Jeff recently sent an email out to the class indicating that “April is belt testing month,” so bring yourselves and your spirit, because you might be walking away with something new. He was referring to belts and stripes, of course.
It’s exciting. We have a few people in class who are up for promotion and I know from personal experience that it’s a big moment. I received my blue belt three years ago, but I vividly remember so many of my mixed emotions today. I think the biggest one was whether or not I deserved what was to soon be thrust upon me. If memory serves, I even considered asking not to be promoted. To stay a white belt a while more, just to square things in my mind. I eventually overcame that and trusted my instructor’s judgement. He’s the one who was able to best gauge my progress against myself and others he’d coached in the past.
I read an article this morning that reminded me of much of what I felt leading up to and after my blue belt test. It was kind of fun browsing through what someone else had written about the experience because it was spot on. The article talks about how much the new belt changes the individual, but I’d say it also changes the rest of their group. It changes their perspective.
Talking to Jeff, before my blue belt test as well as my purple, he mentioned a consistent line of thinking. He said something to the effect of, “It’s like you have a target on your back. People no longer want to just roll. Now they want to beat you.” He told me about how he became a target after he received his purple belt. “Guy’s are rolling much harder these days,” he would say. And at the time, I could sympathize because I could see it in his game. Of course, he picked things up to meet the challenge, but interesting how things work.
Something I remember happening after receiving my blue belt was watching my shoes getting bigger. I quickly found that people treated me differently as well, and as I had seen happen to Jeff, I was forced to fill the void. I felt the blue belt was becoming much more of something to live up to as opposed to an achievement I could be proud of. The glory of the ceremony faded within a few days. The “did I deserve it” turned into, “yeah, I deserved it” quite rapidly. All it took was a few matches using what I knew. There was a reason I was promoted.
Purple is different. Much different. When I received my blue belt, I felt as if I was joining an already existing club. There were many blues hanging around out there and since I had tied my own around my waist, I simple began talking to them more. We rolled and I got out on the mat much more (it’s tradition that only a higher belt ask a lower belt to roll – not vice versa). My wallflower days were over.
After I was promoted to purple belt, I took a quick glance around the room. Even though we had some guys from other schools promoted to the same belt, I felt as though I stood out. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Gone were the days of blue, just screwing around. As soon as I wore my new color, people viewed me much differently.
I saw a neat graphic a few days ago that I can’t seem to find again. I would’ve loved to have posted it here. It described the percentages of students who make it to each belt. Interesting, to say the least.
It was something like this; 100% get their white belt (obviously), 40% blue, 11% purple, 3% brown and 1% black. Now, I’m completely making up those numbers – I’m simply trying to demonstrate the wide margins between each promotion. The number of students who make it to their next belt dwindles rapidly. And that may be the reason I felt as though I was sticking out much more than I had the day before.
So, here’s an early congrats to all the new blue belts I work out with regularly. Remember, you deserve it, but be cognizant of the fact that there will be a new pair of shoes waiting for you out there in the lobby. It’s up to you whether you want to fill them or not.