I got my purple belt back in November after 5 years of training an average of 4.5-5 classes a week. To me, a black belt is meaningless compared to what a “black belt” was in my imagination.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It was in the wake of Bruce Lee’s death but before the internet and before the UFC. A black belt meant you were superhuman. You could catch bullets with your teeth. Many fellow gen-xers feel or felt this way. I remember almost getting into a fight when I was the new kid in 8th grade and this guy came up to me and said “you don’t wanna mess with him. He’s a black belt!” I replied, “In what?” He had no idea. To him, it didn’t even matter.

The internet and to a greater extent MMA dissolved a lot of that bullshido nonsense. And for those of us that train a black belt means nothing more than someone who’s been practicing these techniques longer than we have.

The day I got my purple belt was the first day that “the black belt” ceased to be some far off dream and instead became a viable goal that I knew for a fact I was going to obtain if I did not stop. I actually looked down and thought “This will be a black belt someday.” And I didn’t mean it in that Tony Robbins inspirational self-talk way but just as a matter of fact. That’s when it really sunk in for me that black belts were not special in any way except one: they’re persistent. I mean REALLY persistent. That’s where the respect is due to a black belt. Because almost nobody has the willingness to chase after something for 10-12 years or longer. The “jiu-jitsu bug” doesn’t last that long. Sooner or later it wears off and the “why am I doing this?” can kick in. Just like with any hobby or relationship. That’s why excellence is so hard to achieve in anything. Because it takes daily practice and attention, even on days when you don’t feel like it. Hell, especially on those days. Jiu-Jitsu is no different. That’s why a black belt deserves respect. They kept going after most people stopped.

Since that realization, I’ve really come to not at all care about the belt. In fact, some times I wish I could just not wear it and instead focus on getting better at the techniques themselves.

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