Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last white stripe.

Yesterday at class it was me and one very new guy. The professor showed us a couple of very basic moves. I got to demonstrate, and then help coach the new guy (Seth) through a couple of the subtle details while we were working on the moves.
One of the strengths I have as an athlete is a sense and feel for detail/technique. It's what allowed me to play prop forward at a fairly high level weighing around 200 lbs (most of the time less). I really enjoy coaching, and getting the fine points of a sport. Some times it's the best way to really learn something is to have to explain it to someone else. After the technical part of class was over, the professor pulled me aside, and explained that he normally doesn't promote in small informal classes like this, but when he sees a player demonstrating a higher level of game he acknowledges it. I'm kind of dense so I didn't understand what he was getting at, until he started unrolling a piece of tape. I was awarded my 4th and final stripe on my white belt. The next promotion (which I don't expect will be any time soon) is my blue belt.
I don't know why, but the blue belt is the biggest deal to me. The blue belt means that you are officially not a novice, you have established yourself in the school. Purple and brown are markers of knowledge level, (black is a whole level beyond) but blue for some reason means more emotionally.
I think this is because I've felt like an outsider for a good part of my athletic career. When I was in high school, my weirdness, my outsider status was excused because I busted my butt, because I could play ball. I kept to myself, and that was worrying to some folks, but when I put on a football helmet I was something they could understand. In college, some of the guys understood the things I stood for, but couldn't quite understand the extremes of my opinions. My teammates were family; we got along, we had a strong bond, but outside of "family events" we were different, and did our own thing. We didn't have to be friends because we were brothers.
After college, I had teammates that were friends, but I was back to high school: he's weird, but he's game to do whatever it takes to win. Now it's different: first of all it's Seattle, so the all of the labels I have self applied in the past are far more common out here (punk, straight edge, vegetarian, etc), secondly I am more laid back in my old age, and finally and more importantly this sport attracts more "Different" folks.
I've blogged before that I feel like I fit in there, but here is always that quiet voice in my head. It says you're still weird, still an outsider. That voice drives me.. always has. I respond to it with "fine, I'm weird, but I'll break myself to help my team win. I'll do the hard work, anything it takes to win, no one is an outsider on a winning team."
At Ballard, it's different. It's family, and friends. I have so much to learn, but I'm lucky in that I have a lot I can teach. That all said, that voice is still there: you're a white belt, a novice, an interloper, an outsider. Up until the Pan-ams I would get butterflies in my stomach before every class. I was afraid I would show up and something would change, I'd be an outsider. It's home now, and as I move forward jiu-jitusu that voice gets quieter.

Good fights on tonight. B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk is the big fight. Shirk has a lot to prove. He was stripped of his title and is understandably ticked off about it. B.J. seems to be motivated, fit and prepared which many people think is the final missing piece in the prodigy's arsenal. Machida vs Ortiz is the fight I want to see, I think Tito is going to push the pace and put "the Dragon" in an uncomfortable place.. I'm interested to see if he can respond.

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