“A black belt only covers two inches of your a$$– you have to cover the rest,” said best by Royce Gracie. And it is true. A black belt is that, just a belt. It is what that belt represents that matters: the countless hours of training, the blood, sweat, the tears, and the sacrifices you’ve made to get it. But when the time comes for you to earn your black belt, does it matter who you get it from? Should they represent the same ideals and principles that you do?
I’ve been fortunate along my Jiu Jitsu journey to have had some very talented, knowledgeable, and passionate instructors with a wealth of knowledge. Their love for the art has been instilled in me throughout my journey, but I’ve always felt like something was missing.
I remember going to big competitions envying the relationship between a student and a coach. I wondered what it must feel like to know that someone has your back, that someone is there helping you every step of the way, someone who is truly invested in your growth. I’ve had instructors, coaches, and teammates who stepped up here and there to help me or give me some pointers, but it was always fleeting and often too little too late.
However, by not having that support, I’ve learned more than I ever could have if someone had held my hand. I’ve been forced to be self-reliant. I was taught to believe in myself regardless of what others thought. I’ve learned to look out for me because no one else could like I could. I’ve learned lessons that not only apply when on the mats, but also in life.
And that is the point, right? It is our journey. Our instructors, coaches, mentors, and teammates are just pieces of the puzzle, right? Pieces that fit and sometimes don’t. And regardless of how “perfect” the journey, all of us have missing pieces to our puzzle. That is the magic of life: imperfection. If we allow ourselves to step back, we can then see the big picture.
As I inch closer to earning my black belt I’ve been going round and round in my head thinking about if it matters who I get my black belt from? But maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong.
Maybe what matters most when earning your black belt isn’t who is doing the tying of the belt,but knowing in our heart of hearts that hell yes I’ve earned this! After all, it is our black belts that are being tied around our waists. That belt will accompany us through the next chapter of our journey as we continue to learn, grow, and evolve just as the art has.
Remember, a black belt is just there to cover 2 inches of your a$$.
Girls in Gis staff writer
Shama Ko is a brown belt world traveler. 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.