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Well, there it is, my third stripe in all its BJJ White Belt glory. I received that last Wednesday night after training and we’ll talk more on that in a little bit. Time to catch you up, dear reader, on what’s been going on.

If you recall, my last BJJ White Belt post was a month ago. In it, I wrote about the tournament ; what I learned and took away from it, as well as the overall experience. Since then, I decided to focus more on healing up my shoulders, drastically cutting back on my morning gym routine and just focusing on BJJ training. The week before my recent promotion, I reluctantly took a rest from BJJ, too, in order to give my shoulders a complete rest.

Longest.

Week.

Ever.

I am still having some issues, which, after speaking with my teammate / chiropractor / wellness doctor, I’m thinking it would be wise to at least consult a Physical Therapist. I’ll continue with keeping gym time to a minimal, as well as keep up on the icing / heating / stretching and rehab work, but I won’t be cutting out BJJ.

From everything I have read, observed and come to understand about Jiu Jitsu, which is limited to my seven months of exposure, I’ve found that training can easily be modified to work on other things while giving a certain body part a rest due to injury. Also, if you are practicing a new technique or rolling, just let your partner know, “Hey, I’ve got some issues with my shoulders/knee, etc.” They shouldn’t have an issue being mindful of the problem area. If they do, change partners.

So, coming back from my small break, I was looking forward to getting back at it and training with my team. I was determined to make a mindful effort to not use as much strength/force with my upper body, to slow down and focus on using my legs more. This was an excellent experience for me and I’ll be continuing this path for awhile as I figure out what’s going on with my shoulders.

Taking this approach during live rolls gave me the opportunity to feel / observe / think and act/react differently than before. Having become very comfortable with my closed guard this gave me the opportunity to work the other guard variations like Open, Spider, X, De La Riva. Granted I’m not well versed in them, but taking what I’ve learned from my Coach, I had fun exploring and working those variants. It proved a challenge, trying to keep my training partners in those guards and look for other opportunities to deploy sweeps or attacks. I still used my arms but was shooting for about 50% utilization. As live rolls go, obviously I didn’t stay in guard the whole time but it was a good experience. This also gave my training partners and teammates a different avenue to train and work, namely passing these guard variations as well as watching out for me using my legs in different ways than I normally do.

During our rolls, I was able to see the opportunity for and deploy submissions that I’d not attempted before. Those were the Bow & Arrow choke and a Kimura. When I take someone’s back, I’m very fond of the single or double lapel choke, so it was really cool to have the light come on and recognize the opportunity to successfully that technique during two different rolls. The Kimura seemingly came out of nowhere, as the position I wasn’t looking for it, but I saw the opening and took it. I had a little trouble at first but got it in. Looking back on it, if I would’ve positioned myself just a little better, I wouldn’t have had the trouble I did.

I’m learning that with leverage, body positioning with technique execution is everything. Hips turned out a little farther here, arms holding the limb closer to your body there, pinch your legs or knees together just so… these little things can make a dramatic difference in the effectiveness of the technique deployed against your opponent/training partner as well as how much energy one expels deploying the technique.

Having listened to my coach explain these things, then observe them myself not only in training, but watching other people roll or even an MMA fight I can see better what I am being taught. You’ll see a guy seemingly go to town using all his might on an arm-bar and the opponent isn’t phased and escapes. Then you’ll see someone seemingly using no effort at all on the same technique and the opponent is tapping out as fast as he can.

Technique, body position, leverage and strength – harmony is crucial here.

Still learning, still growing.

So much more of the path lay before me.

So, back to the third stripe. Back at the gym after the tournament, a handful of the competitors received promotions, including belts. Without question – they deserved it. Regardless of the results of the tournament, they had grown, developed and worked relentlessly on their BJJ game. As one of their teammates, I am one-hundred-percent happy for them. Coming from someone with a martial arts background, I know it’s not even remotely up to me on whether they deserve it or not anyways. Knowing my place, and having said that: there isn’t a question in my mind about whether or not they earned it.

The proof is in the pudding, the work. And man…

They.

Fucking.

Worked.

Obviously, I wasn’t among the promoted at that time. Like I mentioned in a prior post, each stripe or belt is a pretty personal thing regarding your own BJJ path, it’s about your growth, knowledge and application of BJJ. I also mentioned previously that Coach doesn’t want you to doubt that stripe or belt you received. He wants you to know that the promotion is yours; well earned and well deserved.

So, when I did get my third stripe, Him and I spoke briefly about what he was looking for this time regarding my third stripe promotion and he had mentioned growth.

We didn’t get into specifics on the kind of growth he was looking for, but here are my thoughts on the matter: Looking back on this last month after the tournament, while I would have been grateful to be among my teammates who received promotions, I’m not entirely sure that I would’ve believed that I had earned another stripe or even a belt. I’d put in work, I had learned some good lessons, too. But it wasn’t my time yet, I wasn’t ready. I had a hard time with my results from the tournament. In the weeks that followed, it was hard for me during training. I was still working it out, using the loss as fuel to be better, shaking off the disappointment, refocusing and getting back on the mats. I needed to move past it.

Maybe that’s something he was looking for. Coach has been around the way a bit, with the majority of his 15yr BJJ career under the tutelage of 8x World Champ Robson Moura, so I’m sure he’s got an eye for what he’s looking for in each student. Just sayin…

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Trust the process.

Enjoy the process.

Get on the mats.

Pursue Mastery.

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