All I could think about this morning was that stupid stripe.
I grant you: I am happy for them. I’m glad they’re getting promoted, truly. But my ego also wants to prove that I’ve been working just as hard and have just as much to show for it.
So… I showed up to class this morning at around 5:40 am – 20 minutes early. Got on the mats, focused on my breathing and visualized going through drills, training, soul rolling, all of it. I realized about 10 minutes before class that the stripe didn’t matter, not really. Regardless, I’m still a white belt. I’m still the guy that’s going to answer questions when they’re asked, whose still going to ask the idiot questions in front of everyone and who, for all intent and purposes, is going to try and outwork everyone else on the mat, regardless of rank.
Class starts. Bow in. Warm-ups, drills, takedowns. Water. Technique.
This is the usual order of things. During the technique portion of class, we went over some nice chokes from back control, both of them lapel chokes. One of the major things I took away today: the difference between a lapel choke and a choke applied directly with your arms is regarding the amount of space you need between your chest and the opposing player’s back. With a lapel choke, you pull away from your opponent, creating space and unwinding your arms; with the traditional mata leao, you push your chest against the opposing player, closing your arm around them like a vice, pushing your elbows down.
Next, I played some guard near the end of class for our King of the Mat session of the day. Here are the rules: one person starts on their back. A line forms against the wall of all other players. Their opponent will start in their closed guard. At beginning of time, the bottom man will try to sweep or submit; the top man will try to pass guard. Whoever wins stays on bottom. Whoever loses moves to the back of the line. Today, we had two sets of matches going on, so I was on bottom at one end of the mat while my friend Wray was on the other, also playing guard.
Somehow, we managed to make it all the way through the line before I got my guard passed.
I am not a street-sweeper. Meaning: I don’t sweep a lot. For some reason though, today just clicked. I was firing on all cylinders. I felt relaxed, cognizant of my surroundings, body position, etc.
Class ends: my instructor talks a bit, then announces that I’m getting my third stripe; I’m in disbelief. After all the worry, all the mental space that this has taken up over the past few days, it didn’t matter. I’ve learned not to ask my instructors when I’d be striped, when I’ll be ready for X or Y or …. you get the point. They know in their own time. Honestly, they know my game better than I know my own. It’s my job to learn and their job to teach.
Funny though: the day I decide it’s not worth giving mental real estate, I get my stripe. Good times.