If you ask most people what their BJJ goals are not everyone will say that they want to be a world champion…but damn near most of them will say they want to get their black belts. But is there really anything special about getting your black belt? Do we put too much stock into getting it? Is it worth all the hype? Should that really be the “end goal”?
Let’s face it for most of us it will be the last belt. A belt that we will carry with us for the remainder of our journey. It is a symbol of how far we’ve come and our knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some wear it as a badge of honor that shows the world, “yeah, I know a thing or two about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”. A black belt earns you the title of “professor” in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and in our small world that matters.
But I wonder if sometimes the quest for the “holy belt” is overshadowed by the real purpose of our journeys. We live in a society that craves instant gratification. We cut corners and sometimes compromise our principles to achieve our goals. And no matter how much we hate to admit it this is true in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu too.
The growth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has led some of our down-falls. Not just once but multiple times I’ve heard about those that are so power hungry that they go so far to “pretend” to be black belts, and the crazy part is that they convince others to follow and learn from them. Their desire to hold that power runs so strong they are willing to lie, cheat and deceive just for a belt.
Then there are some academies that promote faster to bring more value to their academies by showing they have colored belts. I’ve seen some practically hand out black belts from visiting students that ask for it. On the flip side, there are instructors that have their students sandbag at tournaments so they stand out in competition and win more often. We like to say the “mats don’t lie” and they don’t, but I’ll say this…just because someone is a black belt doesn’t mean they have to be a good one.
As I have gotten closer and closer to my black belt, I have wanted it less and less. My goal in Jiu Jitsu was never to achieve my black belt, but to learn and grow as a person along the way.
Coming up in a time where there were few black belts, I think I have a different view than most do now. When I started 16 years ago only a handful of black belts in Texas existed. Now there are close to 40 female black belts in the state. Even though there are so many more black belts now I guess in some ways I still equate being a black belt with being a unicorn.
I see having black belt as a huge responsibility. The classic “with great power comes great responsibility” quote comes to mind. I don’t think that I ever really stopped putting the idea of a black belt on pedestal. And perhaps that is why I want it less because I don’t want that responsibility.
I told a friend about how I felt about getting my black belt and that I didn’t want that responsibility. She laughed and told me “Shama you have more responsibility than most black belts!” And she is right.
But even so I still don’t want it!
I don’t want it not because I don’t feel like I deserve it. I’ve worked my butt off for a long time, I’ve overcome increadable feats, I’ve learned what I am truly made of and I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought I could. I know that when that time finally comes I will 100% know that I deserved it.
But I still don’t want it and perhaps the reason I don’t want it is I know this will be my last belt and the beginning of a new chapter.
Girls in Gis staff writer
Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX. She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003. She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.