Sunday, March 27, 2011

Belt test!

I woke up yesterday feeling like crap.  My neck was still really sore from all the headlock escapes we had been doing on Thursday, and my stomach was all kinds of knotted up.  But there would be no sleeping in--I had to get to the academy for my blue belt test.

I managed to stuff down two Nutella-smothered waffles on my way over, and found Paris, the one other guy testing with me, and Matt, the guy he was testing with.  Gavin, one of our instructors was also there, and Paris and I went over some last minute details while Matt and Gavin tidied up the place--there were piles of old mats that Gavin wanted put away for the test.  We got there around 10, but the test didn't start until 11:30, so we had plenty of time for last-minute review (and nerves!)  People started trickling in even before 11, and it was really nice to see so many of our teammates had come out to support us.  Plus, they would get to take part, so I'm sure they wouldn't miss out on it.

We started promptly at 11:30, and went through our usual warm-up.  Part of the test involved some of our "warm-up" moves, such as standing in base, shrimping, rolling forward and breaking our fall, so we had to go first for everything.  For the next part, they had everyone except for Paris, myself and our respective training partners stand at the edge of the mat.  Everyone had to watch while we demonstrated the techniques they called out.  We were told to continue doing the technique until they told us to move on.  Starting from the very beginning, they went through the entire Pedro Sauer white-to-blue curriculum, somewhere from 80-90 moves.  It wouldn't have been too bad, except we had to do each move at least three times, often more.  And there were no breaks, except when my partner Ryan needed to fix his belt or I needed to shove my hair back into a ponytail.  Within the first ten minutes, I was already breathing hard and sweating.  This would not be good.

Finally, after about an hour (and a few partner replacements in my place, just because Ryan was so lanky that sometimes certain things just looked awkward when I did them to him), we finished the technique portion.  Paris and I were told to take a five minute break, while everyone else huddled up for a meeting.  They're going to kick our asses, I knew it.  Gavin came over after he finished with them, to prepare us for the next part.  We were going to be rolling straight for anywhere from 45-60 minutes, and we would need to conserve our energy.  Survive, he told us.  Remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint.  But don't ever give up and don't stop moving, because they WILL be pushing you.  However, he also made it clear that if anyone thought they could go crazy on me (or Paris) he would not hesitate to give them an ass-whooping in front of everyone.  They did one or two three-minute rounds, and then called us back in.

Now the fun part really began.  Once again, everyone lined up by rank, except for Paris and me.  The two of us were to stay out on the mat the whole time, and every three minutes two new people would come roll with us.  No breaks, no mercy.  Just never-ending jiu jitsu.

I honestly don't remember a whole lot of what happened.  I remember feeling good my first few matches; I didn't tap anyone but I survived and, in some cases, got in a few good moves.  I didn't feel particularly dead yet, but it still didn't help that I was going against fresh people every few minutes.  However, as it got later I could tell I was starting to fade.  I still wasn't feeling terrible, but I just didn't have the energy to move as much--I waited when I shouldn't have, and my matches become more about survival.  Every now and then I had bursts of energy; certain people I wasn't looking forward to rolling with (i.e. the ones twice my size) would come in and I would try to start on top instead of pulling guard; but that never worked.  Finally, at one point, I got tapped by a 3-stripe white belt.  He was one of those big guys, and normally, I don't wait around to tap.  When I'm caught, I know it, and I know there's nothing to be gained from passing out on the mat.  But it still angers me that I was being "choked" (suffocated, really) purely because I was squeezed into a fake triangle that I had been muscled into, and not because he had a legit submission on me.  I fought that one as hard as I could, but I couldn't get out.  Maybe I waited too long to stack him, or maybe there was nothing I could have done.  I had another few decent matches after that, and then it started going seriously downhill.  I still didn't feel awful, but more and more I was curling up when my guard got passed, and not moving got me into a position where I was going to be submitted.  I got tapped a few more times, and then for my last few rounds, it was my three coaches.  Of everyone, they probably went the roughest on me.

Finally, they called time.  I sat up and tried to catch my breath, which was kind of work until I got hauled to my feet.  Then I felt like I was about to puke for a minute, but I managed to make it.  We lined up by rank, and they called me up.  After a short speech, they tied on my belt.
That's John tying on my belt, and Mike in the background.  Paris got called up next, and if anything, his journey was even more difficult--he has a four-month-old son, so lately he's only been able to get in maybe 2-3 times a week, if he was lucky.
So thanks to everyone in the above picture, who was there for our test.  You all participated and pushed me and without you, the test wouldn't have happened.

I have far too many more people to thank than just my KnoxBJJ classmates.  I left a note on my Facebook with some details, but I want to thank you, everyone who has ever given me advice or encouragement, because without the online BJJ community I might have lost the heart to keep training. 


  1. Yay! Congrats, Aparna! :D

    Out of interest, do you think getting that belt would have felt any different if you'd just been given it randomly at the end of class, or did the long, arduous test make it special?

  2. @slideyfoot Getting a promotion in BJJ is always special. Getting it after a test made a bigger deal out of it, and just having survived gave me another sense of accomplishment. In one way, I know how far I can be pushed. But honestly, I wouldn't have minded just getting the belt. It would have taken a lot of pressure off in the weeks and months leading up to the test, and sometimes the testing seems unnecessary--our coaches wouldn't have asked us to test if they didn't think we would pass. Plus, I think it would have been more fun to get the belt, and THEN have to roll with everyone =D Also, I spent a lot of time making sure I knew the curriculum when I could have spent that time preparing for a competition which I've decided not to do, precisely because I haven't been preparing. But I understand the need for testing, especially in associations with set curriculums for each belt.

  3. @Aparna Interesting. I think the best test system is probably Roy Dean's. There is a belt demonstration, but it's optional: he already thinks the person is ready for the belt.

    Although personally I prefer the "surprise you randomly at end of class" method, that could be because that's what I'm used to.

    Incidentally, did you tick some blogger setting or other to get that 'reply to comment' option next to comments? Haven't seen that on other blogspot blogs.

    I normally just do @Random:, but looks like that option could save me some typing.

  4. @slideyfoot I personally would prefer the "surprise" method too, but that's not how my current school works, and honestly it's not that big a deal.

    There's no setting--I had to search for it, and you can modify the code. There are very simple, easy-to-follow directions:
    I would prefer the comments to be like WordPress, where you can have comment threads, but oh well. Again: not that big a deal.

  5. Cool - the internet can be very handy for fiddles to the blogspot template. I've used lots of them on my blog (like the menubar, which I'm quite pleased with, at least on Firefox).

    I think I prefer the comment structure as it is on blogspot, in a chronological column (although it's annoying when people set it to only show the time and not the date: means I don't know if I'm responding to a comment from three years ago, or from last week).

    I can see the advantages to the Wordpress layout, but it seems a bit messy to me.

  6. @Triin Thanks, Triin! FYI, that's a Fenom blue belt ;)