MA: Stripes Give You Superpowers

When I first saw this picture, many months ago, I laughed. Being a complete novice at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I thought it to be true. I really thought that at Blue Belt I would all of a sudden stop doing stupid shit, but I was wrong.

For the past 14 months I have been going to class as regularly as possible. The club is a 55 minute drive away one-way and the weather in Canada isn’t always accommodating when it comes to highway travel. Just recently I have been able to increase my training frequency. I also am able to get in a session with a good friend locally. I show him what I know, we drill it and then get a few rolls in. I am very thankful that he has a heated garage and he went so far as to purchase mats so we could get together once a week and practice.

Sure, when I began this completely foreign martial art I was doing stupid shit. Well, to clarify, I didn’t know what I was doing at all. I had done a little grappling without the uniform so as soon as someone was able to hang off of me all my tools were made obsolete. They just had their way with me.

Over time my defence improved and I got a stripe on my belt. Over more time my defence again improved and I received another stripe on my belt. And here I am, today, with four stripes on my white belt - the next belt to be blue in colour.


I’ve spent 25 years in a striking martial art. Wing Chun. Non-Classical Gung-Fu. Amateur boxing. Heck, I’ve been punched in the face in front of 500 people - opening up for a professional fight - twice! However, I have a confession: I hate getting punched in the face. And you know what I hate even more? Punching people in the face. I hate it. I know that I am causing damage to them by hitting them in the head. Many people who I’ve sparred have experienced feelings of dizziness, saw stars and have had a lingering headache. I, too, have had these things happen to me and I’m done with it. I would never wish away my 25 years of Kung-Fu, but I feel grappling will serve me well into old age - for me and my training partners.

I haven’t had much success with my grappling. Heavier or stronger training partners at a similar level have been able to make quick work of me with their attributes - until just recently. Some may argue that belts, and stripes for that matter, are trivial or that they don’t matter at all. I will disagree. After receiving a fourth stripe on a mere white belt I must say that my confidence has increased a tonne-fold, and I have a clearer vision of what I am supposed to be doing and where I am supposed to be going. Stripes gave me superpowers. They mean something to me. They mean that my instructor, someone who has spent many years perfecting his art believes in me, and that allows me to believe in myself. And I disagree with the belt diagram.

At least for me, in 6, 8, or 12 months, whenever my instructor feels I am ready to wear a Blue Belt, I will know the meaning of it: that I have amassed a certain amount of basic tools, I recognize the opportunities to use them, and have the confidence to use them. It’s not that I will stop doing stupid shit all of a sudden. It’s that I will have the skill ability and the conviction to pull the trigger.

There will always be someone to clash with. There will always be someone who is better. The goal is simply to be better today than I was yesterday: this, in all things.

Kenton Sefcik