“How long have you been training?” She asked.
“Almost two years,” I said.
She looked at my tattered white belt. “In my gym, people get their Blue pretty fast, like in a year.”
“Cool,” I said, “we only have Black Belts coming in once a year for seminars and grading.”
“Does it bother you that you’re still a White belt and you have no Black Belt coach?”
The question caught me off-guard. Should I be bothered by the colour of my belt? It’s never something I thought about, honestly. I’ve always loved to learn new things and experience progress, but the colour of my belt is never one of my main concerns.
What soon bothered me was the sudden doubt whether my Jiu-Jitsu is not progressing as well as it should because I’m not coached by a Black Belt. And whether my slow belt progression indicates that my Jiu-Jitsu is of poorer quality compared to others with Black Belt instructors.
I think about it this way because once upon a time, when I was in primary school, an English teacher once taught us that the brain is really called ‘coconut’ and that saying ‘a pair of shoe’ is correct - as opposed to saying ‘a pair of shoes’. I shiver at the thought that sometimes you can only be as good as your teachers (thank God I read a lot and managed to unlearn my English teacher’s faulty lessons!).
God forbid, some of my ex-classmates still refer to their brains as ‘coconuts’.
Whatever it is, I’m still thankful for the opportunity to train Jiu-Jitsu - regardless of what rank my instructor is.
In my art, I went from nothing, straight to blue, then to 1st degree black in a little over 4 years. My wife’s first real test in our art was her black sash. 2 years. She went to class 4 nights a week and many special seminars in addition to practicing on her own.
In my opinion the only belt that matters is the belt that allows you to teach. In our case, black. It’s like a degree…you want a CPA doing your taxes, law school grad defending you in court, so it makes sense you want a black belt ( or purple or level 6, or whatever your art designates) teaching you the skills in the realm of life and death.
But martial skill is determined on the mat or ring. There were some black belts I traded hands with as an underbelt that I was successful against. And now, there is an underbelt I know that I really don’t want to mess with.