Everyone knows the belt system in Jiu-Jitsu. White, blue, purple, brown, black. If you want to get technical, black is followed by coral, and then red. When your Jiu-Jitsu journey begins, the higher belts can seem like super heroes, and you’re instructor can seem like Zeus atop Mount Olympus. But what is the one thing you’ve heard time and time again from anyone with a belt color other than white? “I was right where you are at one point”.
Jean Jacques Machado is credited with one of my favorite quotes, “When people ask me what belt I am, I tell them I am a white belt who never quit.” So much of what makes you better at Jiu-Jitsu is in that one quote alone, “….never quit.” It sounds simple enough, but working a 40 hour week, paying your bills, dealing with family and loved ones, all before you even step on the mats. Compound that with muscle fatigue and soreness, a drained mind, all of it can lead to “I think I’ll take todays class off”. Which can be followed by two days, then a week, then a month? Before you know it, by the time you step onto the mats again you have to retrain your body to make up for all the gains you had lost in your time away.
I say this because I’ve fallen into that trap. I’ve taken months off, when I should have been on the mats getting better. A great friend and training partner once told me, “Show up two times a week, no bull crap, no excuses. Watch what happens.” Because that’s really what this is all about. We can blind ourselves with getting that beautiful new color on our belt, but if that is the end goal, what happens when you reach it? If becoming a Jiu-Jitsu blue belt, or purple, brown, black is the ultimate goal, why continue afterward? In my years I’ve only had one goal, to get better. I have let belt colors, life, work, everything else get in the way, but I always come back to that one goal. Get better.
For me, I have boiled Jiu-Jitsu down to one statement, one overall principal I try to stick to. The journey is the destination. Instead of hoping for that one pivotal moment that defines your journey, every step can be celebrated in the same way. Today I consolidated side control for the first time. Yes! Today I landed an arm bar. Yes! Today I lasted and extra round without getting tapped. Yes! Today I surprised the purple belt with a back take, (wink, wink Denis). Yes!
Every moment can be treasured instead of only the momentary goal of reaching a higher ranking. Because once your teammates have that pretty new belt wrapped around their kimono, they go right back to the grind, learning and improving every day. Why, because the journey is the destination.
-Joe St. Germain