It's pretty well known that I'm a bit of a web junkie. (that's putting it lightly, I know) I often spend sleepless nights watching clips on youtube. Everything from live music to practical jokes, but mainly I'm watching clips from jiu jitsu matches and other martial arts.
One thing I find quite interesting is watching "promotion exams" from different arts. This got me to thinking about how brazilian jiu jitsu is very different from most "traditional" martial arts. Let me start out by saying that I've got respect for all of these other disciplines but the web got me to thinking.
So I'm watching a Korean art do a red belt test & promotion. I had looked this up and apparently red belt would mean halfway to black for this art. Similar to purple belt in BJJ to make the compairison. What I watched on the video was a 10 minute clip of an overweight middle-aged man doing very simplistic looking throws or counter-attacks to his training partner in what appeared to be slow motion. It was almost as though in order to earn his red belt, he was required to memorize the movements or techniques and apply them in detail at a slow pace to show that he knew them. I just sat there almost amazed at what I was watching.
In brazilian jiu jitsu, we learn and drill techniques on a daily basis. We don't feel as though we "know" the technique until you're actually able to apply it with a live action training partner going 100% in real-time. For example, I've been training in BJJ for a little over a year now. Last fall, I learned how to do a cradle choke. Well, this past Thursday night was the first time I was ever able to submit my training partner with a clean cradle choke while sparring at 100%. It doesnt matter how many times I've repeated the move, or that I can explain the technique word for word and demostrate it with anyone at any time. If I can't pull it off cleanly with a resisting opponent, it doesnt exist in my arsenal.
It makes me wonder if the overweight middle-aged man doing the techniques to aquire his red belt could actually pull any of those moves in a real-time setting with a resisting opponent or attacker.
Most of these questions were answered in 1993 for North American audiences when the first Ultimate Fighting Championship tournement happened in Denver, Colorado.
I look at traditional martial arts as art forms much like a painter's canvas or a sculpture's piece. For example, a Kata in Karate is a simulated fight sequence showing strong striking techniques and how that fighter would defend themselves. It really is nice to watch and I'm sure takes a ton of skill to complete with precision and detail. For me, this is a definition of the art for show.
I also find it crazy that a teenager can acheive a black belt in certain arts or that it can be earned in a short time frame. I've heard of Tae Kwon Do schools giving black belts within 3 years of starting to learn the art. In BJJ, 2 to 3 years is the normal amount of time it takes to get past your white belt. Many schools all across the country (and the world for that matter) hand out black belts to multiple members. It's not uncommon to see every school with at least a few black belts. I was recently watching a youtube clip of a BJJ school in NYC where the instructor has been teaching for well over 15 years and he was handing out his second black belt...ever.
With that said, if you're looking for self gratification and belt promotions as a motivator to train on a daily basis, BJJ is not for you. I'm currently a 2 stripe white belt (4 are typically required to advance to blue belt) but the truth is, this early in the game, the thought of wearing a different colour belt rarely crosses my mind. I just want to get better. I want to be able to pull off the submissions or escapes that we drill during class while rolling with a training partner who is at my skill level or better as well as my size or stronger. It's in those small moments when it does happen that I feel like my game is slowly improving.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a lifestyle. Heaven forbid something happens to me where I'm no longer able to train. I don't know what I would do with myself. I often wake up thinking BJJ, look at my schedule on my blackberry to figure out when I'll be able to head back to the club to train.
Are you interested yet? Are you one of my friends who clicked on the blog via my link of facebook? Be in touch...I'd love to show you what this is all about and give you a tour of my home away from home. www.sudburybjj.com
Stay healthy my friends and stay tuned!