Well back in December I went to a Lagarto seminar as a 3 stripe white belt, I was really pleased with this as it meant I could go to the intermediate class and fully develop my game.
I entered hoping more than expecting that I would get my fourth stripe and get me one step further towards a blue belt. The session started well and the techniques that we were being taught were all things that I could do and suited my large frame. I was able to carry them off quite well and found a couple that I use to this day as part of my everyday game.
Then came sparring and the weeks leading up to this with John paid off, weeks of him in my ear telling me to move my ass, to keep pushing, to leave it all on the mat, to stop giving up on positions, to show some aggression no matter that it is not in me anymore really. With all this in mind I sparred well, probably as well as I ever have at a class and I took top people’s backs, got a few taps and still tapped a few times of course as our school has some seriously high standard guys.
Then came the line up, Lagarto asked for 3 purple belts which went to Max, Ryan and Noel which were so well deserved as they are three guys who have really helped me get to where I am today along with the likes of Gregg, Hayden, Russ, Rich et al. Stripes were handed out and I did not get one, oddly enough I was not that disappointed as I knew I had sparred as well as I had ever done at a seminar and just clearly was not ready.
John and Lagarto then got their heads together again and Lagarto asked for 2 blue belts and I looked round and saw a good few worthy candidates, Taff (oddly enough a bit Welsh that lad) nudged me and said “I reckon one of those is for you” I politely replied “Forget off, there is fun all chance”. Then the first belt went to Yousuf which was fantastic, he has been a mate from the start of my journey pretty much, we went to our first comp together (story coming up) and have travelled the road with a big smile. He has become a human backpack and has real stragglers mitts. A huge round of applause went up a cheer and I gave him the traditional big Stew hug has he came past.
Then Lagarto started asking for someone called Grandão and looking near me, Dave T (Fiddy as he is known) said, “he means you it is Portuguese and basically there is big, bigger and Grandao” (bigger than bigger). I pointed at myself embarrassed in case Lagarto said “No that guy” but he didn’t he just smiled and nodded and I believe John said “get your ass over well done”.
Then it hit me, he was giving me my blue belt I was not going to be a white belt anymore I had worked so hard, lost over 50 lbs and grappled till I was black and blue but only hoped for a fourth stripe. Then I heard the cheer and the applause went to put my belt on, and realised that I was back as part of the family fully now and almost, and I mean almost cried. Now I admit this is not that manly but I suddenly realised how much this all meant to me. Not the belt so much just the fact that I had achieved something I so dearly wanted to.
I went through the back whipping process which some people seem to enjoy handing out too much, Majid, John and “Handsome” Chris as he calls himself (ginger Chris to the rest of us) being prime examples. I had the pic taken with John, Lagarto and Ben Poppleton getting my belt and walked out to the car, where my girlfriend asked “did you get your stripe” I said “nah” and she comforted me and pointed out that I love it anyway so I will just get it next time. I then told her I had ordered my blue belt from John and was waiting for it to come in to stock on my side and almost, almost shed a tear again, thankfully she did it for me instead.
So on December 6th 2009 I got my blue belt it got my first stripe on it May 15th 2010……………..the journey is just starting