Seeing people I train with (or am friends with) promoted to a new belt color is always exciting to me. It probably taps into the same neurochemical wellspring of joy I get from leveling up in a video game. (I just realized that it’s been a LONG time since I actually played a game, especially an RPG).
It’s a demarcation of progress. The most exciting one, to me, in BJJ is the white belt to blue belt promotion. There is so much possibility and hope for the future at that point. A new blue belt has not yet been beaten down by the reality that mastery takes a long, long, long time. When I got my blue belt, I still believed that just around the corner, I will begin my meteoric rise to amazing skill levels. In reality, the path to mastery is much more like hiking the Appalachian trail. It takes a lot longer than you think. It’s not glorious. There’s no sparklers or beautiful women (or dudes if that’s your thing) in bikinis cheering you on. It’s just a long daily grind full of simple pleasures derived from subtle improvement of skill and overcoming of challenges.
But again, I think what I like most about promotions is the same reason I like driving a brand new car: the new car smell. When my training partners are wearing a new belt, it feels like I just beat the game at the “normal” setting, and am now upgraded to the “expert” setting.
It’s amazing how a belt can be a canvas to project my thoughts on. A belt color is a set of goals, a set of techniques, a set of injuries, a set of tournaments.
In the rest of my life, there are no belt colors. When I publish a conference or journal paper, I don’t get stripes on my belt. The video-game-playing kid in me wishes that I would be “awarded” a green jacket or something like that for a week after publishing in a prestigious journal. I would wear it proudly, and write a blog post about how much I like the idea of green jackets that my colleagues would read and shake their head at in shame.