Friday, May 15, 2009

P-belt Factor

A bjj black belt that I've rolled with a few times over this past Year of My Indolence decided that I should be a purple belt, and yesterday made it so. It came, as it were, out of the blue. I suck much worse now than I did a year ago. But the vestiges are there, and I could get it back in a few weeks of intensive mat time. It had never occurred to me, this possibility. Bjj has not been at the forefront of my mind, for all that I miss it and actually yearn for chances to roll. That I haven't been rolling made the idea of promotion absolutely unthinkable -- not that promotion was anything I've lusted after. Just never occurred to me, that anyone would seriously think I should actually be a purple belt.

When I was a white belt, after about a year and a half, it became clear to me that I was ready for promotion. This, from me -- not really one to push himself forward. But despite a certain silliness I play at here, I do have a sensible idea of my abilities. The awareness came as a comfort on the mat, a familiarity with the basic movements. I could think, whereas before I could not think. It took another five months for me to be promoted -- R is/was slow about these things -- but I was fine with that. When there were promotions, I always expected it to be me. Because I was obviously ready. Took five months more though.

Well. First, don't argue. We are in the hands of those who have power or authority over us. In the martial traditions, this is indicated by belts. Sometimes a guy with a higher belt is not so skilled -- well, these things happen. We remain courteous. It doesn't happen often. There is in the back of my mind the idea that now I'm one of those guys -- not as skilled as his belt suggests. But it's not my call, is it. Last time it was five months too late. This time it is, I think, a bit early. But it's not my call. And it would be profoundly disrespectful to turn it down. We do not insult those who act sincerely toward us. We say thank you, and mean it, and feel moved.

And I may very well be wrong, for all that I think I can judge my skill level. Wrong, because there is a shift in attitude. I used to be worried about rolling with higher belts. Oh, they're so much better than me. Now I don't really even think about it. They have more skill? Fine. Beat me. But maybe I'll beat you. A different attitude, more open, more mature. It's a higher-belt attitude. I like that. So I suppose I am, wrong. Interesting. Which brings me to the point.

What is the p-belt factor? A joke, of course. But I do take these things seriously. I feel that I have to be worthy of my blessings. That's a high standard to live up to, for any of us, because we are greatly blessed. Here, specifically, when this promotion happened, I immediately became aware of a great need to get better at bjj, get serious. Because I don't want to feel ashamed. I play, as I say, but I am not a poser. It's never about appearance. It's always about performance. This is important to me. It's part of being honest. P-belt factor doesn't exist, but if it did, it would be a demand for excellence.

Last night I washed my new belt, to get the stiffness out of it. Then I went to the store and bought purple dye. I still have my old white belt, you see. My first belt. When I was promoted to blue belt, I dyed that old belt blue. Last night I took it and dyed it purple. You see the pattern. If I last that long, I'm taking it with me to black. Although I make no representation that I'll get there. I'm serious, about it not being a matter of belts at all -- I like the sport, and I like the skill.

One of my quirks is that I don't feel comfortable teaching something unless I've mastered it. Part of teaching involves not giving the student too much information. So the level of mastery is relative -- I need to be the master of everything the student can learn, not of everything that exists on the subject. That's why, eventually, as a blue belt, I was comfortable teaching the new white belts. I didn't teach them anything wrong, and what I told them was right, and had a clarity of expression that isn't so very common. I was a very good teacher. It's all rusty now though.

You see? We have to meet our responsibilities. I'd tell you more, only you're not ready for it.

Oh, Magoo, you've done it again.


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