Lessons I’ve Learned Studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Lesson 12: The Blue Belt Blues Part 2- Promotions Don’t Give You New Powers, Sadly.

I spent most of my white belt surviving underneath heavier rolling partners, doing a lot of tapping and only catching a tap of my own here and there. The closer I got to blue, I started getting this notion that after I earned my blue, I’d be better at jiu jitsu. I certainly didn’t think there was some secret magic jiu jitsu juju embedded in my new belt, but I did think that maybe I’d start to “get it” better with the new shift in the way I saw myself (no longer a rookie) on the mats. I was mistaken.

I’m still getting my rear handed to me daily by people I’d rather not admit are tapping or drawing with me. My stretchy blue rashguard, the cape of the Blue Belt Super Hero, has failed me. Or rather, I thought I failed it; “Wtf, I still suck? I don’t deserve this belt!” Turns out my coach knows what he’s doing. I don’t suck, I’m just not a very good blue belt yet. And that’s okay. I can take stock of the skills I’ve learned in jits thus far, and an inventory of blue belt super powers are not among those skills.

What exactly is a blue belt supposed look like, anyways? It took me 2.5 years from my first day on the mats to my blue belt. When I was rocking the first stripe on my white belt I sucked. I sucked real bad, but it didn’t matter because at that point I was supposed to suck. A couple weeks before my blue belt test I was on fire on the mats! Tapped folks I never thought I’d tap and saw opportunities for the catch I’d normally miss. Am I consistently like that? No. But that’s not the point. I was much better with 4 stripes on my white belt than I was when I only had 1. It follows that ranks are spectrums, and I really shouldn’t be beating myself up for feeling inadequate as a new blue belt. I’m really just a very good white belt who’s growing into her new blue shirt. I suppose this is the onset of the Blue Belt Blues, https://torontonogi.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/lessons-ive-learned-studying-brazilian-jiu-jitsu-lesson-5-belt-blues-the-struggle-is-real/ and it’s totally normal. I really didn’t level up when I got my blue belt, my coach just acknowledged my achievements so far.

Lessons I’ve Learned Studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Lesson 10: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Body Image.

I like to think as a woman in Jiu Jitsu, I’ve got a pretty positive body image. I feel strong, I rarely think I’m fat or anything like that, I generally like my body and in part I attribute that to Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu helped me not only change my body, but also change the way I think about my body as well. I’m not going to sit here and say BJJ made me into a hot and skinny woman or something silly like that. Jiu Jitsu has taught me both how to take care of my body as well as how to really value my body.

Like many teenage girls, I often hated my body growing up. I’ve got big calves, a propensity to general thickness and I was made fun of a bit in school. I felt like I was fat and definitely didn’t consider myself athletic at all. Growing into adulthood took care of a lot of myouthful body image issues, but it took Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to help me understand how to appreciate my body not as an object that simply projects from my character, but as a machine that I’m in control of, and actually like to operate.

I used to be preoccupied with what people thought of my body, and in some ways I still do a bit, but learning how to impose a submission on a BJJ partner makes preoccupations about how I look in shorts suddenly seem silly and unimportant. It didn’t take long after beginning Jiu Jitsu that I stopped worrying about how fat I looked in my rashguard and started thinking about how I was going to get stronger and more explosive. When I step on the scale, I’m concerned about staying within my chosen weight class, not an arbitrarily chosen ’target weight’. It’s been one of the most singularly life changing tweaks in thinking I’ve had, and Jiu Jitsu got me there.

I’ve learned how to value the power in my body. I’ve got really strong legs. They’ll never be elegant, slim and lithe. I often joke that I’ve got cows instead of calves. They’re thick, blocky, muscular and perfect for keeping strong hooks and a powerful closed guard. Without even thinking about it, almost by accident, I learned how to love my most disliked body feature. I learned how to strengthen my body for BJJ, and in the process I learned the mechanics of my body. My diet got better (People often absorb “the bjj lifestyle” when they start training, changing to and experimenting with a healthier diet is one of the first aspects), which helped my body perform better, and somewhere in the past I had left my preoccupation with whether or not people thought my body was sexy or gross. It just plain stopped really mattering.

I can’t say I never get down on myself. In the last month for instance, I dropped the ball on my diet and training schedule and consequently gained about 15 pounds. It’s taken me pretty far away from featherweight, and while I’ve noticed I fill my jeans out a bit full right now, I really don’t care about how my silhouette is cut in my rashguards, I’m too busy trying to figure out how to catch my opponent’s arm.