My First Stripe!

After months of training I finally got my first stripe!

At the end a hard Saturday morning class, as we all lined up, I heard my name called. I ran up to the front of the mat to the applause of my fellow students and coaches, and my head instructor wrapped a little piece of tape around my belt, promoting me to single stripe white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It was invigorating, but uncomfortable and humbling. I remember still feeling so hopeless and ignorant, and like I didn’t really deserve it.

First stripe is all about getting over that conditioning phase, and mastering the very most basic moves, like falling down and getting back up. It is also about attendance, attitude, and commitment. It shows that you’ve dedicated usually somewhere between 20 and 30 hours of solid mat time in studying the basics, and you demonstrate a positive attitude and willingness to learn.

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My First Few Months

There’s a poster that hangs on the bathroom of my gym that says, “Your fitness is 100% mental. You’re body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it.” This epitomizes the first few months of jiu-jitsu training.

Surviving the first few months was entirely a matter of consistency. I simply keep showing up.

Consistency taught me discipline, through always making sure I was in the gym three times a week, even when I was sore or I felt like I didn’t have the time. I’ve also learned dedication, from staying positive, keeping my ego in check, taking notes, watching videos, and studying the history and origins of the martial art.

After three months of training I don’t feel so winded from warmups, the instructions don’t feel so far above my head, and I’m more responsive as a training partner. I don’t feel so clueless on the mat anymore, though I now know just enough to know that I don’t know nothing.

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The Rōnin: No Lords. No Masters.

Distrustful vagabonds, revolutionary warriors, or ruthless mercenary? Who were these enigmatic masterless ex-Samurai of feudal Japan?

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Horibe Yasubei Taketsune of the 47 Ronin, woodblock print by Ogata Gekko

A Samurai without a master was known as a Rōnin, which translates to ‘drifter’ or ”wanderer.’  A trained warrior left to their own devices, without a master to serve nor a duty imposed upon them, was an unpredictable person.

Ostracized from society, stripped of lands, money, power, and status, many became mercenaries, bandits, or petty thieves.

In earlier years Samurai who lost their masters would simply swear to another master, as a means of maintaining their social status.

During the contentious Edo period (1603-1868) Samurai were heavily restricted, and were not allowed to swear service to a new master if they lost their original.

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Why The Name “Gentle Rōnin?”

I started training jiu-jitsu at a crossroads in my life. I’m on the verge of change while forging my own path forward.

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Miyamoto Musashi Slashing a Tengu (1865) woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitosh

I’m about to graduate from university, and after three years of going back to school I am pained with wanderlust, I want to relocate (at least for a bit), and I want to start working professionally.

Meanwhile I have totally fallen in love with jiu-jitsu and I don’t want to stop training.

Life sends obstacles ~ Forming our priorities ~ Action shapes our fate

Jiu-Jitsu is the gentle art because it uses intelligence and technique to conquer even the strongest foe.

The restlessness in my heart, my uncertain future, and my inability to commit to an academy long-term makes me identify with the wandering warrior-poets of feudal Japan: the Rōnin.

Hence the name.

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Prologue: My History With Martial Arts

After hours of watching anime and professional wrestling as a kid, a month of youth karate classes, a few high school BJJ classes, one Kung fu class, and one Kung fu book, at the age of 28 I finally started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

This first entry is a long backstory to my Jiu-Jitsu Journey, my interest in marital arts, and how I eventually came to Jiu-Jitsu and started training.

Purists will cringe, but my introduction to martial arts was watching Goku take down monsters and fellow martial artists on Sunday morning viewings of Dragon Ball.

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