Thursday, July 2, 2009

The black? - it means nothing, my friend..

I've been a brown belt in Judo for time immemorial. True, not all of that time was spent training. Some of it was rest for injury, and other moments were filled with inconsistent moments. It happens when one grows older and other responsibilites come in. However, I told myself that I would commit myself to getting my black belt in the near future; and as a result, my training has been more consistent and focussed.

Yesterday, my sensei told me that I was overdue for my black. And my reply was that "well, I don't know. Some green belts still throw me around the place". His reply was amazing

"Don't worry. When I became a black belt, even white belts threw me"

This was a teacher I regard as the sensei of sensei's. A gold standard for everything Judo. And here he was telling me that even if I got my black belt, I would still get my butt kicked?

Of course I would. He showed the greatest wisdom is telling me that, and which brought be back to the heart of Judo; something I had forgotten in my zeal to get that coveted black belt at all costs. In conveying that to me, he was telling me something profound, which was : " It's just a belt. Don't get too hung up over it"

Sometimes, I forget this, honestly, I have to say that the underlying macho philosophy in combat sports can make you incredibly insecure instead of the other way around. Listen closely, and you will hear these phrases:

" I can't tap to him. I'm a blue belt in BJJ, he's a white"

" I can't lose to her - she's a girl!"

" I can't get thrown by him, I'm a black belt in Judo, Why, he doesn't even do Judo!"

" I got hit by his jab? No way!"

..and so on.

The common denominator among all those comments in the pronoun " I can't..". It's all ego and it's all about the person I love most in the world - me.

At times, we need the essence of Judo to permeate what we do in the combat sports. It's called "Jito Kyoei" - mutual welfare. A care for your training partner, teacher, gym, sports and the greater community as a whole. Grandmaster Kano was more interested in the character of the Judoka than the Judo he or she did. In other words, he was all about mutual welfare.

We don't get enough of this in submission wrestling and BJJ unfortunately. Maybe it is a particularly western concept to divorce any philosophy from whatever we do but this is impossible in my opinion. No philosophy means you switch to a default philosophy, which is primal, animalistic and selfish in nature. You want to win at all costs. I would love to see a different spirit in these two sports, which I also really like, where mutual concern for the overall well being of the participants in paramount to just blind physical domination

Which is why I love Judo. It has the same characteristics of a combat sport, but the ideas behind it, the small attempts to introduce concepts like humility, a sense of purpose and character development testify to the real genuius of the founder, not just his synthesization of techniques.