I competed at the FJJ Rio State Championships a couple of weeks ago. I had a pretty strong showing taking the gold. After a stinking two-hour wait in the pen which could drain even the most enthusiastic competitor’s motivation to the point of choking out the organisers rather than the equally suffering opponent waiting beside you. In the first match, I fought a really strong dude from GF Team, I caught a quick foot-lock on dude which really must have sucked ass after that two hour wait. Second dude I caught with a guillotine near the end of the match. In the final, I fought the Brasileiro Dhalsim whose feet and shoulders bent in some seriously random directions without a hint of a tap but I managed to beat dude 5-2 on points. What was super sweet about winning this bad-boy on the Saturday was that Master Terere arrived back at the academy on the Monday, it was rather awesome having him present me the medal in front of the class that evening.
After spending a few days training with Terere, I was informed that he was to promote me to purple belt. I was a little shocked to discover that this was dependent on me passing a belt test. Testing for promotion seems somewhat cheesy, surely if your ready, your ready. Danny LaRusso didn’t have to take a test, Mr Miyagi hooked a brother straight up! But who am I to argue with multiple time world champion and legend of the sport on how to promote a dude.
The test itself was a series of sweeps, passes, takedowns and movement drills. To make this easier, my partner who I was to be executing said techniques was 100kg black belt, Professor Nogueria. The test itself was relatively straight forward, I had done all these techniques hundreds even thousands of times, although it was a little nerve-racking given the importance of the situation. I bust out all the techniques no problem, it then came to literally the last thing on the list, a rolling breakfall. I have done a million breakfalls since starting Jiu-Jitsu, I know how to do a breakfall. However on the day, I was not performing it to their rigid specifications, the more they explained, the more I fucked it up. Thankfully, after what felt like five thousand rolling breakfalls I managed some sort of semblance of what they wanted. When I stepped off the mats I was so angry I felt like crying, I was about to be the only person not promoted to purple because of a breakfall!
What made this business even worse, I copped a celebration / consolation acai. I brought it back to the gaff, put it on the top off my protein tub like an actual dumbass, I turned round to grab something hoping that it wouldn’t fall, which invariably it did, splattering all over the table and floor. I was discovered by little bro Gabriel, mouth to table sucking up as much of the rapidly melting acai as possible looking like some seriously deranged acai fiend.
When it came to the evening I was completely unsure about whether I was going to be promoted or not. I still wrote my speech in Portuguese and stood in the mirror for about an hour like a proper penis trying to memorise it. All the time thinking this shit could end up like the Oscars with me politely clapping for others whilst hiding my bitter resentment. I walked down to the academy that night mad slow, I was nervous about not receiving my belt but I was probably more nervous about getting it too. I sat there for fifteen minutes which felt like forever as other people received stripes for their belts. Thankfully my Portuguese is at the level where I can understand that someone is talking about me, not that I could understand everything but I knew that Master Terere was totally making a speech about me. Plus I was thinking ‘ooooooooooh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’ too much to really try and follow the gist of what he was saying. Stepping up there and having my belt changed was some straight up legendary business. But I didn’t have too much time to revel in it as I was promptly thrown by both Terere and Professor Nogueria. The second of said throws knocked me for six, so giving my speech became more scrambled than it would have been already. I am now well versed at looking into the smiling yet confused faces when I’m speaking in Portuguese.
The final part of the promotion was the whipping. I am all about earning your promotion by having some of your closest friends whip the piss out of you. I was about to take off the Gi and take the lashes like I was taught but was informed to keep it on, whilst this seemed like cheating I thought ‘sweet, I will escape the pain’. As you can see by the video I did not escape any pain! I had to walk through four times whilst being hit by about twenty people, that’s like eighty lashes, even with the Gi that shit hurt like hell!
It has taken me a while to write this, I was struggling with how to explain what this all meant to me and still sound gangsta. This really was one of the most special and significant moments of my life, it was a dream come true for me. My actual hero promoting me to purple belt, shit was beyond wild. I must have spent hours watching and re-watching old blurry matches on YouTube from being a white belt, looking at this dude that made Jiu-Jitsu look straight up beautiful. To then doing some research and finding out about his inspiration tale of overcoming the odds of favela life by becoming one of the world’s most celebrated competitors and to his more recent battles conquering addiction. When I came to Rio it was an honour and completely next level to just train with Terere day-to-day in his academy. Whilst I would have loved to be promoted by him, I never thought that this would become a reality. To be writing this today that I am now a purple belt, one that was promoted by one of the greatest of all time and someone who I now call a friend is absolutely incredible, this experience will live with me forever.