For many, earning the blue belt only takes 3–6 months. For me, the journey took a lot longer — about four times as long. But I am not at all disappointed by this milestone.
I started Jiu-Jitsu at 29, I had barely 1 year into my professional career as a coder. I felt very stressed and very bottled up due to the work. I was mostly chubby and athletic for most of my life. I was a nerd a which meant I was socially awkward and not confident. I was unhealthy and resentful. Life was not going in the direction I wanted.
Deep, deep down, I felt something wrong. It felt like I had a gas tank and 80% of the gas tank was not being utilized. What an waste?! I knew I had more potential in me to put fourth, but I could not tap into it. Sometimes it surfaces in a bought of rage, when I’m actually able to feel some significance. The only times I truly felt like I was tapping into this reserve was when I did something extreme like a long distance run or hard work out where I could shout. Doing so gave me such clarity. There was so many voices in my head, pulling me tugging me; and yet, there was also a overall direction that I was straying from. I felt like I was going mad.
I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast a few times and remembered him mentioning how Jiu Jitsu and martial arts is a vehicle to achieve goals. This stuck a chord with me so I decided try it out. On a Saturday, I came to 10th Planet Orange and met with Wes Levine.
“Hey whats up?” he said while extending his hand for a handshake.
I told him I wanted to join, “can I get into your class now?” I peered deeply into his eyes with an intensity and a cry for help from a very confused place. It appeared like he was excited to see this energy in me. The reaction was very reassuring. He told me to call Jon Cho, currently my main Professor, and to return Monday for the lessons.
Starting out as a white belt, I attended classes regularly. I started to learn a little wrestling, a little half guard, and a little judo. I came in regularly and even got awarded “student of the month”. Things were looking up. I unlocked the ability to perform under pressure. I gained an even better clarity that I had never had before. I started doing calisthenics and rings. I started dieting well and fasting. I thought highly of myself.
But like any white belt, I was full of my own shit. The mentality here was not sustainable — neither was the energy. Eventually I petered out. I got tapped. I got frustrated. My ego was bruised. I became very inconsistent. I came in once a week if I was lucky. I even left the gym and went to another one only to find that the experience was just not the same. I came back for another period and tried it again. By this time, Jiu Jitsu had already taught me the lesson of facing down my fears and pursuing something despite not being ready.
Then COVID 19 hit. I came back to Jiu Jitsu for a smaller-sized class of 2 people. It was basically a private lesson. I was beaten in front of Mico Gamecock, another one of my Jiu Jitsu Professors. Despite being more athletic I could not come to grips with the fact that I lost to someone fatter than me. Something about the intimacy of the private lesson hit me hard. What have I learned all these months? I still know nothing. I became resentful and asked to cancel my membership. I called Andy Balmore, I told him I’m leaving the gym for another one.
He talked to me and suggested that I would get the same results due to my inconsistencies. He said a tough times, you need to double down on the things that have given you results not let loose. In my mind, I felt like he was genuinely trying to help me, as if he knew something I didn’t. So I went for it and took up his offer. I spoke to Jon and decided to commit to this for the next 6 months.
Within this 6 months, I gained so much. I learned exactly why I was bad at Jiu Jitsu — I had no base. I had no discipline. I had nothing to fall back on. I was weak mentally. I began to understand what it takes to tap into your potential. Achieving anything takes time and patience. I started understanding what patience was!
Through surviving on the mats, I learned that it’s not about not tapping — rather, it’s about tapping when you have to, but face down your fears and perform! Surviving means come back, and do not give up. Surviving means keeping your mind and ego in check. It means making progress and sustaining a steady momentum. It does not mean not failing, it means working through you failures!
After sticking with it for 6 months, things are looking great. I finally have a base to fall back on. I am able to tap out new comers. I am steady and methodical. I have great training partners. I look forward to Jiu Jitsu every day. I still get tapped out, but I understand how to work through it and ultimately return. I have a brand new outlook about Jiu Jitsu now.
Coincidentally, I started my professional portfolio growing. I was getting interview opportunities and eventually accepted a new job offer with better pay, a lot closer to home, and much more aligned with my career goals. Additionally, individuals who I’ve helped in the past have come back to give me recommendations.
Unlike before, where I would shy away from these things, I now face them with a much more practical outlook on life. I accept the good things and the bad things. I move on and continue to seek and pursue opportunities.
In many ways I’m still confused about things in life and even myself. However, there is a deep peacefulness when you can devote yourself to something. You gain clarity and other things in life seem to take a different perspective. As I continue to take this path of discipline, I continue to unravel more about myself and life. Little by little.