Concerning Rank ...

Martial arts rank can be a funny thing. It is a thing that some stow much importance on - whilst others - give it little weight at all. Although it can be seen as recognition of ‘time served’ - there is so much variance between styles and what ‘time served’ actually means - that it is really difficult, if not impossible, for people to agree on any kind of standardisation. From my own perspective (holding black belt ranks in several styles) - some hold little to no meaning for me - whilst others, I do place significant value on. At the end of the day, it really comes down to how I conduct myself on the martial arts landscape and in the wider world in which I live - that actually matters. One of my favourite latin sayings ‘Acta - non verba’ cuts to the very heart of it … what we do is what counts, rather than what we say. BJJ is not an art that gives up rank easily - a BJJ black belt is something earned only by those prepared to undertake an extraordinary effort. A BJJ athlete is tested in each and every session - the lessons to be learned are countless in number - the black belt isn’t something one can hide behind (it offers little, if any, sanctuary) … but it is worthwhile, in the extreme. This year, being awarded my fifth degree BJJ Black Belt by professor Rigan Machado, was a bit of a shock. I find myself in sparse company, there being only a couple of other non-Brazilian nationals to have been awarded that rank (Bob Bass and Chris Haueter being two others in the USA). What I do recognise is this, Bob, Chris and I do all share a commonality - apart from the obvious quarter of century or more in the study and practise of the art we all love - and it is this: we are all ‘students’ at heart. We all remain intensely curious about and invested in, the un-ending evolution of BJJ - whilst still being capable of extracting great satisfaction from mining ever-deeper into the fundamental principles and underlying concepts which support the art at it’s very foundation; we all love to solve problems; we love to find connections between aspects of the art that previously seemed unconnected; we love to train, to explore and above all else - we love to learn. We got together earlier this year and although we hadn’t seen each other for quite a few years - it was as if we had sweated on the mat together only yesterday. So no matter where you find yourself on the BJJ/Ranking ladder - know this - we are all undertaking the same journey - we all share the same frustrations, the same trial, tribulations and the same sense of wonder. Rank, in most instances, just indicates how long we have journeyed to date … respect to those ahead of us … respect top those behind! JBW


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