Monday, July 2, 2012

Number 4

I started making a bucket list a few months back. I was feeling in a rut, so it felt good to think about a bunch of things I wanted to accomplish, get them written down, and then start scheming ways to make them happen. In what came as a surprise to me, I was able to cross number 4 off my list yesterday which was to get a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

I've been training Jiu Jitsu for a little over a year now and it's become one of my favorite hobbies. At 30 years old, I still have a lot of testosterone pumping through my veins, and sitting at a desk all day staring at a computer screen doesn't do much for my soul. 

As I've mentioned before, I got into Jiu Jitsu by accident. I was really just looking for a good workout when I happened into Mick Doyle's Gym. The Jiu Jitsu classes came free with what I paid for my training sessions so I started going for the extra exercise. Personally, I'm surprised it stuck. For the first 6 months I felt like a giant bruise. My throat was constantly sore from getting choked out, I often came home covered in bruises, and I just couldn't sleep enough with all the recovery my body needed. But eventually I adapted. The skin on my knuckles grew tough from having the gi ripped from my grip, I started bruising less, my throat stopped hurting, and my neck muscles got a lot stronger. Finally I was tapping people instead of constantly getting tapped. I tried not to concern myself with the quest for a belt, but I knew I wanted one, so I made it my goal to get one by the end of 2012. 

While the instructors and Mick Doyle's are awesome, they were all blue belts themselves, and the gym was in need of a higher level instructor. Mick's previous instructor, Louis Togno, a black belt out of North Carolina, had been tragically killed in a car wreck. Cleverson Silva, took over as the gym's black belt for a while, but ended up going back to Brazil. Greg Nelson was likely going to fill the void, but was a bit too busy training his UFC fighters. Then the UFC came to Omaha and brought Bob Bass and one of his fighters, Sean Loeffler, who was going to be featured on the card. Mick was kind enough to open up his gym for them to train the week of the fight, and like he does so well, struck up a friendship with Bob. 

Bob Bass started learning Jiu Jitsu under the Machado Brothers. For those unfamiliar with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, this is like saying he studied politics under George Washington. The Gracies and the Machados are the reason we even know what Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is in the United States and Bob was there on the ground level. Bob went on to win world championships, train Chuck Norris, and eventually become the first American to ever earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and he's now the black belt for our team. He was in town this weekend (he's got his own gym in California) so I was able to have a private session with him on Saturday, and on Sunday he taught a 4 hour seminar. By the end of the seminar, I was exhausted, bruised, and completely soaked through my gi in sweat, but Bob was watching, and at the end of the seminar, he felt that I, and 2 others, deserved to be promoted.

While this is a great honor for me, and the culmination of a lot of hard work, it's really just the beginning. With my blue belt, I'm still a baby in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but at this point I've been mostly potty trained. As a white belt, you're really just "dating" the martial art. There's no commitment. You can leave when you want without much after thought. A blue belt is a wedding ring and with it comes a lot of commitment, hard work, and extra responsibility.  

I look forward to the challenge, and to working my way towards number 8 on my list, which is to earn a purple belt.

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