I was promoted to purple belt on Saturday. A lot of the people I looked up to (and still do) in my almost 3 years of training jiu jitsu were purple belts at the time. Brown and black belts often seemed like generals brilliantly commanding the unfolding battle from the back of the field (see Josh Vogel’s video take on this). Purple belts, on the other hand, seemed more like platoon leaders, right in the heat of combat with the blue and white belts. And that’s what I aspire to be in my new role as purple belt: talk less, drill more, train hard, and compete, compete, compete.
Purple belt means different things to different people. For me, I want this belt to see a lot of tough tournament matches, win or lose, I know I will come out on the other end a better person, with a deeper understanding of myself and a greater ability to put the highs and lows of life into perspective.
The actual promotion day was a memorable learning experience. There were 20+ black belts there. I got to train with several of them. The matches lasted anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes, they all felt like playing speed chess with the regulars at Washing Square park, like in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. Each black belt had a unique style and exhibited a mastery of the art. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. These guys are artists. It was especially cool to roll with Tim Hart. I heard so many tales about his epic technical expertise and power, that I was starting to believe that he didn’t actually exist and the few times that I met him were just an illusion 😉 Here’s a picture of me miserably failing to be able to do anything in his open/spider guard:
One of the things I’m proud of myself for doing is pulling guard on everyone I trained with at the promotion. I’m definitely a top player, and it’s where I feel more “at home”, but I find that when I play a relaxed technical guard against high-level training partners, they play a more relaxed technical game as well. The result is, no matter what happens, I learn more from the experience. Here’s me in a crappy butterfly guard with Frank Ambrifi, who is another man of legend who I heard so much about but have not met before:
Congratulations to everyone who was promoted, including nine new black belts. Josh Vogel and Drew Vogel were two of the nine. I consider them good friends and inspiring leaders on and off the mat. Here’s a picture of the Vogel brothers and the Migliarese brothers with my favorite gang sign: the thumbs up.
Whenever I look at pictures of the universe, I’m filled with awe at the billions of billions of stars that are out there. I feel the same way when I look at the following team picture. It’s just as awe-inspiring to think of how many hundreds of thousands of hours of jiu jitsu wisdom is in this picture alone:
I have to give a special thanks to Josh (pictured right). He has taught me a lot on the mat, but more importantly he has been a role model in philosophy and lifestyle in jiu jitsu training and competition. We roomed together for the 2012 Worlds in a cheap motel that smelled like hookers and smoke, cutting weight and trying desperately not to think about food.
By the way, thanks to Eric Zippe, Angela Vogel, Jennifer Francisco, and Sean Gilliard for the excellent pictures they took during the event. Eric is a excellent professional photographer as many people in the grappling world know.