By this time a year ago, in a time frame of two and half years, I had received 14 belts from a McDojo.
Orange, yellow, green, purple, blue, blue phase 2, brown phase 1, brown phase 2, brown phase 3, brown phase 4, red phase 1, red phase 2, red phase 3, and red phase 4.
Or, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit phase 2, etc.
Every two months we participated in a big production they called testing and at the end we got a new belt. They should just call it a fool’s dance.
I beg of you to watch this video. It doesn’t disappoint.
Good stuff, right? Legit badasses, right? You’re welcome.
There are zero standards for advancement and surprisingly what most people that participate in this don’t see is that it’s not about your skill and rewarding that. It’s about profit. That’s why we paid ridiculous testing fees, tested so often, and went through so many different belts. It’s all about getting as many people to test as possible and having as many belts to go through as possible.
They don’t give a crap about you actually learning the skills to be a real black belt. And yes, I’m calling your black belt bullshit. Sorry. Not sorry.
If skill was a priority there wouldn’t be kids that are 3rd degree black belts or 1st degree black belts that can’t do a side kick without falling over.
“Standards shm-andards,” says the McDojo.
It’s all about watering it down, making it easy, and everyone passing so that their students always come back for more.
I, much to my embarrassment, did the dance at this “testing” and walked up there 14 times to get 14 different belts. Each time I always thought testing was going to be fun and that getting a new belt was going to mean something to me. But, each time I left feeling a little empty and disappointed. I would look at my new belt and new certificate that said I had earned the rank of blah blah blah and something about it never ended up feeling like I thought it was going to.
See, that’s the thing. When you don’t earn it, and deep down you know you didn’t earn it, it doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s a participation award.
Fuck participation awards.
Yesterday, I received the second strip on my white belt at Springfield Fight Club.
That one piece of tape meant more to me than all 14 of those ridiculously stupid belts before. Combined. It doesn’t even compare, not even a little bit.
In the end, I know it’s just a piece of tape, but I can’t help but to reflect on what it represents to me. It’s a piece of tape that proves that I worked hard, I learned, I survived, I grew, I persevered, I didn’t give up.
I. Earned. It.
There was blood. There was enough sweat that I’m slightly embarrassed as a woman that I put out that volume of bodily fluid. There were tears many, many times over. And, every hard second and moment was worth it to be where I am today.
In this last year I have went through so many ups and downs and highs and lows and everything in between. I got my ass kicked on almost a daily basis and here I am, still chugging along, stronger than ever, and excited about my BJJ future.
I also found out that I am only the second girl to make it this far at SFC. That’s proof to me of how hard and how special this is. How non-participation-McDojo-y it is. (There I go, making up words again.) Finding that out filled me with so much determination and motivation to continue the path I’m on. To go where only one before me has gone. Miranda has been a continued inspiration for me, blazing the trail for the girls at SFC. I hope to follow that trail and continue showing that us girls can do this.
One of the cool things about standing there and watching people get new stripes is realizing what they have gone through to get there. As they started getting into the purple belts and the brown belts I couldn’t help but to think about how long they have been doing this and how much dedication that takes. Being in the presence of these people in that moment was quite amazing and inspiring. These guys have started at the bottom and risen above to achieve something very few in this world do.
The whole process made me feel very lucky to be a part of the SFC family. It’s one badass family to belong to.
Now, I know it’s no major award…
…but I still have to say some thank yous.
My husband, Mike, has been a constant source of encouragement.
He has lent an ear for me to vent to too many times to count and always stands by my side in battle against the demons from my past that bubble up from time to time. In return for this service he provides for me, he gets to kick my ass on a daily basis without the assault charges.
To those of you that have pushed me, believed in me, and kicked my ass all for the sake of making me better, thank you. I can be an absolute mess sometimes, in my head and struggling with simple social tasks, and you guys never make me feel like shit for it. There are so many of you that I don’t know if I would be where I’m at if it wasn’t for you believing in me.
Thank you so much.
It feels great to be a two-stripe white belt, even if it is “just a piece of tape.”