My first Gracie Combatives Stripe

So a few days ago I got my first stripe in the Gracie Combatives program. You know, to be completely honest with you folks, I really didn’t think I’d feel so proud about earning a single stripe, (again) but I really did feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Please allow me to explain what I mean.

So I’ve been training BJJ for many years, and I’ve gotten one stripe several times over those years. In most schools, the Professor watches the students, he or she sees how they are learning, how they move, how they roll and one day decides that you are ready for a stripe, multiple stripes, or even a higher belt.

There is no established curriculum, no test, it is simply your professor solely deciding that they are comfortable with you representing the school as the next level up from whatever rank or belt you are wearing. So all that being said, you know that your coach approves of it and has recognized you for it.

The Gracie Combatives program is different in the sense that it is highly structured and follows a perfectly laid out curriculum. If you show up for class X amount of times, you get a stripe indicating that you have been coming in. I don’t know if the Professor can withhold a stripe, or if they have any say, but as I understand it, if you show up and train, once you make X number of days, you earn your stripe.

I’m being brutally honest here so please bare with me as I tie it all together. So initially, that system made me feel that the stripes meant less than the other ones I’ve earned. The reason for that is because if you just show up, you’ll earn the stripe. That didn’t sit too well with me because I want my professor to tell me, to acknowledge and decide that I’ve actually earned this by their judgement, that I’m good enough to wear it.

That’s how I felt about it when I started the program. However, as I’ve been attending more and more regularly, I’ve been seeing the work we put into the drills, the amount of sweat I generate, the aches and pains I feel all the time, and the amount of commitment and effort it takes to just show up. As the time has passed, I’ve come to recognize that “simply” showing up is one of the hardest things you have to do to achieve anything in life. I’ve known this, but this is a nice reminder. As such I understand how it really is a factor in determining your commitment to the process, and therefore, your stripes.

As I thought more about it, I realized that though it is not “written in a curriculum,” by you showing up and the professor seeing you work is how you rank up in others schools as well. At the end of the day, you are showing up and you are learning the techniques.

So that’s the reason my view around this curriculum stripe system changed and why I felt proud of myself when Coach Bart gave me my stripe at the new school. Yes, I have been consistently showing up consistently 3 times a week and hopefully more soon.

Let’s put showing up into a real life example. So a few nights ago I was struggling with a headlock defense takedown. It’s really awkward to me and it will take a lot more practice before I get comfortable with it. But how is it that this happens? By showing up and learning, key word here, showing up. That’s what makes the difference.

Let us continue.

Some weeks ago I was really struggling with a mounted armbar, but this headlock day was my third time doing a move that included an armbar from the mount . On this night, though not perfect, my mounted armbar drills felt so much better. I was able to swing my leg over my training partner and land with my butt closer to him than I was doing last time. It’s not perfect, and there is much more I need to learn and improve on it, but it was much better than a few weeks ago and I accomplished that by showing up. That’s the same way this headlock defense is going to eventually click, by continuing to show up, learning, and improving.

Honestly, I don’t think I give myself credit for showing up in life, but this armbar growth showed me how important that really is and it should not be underestimated. So yes, we must celebrate the small victories along the way.

So hell yeah I was proud to earn that stripe! I have a torn shoulder ligament, lower back spasms, bulging discs on my neck, knee pain, ankle pain, wrists that don’t bend and are always getting torn up, sore toes from the years of zumba classes and the fast intense movements I do, extremely tight muscles, and God knows what else, but I always show up for class and do the work! So yes, I earned that stripe and I’m damn proud of it!