I’ve been thinking about Lee’s commitment to bearing the weight of his black belt, and what it means that the belts get heavier.
I was never coordinated as a kid, I always felt like other people had 2 thumbs and 8 fingers, but I had 7 thumbs and no fingers. I never had rhythm, or timing. And I’m lucky I could spell grace, I’ve never been graceful on or off the mat.
When I first started I used to fantasize that I would end up being really good at Judo and Jiu Jitsu (especially Judo, it’s so beautiful to watch). I envisioned myself beating women 20 and 30 years older than me, being a minor phenom. Then reality set in. I resisted, I fantasized. But reality has a way of being present no matter what.
The truth is that I’m just not a natural. I try hard, and I love it but I have to work at it. And now, years in, I’ve developed a sense of it that comes from practice. Other people, people who are naturals at this, have a sense that comes from practice AND intuition AND athleticism. And they are gorgeous at it. I’m competent, and sometimes I even win, but I’ll never be great at it.
I compare myself to others who have a naturalness to their Judo, and their Jiu Jitsu. I shouldn’t, there’s a million GOOD reasons why I shouldn’t, but I do. There’s still that nasty, competitive, aggressive part of me that just wants to WIN, dammit. (All that Zazen, all that spiritual commitment and it’s still there. <sigh> )
Because I compare myself to others, and I come up short, I hide from promotions. I do. The belts feel so damn heavy to me. I was busy doing construction work on the club for the several months before the last promotion, so I didn’t get a stripe. And while that felt not only appropriate, it was also a relief. It would have given me 4 stripes on my blue belt, and I would be close to purple belt. I didn’t want to get closer to purple belt because I didn’t want to be a purple belt. I didn’t want anyone to expect me to be able to do the things that purple belts can do.
I really gotta get past that.
I bet a lot of people feel that way, but they don’t want to say it. Like me, they don’t want to garner expectations, so they try to stay to the side off the path that would lead them to accomplishment. Like me, they’ll walk the path to success, but only sort of.
That shit has got to stop. I am sooooo overthinking this.
And if you’ve been nodding your head, agreeing with me and identifying with me, then you need to stop that shit too.
I had a conversation with Ronnie where I mentioned, quite casually, that I didn’t think I would ever be able to make it all the way to black belt and that I was fine with that.
“I’m 55” I said “I’ll never be able to do what the younger people can do. And I’m just not talented, I’ll never be able to do what the talented, athletic people can do."
I was OK with it, but he wasn’t. He was quite adamant that each person’s black belt represents something different for each of us. It’s always about effort, and time, and facing down fears. For Lee that means winning World’s at Purple belt. For me it might just mean facing down my own fears, and bearing the weight of my own, lighter belts.
Whatever it is, it’s really an internal journey that only manifests externally.
So I’ve decided to stop hiding. Because my belts, and my promotions, aren’t the same as anyone else’s promotions.
And neither are yours.