Have You Got Game From There?”

Last night, I got my blue belt. I’m still pretty blown away by it, and can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting it at all. Perhaps because, as someone who came into jiu jitsu from a Muay Thai background, the concept of belts and gradings still seems a bit foreign to me.

I have been putting a lot of work into my grappling, particularly since losing my last MMA fight. I felt so disappointed and humiliated by that loss that it lit a fire under me and made me determined not just to be a “striker” who had some take-down and submission defense, but a legitimate MMA fighter, with real jiu jitsu and wrestling skills. I don’t want to have to be afraid of being anywhere in the cage. When posed with the quintessential question “Have you got game from there?” I want always to be able to answer “yes.”

It is an honour to have my hard work and (hopefully intelligent) focus recognised by people whose skills and abilities I respect. It’s a little sign that I am on the right track, that I am progressing, and that I need to keep doing what I’m doing. It is nice to have this validation, as I have to admit that there have been times when I’ve doubted my “potential” (this intangible concept that allows so many to sabotage themselves!) and have been tempted to give up.

The belt doesn’t convey any special powers to its wearer, and I don’t feel any different to when I wore a white one (although now my coloured-belt friends can all stop teasing me about being a retarded white belt, which is nice.) One thing that I have been looking forward to for a while now about “being a blue belt” is the opportunity to experience a higher level of BJJ competition. Although there are some great white belts out there, there are also obviously a lot of total beginners in the white belt division. These are people who have just started training, and often also just started their journeys as athletes. They’re competing not after having had experiences in other disciplines or sports, but for the first time ever in some cases. They’re still figuring out how to develop their strength and fitness, how to deal with adrenaline and nervous energy.

These are processes that we all continue to refine, but at blue belt I’ll be able to face women who have more or less got this side of their training under control, and who are going to present me with another level of technical as well as athletic challenge. I feel that I gave a good account of myself as a white belt, especially after winning gold at the most recent GTA Australian NoGi Championships, and am really looking forward to the new challenge.

It is strange thinking of myself as a blue belt. When I first started BJJ, I thought that blue belts knew how to “do” jiu jitsu. Now I think that blue belts are just people who’ve been practising jiu jitsu for long enough to realise just how much they don’t know yet!

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