BJJ: Reaching the black belt

I recently, on Sunday the 26th of Novemebr 2017, received my black belt in Gracie Jiujitsu from my teacher, Mr Eddie Kone and his panel of black belts.

Myself, Mr Shaun Escoffery, Mr Eddie Kone, Mr Shukie Lok and Mr James Gregory

The 5 hour long test consisted of:
  1. Teaching 4 mini-privates to a group of 3-5 students
  2. Performing every technique from GM Helio Gracie's book "The Master Text".
  3. Defending ourselves against random attacks in the centre of a "Self Defence Circle"
  4. Defending ourselves against random attacks from an attacker surprising from behind
  5. Stand up clinching against a striking opponent (fresh opponent every minute
  6. Ground sparring against a striking opponent (fresh opponent every minute)
  7. Regular gi-sparring (fresh opponent every minute)
  8. Regular nogi-sparring (fresh opponent every minute)
Gi sparring with Mr Elroy Powell
Teaching under the supervision of Professor Kone
is an essential component of the black belt test

By the end, both myself, Mr Shukie Lok and Mr Shaun Escoffery received our black belts from Mr Eddie Kone. The belts were beautifully embroidered with GM Helio Gracie's signature and Eddie explained his reasoning behind that embroidery:

"It's very simple really. The only reason I have that signature is as a constant reminder of where we came from and what the focus of our training should be: to study, practice and teach a complete art of self defence"

As you can see, the black belt we received has a white tab on it and not a red one. This simply signifies a recently promoted black belt. If we continue to train and wish to join the Professor's Course, in one year's time that tab will be changed to a red one.

As you might imagine, words fail to describe how I feel to have reached this milestone in my training. Three black belts (Karate, Judo and Jiujitsu) later, I am still just as giddy and excited about the prospect of getting on the mat and learning. I doubt that will change.

The brink of exhaustion
Many friends are to thank. Mr Lok put it beautifully in his speech:

"When I look down at this belt, I know that if I ever shared the mat and trained with you, even once, then a piece of you is in this belt. Thank you all"

What an honour, to be graded to black belt by my friend and mentor

I am very lucky that I have an extended jiujitsu (and martial arts in general) family. To witness the grading, several of my friends had come to show their support. Friends who train at other academies and compete for other teams. My mail, Social Media and Whatsapp inbox has been flooded with kind words from friends congratulating me. Friends I've met through jiujitsu from Sweden, the US, South Africa, Namibia, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Estonia, New Zealand, Australia, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Singapore and of course all over the UK. Thank you all for the support. It feels amazing!

It's about friendship: Flanked by Mr Seymour Yang and Mr Miad Najafi.

"Not like an item of clothing" is the video below, made by the talented Mr Sam Wandi from The Sound Collective, capturing the sentiment behind the short thank you speech I delivered at the end

I mentioned something towards the end of my speech that I would like to expand upon. My gratitude, naturally, goes to my friends & family for their support, my teachers for the knowledge, my training partners and students for the privilege of sharing the mats and my mentors for the inspiration. But one group of people, I feel, never get all the credit they deserve: The Financial Risk Takers.

Here's a big, fat, heart-felt "THANK YOU!" to each and every person who's had the kahoonas to put their neck on the line and take a financial risk to support and grow our art. Whether that's Mr Richard Bresler who provided the financial backing for UFC1, the event that changed the landscape of Martial Arts forever, to Bad Boy for sponsoring Rickson Gracie's seminar in Rio back in the early 90s, to the hardworking people behind every jiujitsu brand out there, working tirelessly to support and grow our art and sport.

Above all, thank you to every academy owner and their family who've worked day in and day out to make sure the bills are paid, the lights can stay on and the academy is still there next Monday.

Congratulations to all who graded. See you on the mats.



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