First in the Moment then in Retrospect
I used to say that BJJ was not for me. I'll just stick to what I'm good at which was Muay Thai at the time which I really got into. It was about moving around fast, being on my feet, seeing a bunch of techniques I wanted to use and getting into the action right away. It was around 1997 when I got introduced to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I remember this because that was the year my first born blessed my life. I weighed in soaking wet at 135 pounds standing at 5 foot 10 inches. My first partner was about 230 pounds and which was basically the size of the average student in my class. There were some really big dudes and that really got to me when it came to learning BJJ. The feeling of being lost, confused,
uncoordinated and lacking in physical strength wasn't very helpful in my training but my stubborness of grinding out my weaknesses kept me going. I earned my first two stripes over the course of six months, then the next two over the course of a couple more years because of my inconsistency in BJJ class. Then, my wanting to compete in Muay Thai took off and that left very little room to train in BJJ. So I decided to leave it behind and train "whenever I had the time." That was back in early 2000 and here I am in the year 2012 with an experience to share. Am I a BJJ black belt now? Nope. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, it wasn't until early last year, 2011, that I decided to clean off the cobwebs, shake the dirt off and put that white belt back on at the age of 34. I hope this blog post will help those of you who are looking to get started in brazilian jiu jitsu or already in the beginning phases of learning that can connect to my first experiences and issues in a sport that seemingly needs a ton of skill and strength to hang with the best. A sport that some would say; is for the young. So how did I do it? What was it that got me to get back into it after so much time even after graduating from other arts?
Yes, we all know what it means and what the idea of having strong discipline can do for you, but I had to change the definition for myself especially being in my mid 30s. This is what I did. I looked at the clock and then at my first born son that turned 14 years old. I said to myself, "Time will not beat me anymore."
As an adult, we all want to enjoy easier times. Continuing to work hard can be a real challenge, especially as a beginner; a white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The first six months for anyone that gets into this martial art, in my opinion, is one of the most trying times for a student. We want so badly to get good really fast, we fail to enjoy the actual learning process. That just means you're competitive and set high expectations for yourself. I'd say this is still good because you hold yourself to a standard that isn't menial. You deserve to be the best you can be. That's why you started in the first place.
Finally, the most important phase for any white belt. I surrendered to the challenge and low and behold, it got easier. After more than 15 years of martial arts, I received this epiphany yet again. Let me tell you, it felt good to have this. It was refreshing. I got to enjoy learning as it was meant to be. Fun! Fortunately, I was blessed to have met a coach that helped me and in return, I'd help him. Teacher to student, then student to teacher, then vice versa. Being around other people that have the same passion for self improvement is just plain awesome. A couple days ago, I posted this on my Facebook page:
If I have trained you, trained with you or have been trained by you, then this message is for you. Our strength is in our bond as martial artists. Learning for the sake of improving our lives and the lives of others. We endure many challenges together and we always make it through significantly better. It is through this, I call you Family.
My brother, Coach Chris Costa, saw that it was time to award the blue belt. He spoke to his Professor at the time, to put me up for promotion. We planned a trip to New Jersy to visit him before he reported to his new duty station which was outside of the continental United States. They spoke, we trained, spent time away from training and then we returned home. With a blue belt? Nope, not yet. That was okay though. A part of me was happy it didn't happen. Not sure what was said so I didn't worry about it. It just meant I can practice more and sharpen my skills some more. That was April 4th I believe. Here we are at the end of May. Almost two months since the trip to New Jersey. Having demonstrated, performed and then rolled for more than 30 minutes straight without break, I emerged a survivor. A new belt was wrapped around my waist. It was blue. And the people that gave me the pleasure of really working for it were present. My Family. I now look at that white belt with four stripes. Sitting. Thinking. Remembering. The sweet surrender. That belt is my true trophy which will be shared with others that pass my way. I'll see you on the mat. Oss!!!