Saturday July 6 was a big day at Osagame. It was our first, ever, Black Belt Promotion in Jiu Jitsu.
We’ve had Black Belt Promotions in Judo, and everyone knows what’s involved in that, but this was our first ever, Black Belt promotion in Jiu Jitsu, so no one was quite sure how it was going to happen.
Everyone trained, then each of the 4 Black Belts spoke about Lee, who was about to receive his Black Belt. Then the color change, and then Lee spoke.
As part of his remarks Ray referenced the old saying that the belts get heavier as the ranks get higher. And that’s true, not merely because of the skill that’s expected of person promoted, but also because of the responsibility conferred by rank. More is expected of a Black Belt than of a Brown Belt. More is expected of a Brown Belt than a Purple Belt, and so on.
Yes, there are clubs where rank is only a measure of how well, and how often you can beat others of similar rank. And, to be sure, that is part of it. And Lee has competed and won A LOT of medals (including winning a Gold Medal at Worlds as a Purple belt). But it’s only the smallest part of it, just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the part that you can see easily.
The bigger, more important part of rank is how well you can help others get better too. The biggest part of the iceberg is never obvious.
And, without anyone every having to say anything about it, that’s what all of the Black Belts talked about —- every single one of them talked about how Lee is always so generous with his teaching, how he works during class, and after class to help others get better. Sure, he is also doing this for himself, because he loves it. But he also gives of himself. And that, I think, is as it should be.
Part of getting a black belt is acquiring and honing skill and knowledge. But the other part of it is giving back to the community, and making sure that the community grows. And Lee has been doing that for a very long time.
The main gist of Lee’s speech was that he accepts the weight of the belt, but that he just doesn’t feel like a black belt yet. He didn’t feel like a Black Belt, but he was willing to bear the weight, and see where it takes him.
And I think that’s the right attitude. Bearing weight is what gives us strong bones, and vibrant lives. It’s what makes us stronger in a myriad of ways.
Maybe Lee doesn’t feel like a Black Belt, but he has been doing the major work of being one all along; he’s been giving back to the community and helping other people get better.
Black looks good on you, Lee :)