I haven't written too much about life with the new belt. I still jump a little bit when I pull it out of my gym bag and it's black instead of brown, but it's becoming more and more "normal." I like to joke that it is bulletproof (though I haven't tested this hypothesis) and that while I'm sleeping it travels through time and has adventures. Nobody can discount either of these conjectures; at least, nobody has so far. Although more than one person has offered to shoot it--while I'm wearing it. Such a helpful crowd!
What is persisting is the feeling I think I described the other day of being subdued. While I go through the motions of suiting up and tie on the belt the way I always have, no matter the color of said belt, sometimes I feel, well, subdued. I have been training regularly and making a point of helping people where I see that they need technique advice. And I feel confident that I can help them.
But then sometimes I contemplate the holes in my game, the poor performances I logged the last time I competed, the weaknesses in my teaching and coaching, the times when lower belts give me more trouble than I think they should, and I get weary. I feel like there's so much more to learn, and while on the one hand I'm excited because I can learn for me and don't have to prove anything anymore, on the other hand, I have everything to prove because of the color of my belt--and, added to that--because of my gender.
I know a lot of this is in my head, but from what I hear from my black belt friends, it's kind of natural. I've heard that it can take as long as a couple years to grow into the belt. And usually accompanying the growing pains is a tendency to get trounced like never before in competition. In my case things might be a bit different, because I regularly competed against black belts even as a brown , but in some ways it could be worse because now the pressure will be on me. If I lost to a black belt as a brown belt, well, that's what was supposed to happen. But if I lose to a brown belt as a black belt, it will throw me into a tailspin. And it will give people reason to question me.
I've been talking a lot with my friend Cristian, whom I credit along with Johnny for getting me to the point where I could even begin to be worthy of black. He got his almost 2 years ago and has been incredibly supportive of my path to the promotion and, since I got promoted, of the things I've been experiencing. He and I have a deal: We are going to keep each other honest in that we are going to train now because we love it and not because we feel compelled by any external pressures or expectations. We want to continue to do well in competition and live up to the belt, but for our own reasons.
Easier said than done, of course. Also easier to say that a world title doesn't matter when you don't get eliminated in the first round, like I did for both my weight class and the open at the Mundials in June. It's kind of like saying that looks don't matter when you resemble a lawn gnome. Only the Jessica Albas of the world get to say that, and when they do, you want to tell them to shut their anorexia holes, that they don't know what they're talking about because they've been treated differently (read: better) all their lives due to their looks.
I'm sorry, what was the question?
Yep, I know world titles, and titles in general are important. I'd be lying if I said they wouldn't be nice to have. But if that becomes my only motivation, then it gets depressing and overly stressful. And then, according to Robb Wolf, the stress causes my cortisol production to rise, and then I get belly fat. And then I have to buy one of those remedies that they advertise on daytime TV and in the middle of the night. As my 6-year-old niece would say, "I said no THANK you!"
Meh. It's like I said. I'm subdued. This morning I CrossFitted and realized I've lost a ton of strength; in August I didn't train much because of injury (my elbow and my groin) and travel. I'm more winded and more muscle fatiguey when I roll. So I guess I'm just riding a trough in my training. I tell myself I'll come out of it, but sometimes when I contemplate my age, I wonder if I will. Maybe this is the time when I really start to feel the years; maybe Dara Torres and Randy Couture are genetic freaks instead of role models. Well, all I can do is what I love to do. And given how the time flies and how I focus like a laser when I'm CrossFitting (lifting, specifically) and grappling, my guiding principles still seem to hold fast. So maybe in time I'll pull out of it.
Okay, bookmark this page for a year or two from now and we'll see how I feel. Right now, I'm just glad Brazilian jiu jitsu is all about lying on the ground.