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A Piece of Tape

May 3, 2010

So I just started back in jiu-jitsu again. It’s a pretty cool gym very close to where I live. It’s on the top floor of the old Ballard firehouse, so it’s a very cool funky brick building. A very cool locale. The only downside to my new school is the jiu-jitsu isn’t as good. I was super lucky to live in LA and train martial arts. It’s definitely a hub of excellent martial arts schools, in particular Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I don’t mean to be snobby, but I think it’s true. I can roll with some of the purple and black belts at my new school without getting into too much trouble, and without training for the last six months or so. But I don’t want to talk about me. Today I wanted to share a fun little story about another student at my gym today. So today I partnered up with a girl. She was a white belt, and seemed fairly new. It’s always a little odd when you’re teamed up with a girl. I think they are generally intimidated by jiu-jitsu, regardless how strong they are for joining. I can’t blame them. I think it’s odd to put yourself in a compromising situation regardless of your sex. Sometimes you find yourself trying to get choked, on your back mounted, or in-between someone’s legs. It can be very odd at first, and being the only girl in the room can’t make things any easier. Anyways, I was helping her with some technique, working on her arm bars and triangles. A normal class in all respects. But when we lined up at the end of the class she was called forward to receive a strip for her belt. The look on her face was amazing.

A stripe is nothing but a piece of tape- sometimes electrical, sometimes athletic- wrapped around your belt. Unlike Tae Kwon Do or a handful of other martial arts there are no tests, or movement sequences you have to memorize. You’re awarded a belt whenever your professor believes you’ve put in enough time, and have acquired sufficient skill. I think in a way that makes it even more rewarding.

Royce Gracie once said, “A belt does nothing but helps hold up your pants.” It’s true. The belt you wear is nothing more than a symbol, but it’s a symbol of all of the work and sweat you put into the room. And that day, to that woman, that belt meant everything.

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