Waaaaay back at the end of April we had our semi-annual (but a first for us) grading and seminar. The Master of the BJJ lineage we train under, Mater Sylvio Behring, comes to town a couple times a year, and at those times he oversees the grading for stripes and the belt demonstrations as well as puts on a few seminars. This was a weekend of firsts for us; we were “testing” for a stripe on our white belts as well as attending his seminar the next day.
First up, the grading. As mentioned, we had been working through the curriculum for nearly two months by that point, and since we were testing for literally the first/lowest level, the list of techniques we had to demonstrate was not very long. Some self-defense and some guard positions, more or less. But, like all things in BJJ, there is a massive gap between being introduced to a concept and knowing a concept. And an even larger gap between knowing a concept and being able to physically apply the concept. Even for the purposes of our grading demonstration, we knew the techniques we were supposed to demonstrate but were still not very consistent in doing them in what amounts to low-resistance drilling. We got to a point where we felt pretty good about knowing what we needed to know by the time grading weekend rolled around, though, and were pretty excited about seeing what the weekend had to offer.
Anytime you’re asked to perform or are being judged/evaluated, there is going to be some nerves. This is still apparently true for two middle class professionals 5 months into a new hobby. To make a long story short, we were over prepared (always a good thing), and the grading went really well. I feel like there wasn’t any real chance of anyone “failing” by way of a bad grading, it was more a demonstration, with the real “grading” taking place in the months leading up to it where each of our instructors feels we’re ready for whatever next level. The actual grading portion felt like a really long warm up; lots of movement drills (no animal walks:(…), shrimping, breakfalls, rolls, etc. Then some guard work, and before we knew it, we were lining up to get our stripes. Master Behring and the other instructors walked around throughout and offered tips and comments, and there seemed to be a real focus on instilling a “this is a big family” sort of vibe.
The next day was our first experience with a seminar. To be honest, while we both thought it was fun and interesting… it was a little above our pay grade. It was mostly about open guard options and strategies, and the explanations and demonstrations provided were excellent, the drills were… complex. I pulled some things from the seminar, no doubt, but we’re still a ways away from having the level of knowledge to integrate specific open guard sweeps or submission setups into my “game”. It’s like, as a beginner I’m in this vast ocean and I’m barely treading water. Every time a big ship (upper belt) come by, I get swamped. The seminar definitely gave some really good fundamental knowledge, but the drills were so specific and technical (to me) it was like getting thrown a specific socket wrench used in the production of a huge ship. That will certainly be useful when I’ve actually got a ship to use it on, but right now… just keep throwing me life preservers and solid bits of wood so I can make a raft and stop from drowning every. single. time. OK, now this analogy is tapping out, so I’ll move on before I completely run it into the shore (ha, I wan’t done!).
Life, as it is wont to be, has been busy. U5 soccer blindsided us and hamstrung our schedule. We’re contemplating a move to make our day-to-day commute to work/school (and BJJ!) more reasonable, so there’s been some viewings and meetings and frettings over things like “equity” and “appreciation” and other grown up concepts that are, at least in part, inherently soul sucking. That was offset by holidays and family visits. We’ve been to BJJ about half as much as we would’ve like to have been in the last three months, and we’re looking to settle into a repeatable pattern now that we’re through some craziness. More to come, and in less than 4 month intervals.