The Evolution at Brown Belt
As I quickly approach my second year at brown belt, I’ve had some epiphanies in the last few months which I believe have contributed to my overall growth on the mat. I think that it’s important to understand that like at every belt, there are stages in which we all go through that serve a purpose in helping to define where we are along our path to the black belt. However, at the brown belt, these stages feel amplified – or at least that’s the way it feels to me.
Perhaps it’s the psychology of eventually (short term) graduating to the black belt that make these feelings amplify. It is rooted in the idea that, now, getting a black belt IS imminent, whereas at blue or purple it seemed so distant and often times impossible.
When people ask when I’m going to get my black belt or comment that they think a black belt is coming soon, I can’t help but reflect on my last 9 years of training. Two years ago and all the years before then, I’d be STOKED to hear someone tell me that I would/should be getting my next belt soon. Not gonna lie, I enjoyed the “status” of being a colored belt. Now, it’s different. I actually don’t care when or if I even get a black belt.
(insert epiphany here)
At this point, I’m much more focused on my skill level than I am about what color belt I’m wearing around my waist. It’s almost cliche to say that a belt only covers [ ] inches of your ass and that you need to do the rest of the work – but I’ve come to realize how true this is. A black belt is only as good as their skill level and I’ve had to ask myself this multiple times over the last two years of whether I’d rather be a black belt because of time or be a black belt because of skill.
Let’s be real. With the commercialization of Jiu-Jitsu, anyone can become a black belt. This is not a bad thing. However, it has clearly diluted the the skill level in BJJ. I remember when I first started training – nobody got their black belt in under 10 years unless you were a “prodigy” like BJ Penn. When you would roll with black belts no matter who they were and no matter what belt color you were, you’d feel like they were just playing with you and using minimal effort. Now, it’s different. There is a huge disparity in the skill level of black belts.
I know that I don’t want to be on the short end of the stick on that one. I’m not saying that I want to be a Jiu-Jitsu world champion… however, I do want to be the one who people are intimidated to roll with because of my skill level. If that means being a brown belt for the next 5 years, so be it.
Perhaps this is where the transition begins. When you don’t care about the belt or rank and focus on your own skill set and improvement… because you know that at black belt, the learning process starts over again and/or continues where you left off — enjoying the process.
While it has taken me 9 years to realize that you open up more opportunities to learn and grow when you take ego out of the equation, I wouldn’t change that process for anything. I only wish I figured it out sooner.