Saturday, December 16, 2006

Jack, Version 2.0

Got my blue belt today. About freakin time. I'm so good. Nobody can beat me. I'm unbeatable. Cuz I'm so good. How good? This good. You like? No, it's not me. ... Um ... Wait... Okay, yes. Yes, it is me. I don't know why I said it wasn't. Just modest I guess. But that's how good I am at rolling. I'm sure of it. Could I be wrong? If I could be wrong about this, I could be wrong about anything. It's unthinkable. Ridiculous. Just ridiculous.

The way it works is we're rolling around and R, the head instructor, gets everyone's attention and then announces a promotion. I came a bit later this morning, and two fellas, C and C, had already gotten their blue belts. Well. These are guys that I do pretty well against. So I had a while to examine my emotions. None, really. When R called again for attention, it was no surprise. But no emotion. Purely intellectual.

It's not that I don't care. It's not about indifference. It's like a distance run. The five mile mark is a milestone, but, frankly, so what? Purely symbolic. Better than four, not so good as six, but fundamentally arbitrary. It's nice to be acknowledged, but not every athlete strives for crowns that will wilt and fade, if you take my meaning. So I smiled, and it was sincere, but it was more about the kindness and happiness of my companions, than about the belt itself. And I said thank you, and meant it, to each of the fellas. That's a sort of emotion. But it wasn't about the belt.

Which was overdue, frankly. But that was good, because it became clear even to me that I was ready. My length of bone gives me a real advantage, and I wouldn't have wanted that to be the reason. But by now I have a fundamental skill base, and that's what counts. And because it is overdue, it's easier to take for granted: I earned it, and it's mine.

I liked being able to say that I was just a poor little white belt. No responsibility. No expectations of me. Just rolling. Now, one might expect, there's a bit of pressure to perform. But I don't feel that pressure. In fact, these past few weeks I've been taking more chances, putting myself in danger, trying new things. That had been really hard to do. It's one of the reasons I've worked so hard -- I don't really need an ass-kicking skill. I'm a peaceful guy, and I have no respect for brawling. But the personal challenge, the stretching of my inhibitions, the personal growth -- these things matter.

It's not that I felt self-conscious, when I started. I felt like I didn't belong. It was a whole set of behaviours that I'd never been a part of -- direct confrontation and handslapping and so on. It wasn't me. Then again, having a normal conversation isn't me. So I knew I ought to get used to it. Now I am. It took a year and a half. It took that long. I'm letting my guard down a bit -- as it were.

A promotion, with some fellas, acts as a sort of official permission to be better. I expect I'll be getting better, but I think it will be due to internal changes, and won't have much to do with the belt. That's my theory, based on what I'm observing in myself. I'm not all that subject to the placebo effect. I've been becoming more confident, more aggressive, calmer, more relaxed, less concerned that I might get submitted. That's all internal stuff.

But I had been thinking that I'd have to get serious after I was promoted -- serious in the sense of taking notes and watching instructionals and whatnot. It feels like a responsibility. I'm just not interested in getting all gung ho into the pro sport aspects, but I can't remain so detached anymore. Now I'll have to devote some off-mat time to BJJ. I'd been using it as a way of not thinking. Now I'll have to start thinking about it, and studying, rather than just learning. No sacrifice, really. There was a time when I was a man of many responsibilities. No great burden to pick up this small load. (Did I ever tell you? When I was working on my MS, I was the single father of a little boy, taking a double load of course work, making the Dean's List, and working full time. The only hard thing was scheduling. It was easy. Don't hate me for being beautiful.)

Odd, though, how I had no emotion. Most people seem to care. Apparently I have internal resources.

Okay. I cried like a little girl in a pink dress. I don't know why I said I had no emotions.


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