I wanted to let the moment settle in. I didn’t want to rush and write something that was not an accurate encapsulation of my feelings. But the truth of the matter is, after 8 years of focused training, I achieved one of the most challenging goals I ever set my mind to. I earned my jiu jitsu Black belt.
I wouldn’t change one thing about this journey. Not one. The ups and the downs were tailor fitted for me and gave me nothing but perspective and experiences that are priceless. Below, I attempt to encapsulate a few of the most major lessons I learned along this 8 year journey. I also dedicate a section where I thank key people who pushed me when I needed it, when I didn’t need it, and even when I thought I didn’t need it. This journey was not an individual effort.
Achieving this belt was much more different than my judo Black belt. I earned my first degree of Black belt in judo when I was 16 and at that age I did not know what was ahead of me, I was simply doing judo because it was fun and my brother did it. At that age, it was something I just kind of did. For this jiu jitsu Black belt, I can honestly say it was one of the first things I ever put my 100% effort in to. Not school or grades. Not even my collegiate judo career. In fact, I remember somewhere along the way I made up my mind that I would not look at this journey the same way I looked at my judo journey, it would be different.
Different in a sense that I wanted to apply myself and see how good I could get at something when I gave my everything to it. So I approached this journey with a more cerebral process, one that blended thought, emotion, effort, and purpose like no other journey I ever ventured on.
This mindset allowed me to become a witness. A witness to what is possible when one can attach something bigger to the process other than just going through the process itself. I attached my father to this journey, somewhere when I started PDXBJJ and earned my Purple belt. In hindsight, I believe I attached him to this journey because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Jiu jitsu is really, really difficult when done at the level I wished to achieve. I knew there would be trying times and I needed something larger than myself to get me through it, so Alan Hung became that.
I would imagine him at work telling his friends at Pearl Harbor Shipyard about his sons. Or maybe while on a break from riding his Harley around Oahu, how we started Portland Judo and what we were up to. How my brother started his Barefoot Strength & Conditioning business and how I began practicing jiu jitsu. How the dojo was growing and seeing how we were trying to establish a community based on positivity. These thoughts pushed me through training sessions, mental blocks, fatigue, injuries, and gave me strength when I needed it.
These thoughts became fuel for me to overcome all obstacles that stood in front of me. Around the age of 27, a Purple belt at the time, an indomitable, relentless, and often restless spirit overcame me and it allowed me to think differently. My view of the world had changed entirely, from the music I listened to, to the books I read (I never read anything more than the back of a Limp Bizkit CD cover in college), to the value I placed on the relationships in my life. It was crazy to be waking up at 27 and viewing the World completely differently. I learned I knew nothing.
I learned to be forever a student and how to dig, often deep, to find the smallest gems of knowledge that people other than myself possess. 18 years in and I still get my mind blown by some of the information that others freely drop. To have an insatiable thirst of knowledge is something that I will forever be blessed with from this journey.
I learned to wage war on yourself before waging war on others. There’s nothing like being completely ruthless towards your faults to keep you up at night. That sting of realizing that I can always be improving, that I am in a constant state of flux, is sometimes scary, but it allows me to view my weaknesses and ignorant tendencies. That sting is something that pushes me to try and do the right things, say the rights things, and leave the World a better place than when I found it. For the record, I’m trying!
I learned to find value in others. Man, how can someone go 31 years on this planet and never fathom this?! What was my thought process before? I believe the majority of people are trying their best to do what they can with what they have. I want to be a synergistic force in people’s lives and aid in growth.
One of the greatest lessons I learned, and still in the process of learning, is patience. Patience is a m*******g virtue. How often have you heard this cliché too? Until one day, it hits you in the face and you become aware of it’s power. The ability to sit at belt colors and go beyond, “What do I need to do to get my Purple belt? My Brown belt? Black?” How about, you wait. You marinade on techniques and concepts. You allow knowledge to seep in to the wrinkles of your brain and allow your technique to speak for itself. You see the longer term goals rather than the immediate satisfaction. It’s a life long journey, not a temporary trip. Which lead me to…
Time. What does time mean to you? I recently wrote a blog post about it, here. How often can someone say that a journey they have been on, changed their entire concept of Time? I’m fortunate.
I learned to value the journey over the destination. I was the one judoka who thought that judo trumped all other martial arts. It was judo versus the world. Incredibly narrow minded, I know. In my early stages, I found success utilizing judo techniques in jiu jitsu. But once it stopped working and I didn’t win everything, it made me reassess the reason why I was walking this path. It honestly sucked to realize this. But the challenge was laid before me, and I had to think of different ways to work around the issue. I became fascinated with this question: “When you’re faced with the same question day in and day out, how many different answers can you produce?” I asked myself, did I start jiu jitsu to do judo in jiu jitsu? Or did I originally start jiu jitsu for jiu jitsu? This shift in thought allowed me to push pass judo biases, judo techniques, and forever change my approach to learning and teaching jiu jitsu for itself.
I learned that my technique has been forever altered, to the point where I can no longer think or remember what it was before. The movements have become ingrained in to my fingertips, movements no longer require thought, but only feeling. This journey has given me the opportunity to commit myself to a craft, a reason to chase mastery of something. A purpose to at least strive to become great, a reason to focus my attention solely on one task.
I learned so much from this journey, and from the company around me, they’ve educated me that it’s just the start of something new. Many people ask, what’s next for me. And honestly, upon achieving this goal, I failed to look past what was next. The last 8 years of my life has been chasing this achievement, I never looked past it. Now that the moment has arrived, I want to enjoy the present time. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, but also think. Think about what the next step is for not only myself, but for my students, programs, and life in general.
Lastly, I want to dedicate this portion to a few people who took this journey with me.
To Danielle: You were there the day I put marker to board and wrote this dream in to reality. “Jiu Jitsu Black belt by 2016.” You’ve literally been around the world with me as I walked this path. You’ve eaten enough açai to be a jiu jitsu Black belt. You’ve documented this entire journey, a master with the GoPro. I wouldn’t want to have anyone else to share these memories with. You allowed my training to literally control our lives together while being completely unselfish. For this, I love you.
To Louie: You’ve been my measuring stick throughout this entire journey. In both life and on the mat. If it can work on my brother, it can work on anyone. You have pushed me to reach a realm of technical ability and mental toughness that would otherwise be unattainable alone. Your determination continues to be something I draw from when I fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You inspire me to be creative in the way I approach difficult situations, plowing the path for me is something you’ve been doing for 27 years. I look forward to exchanging knowledge upon your return from Japan.
To the Students of PDXBJJ and Portland Judo: I learned how to practice again through teaching you. You supply me with a canvas every day in which I can express myself on. Through lessons, techniques, drills, and conversations, you allow me to be a creative individual who can live out one of his passions. You teach me something Every. Single. Day. For this, I am eternally grateful.
To A Person Who Has Ever Trained With Me: I am a product of you. The techniques you applied to me has left an impression on me both physically and mentally. Through pattern recognition and mental conditioning, you have sharpened my technical skills. You provided me with a living riddle in which I attempt different answers to solve. Some are easy. Some are challenging. Others, I still have to learn the language in which the riddle was asked in, the thirst for knowledge continues. For this, I look forward to our next round.
To Alan Hung: We did it. Every time I look down to tie my belt, I remember your smile. I remember your love and strength. For this, I will continue to bear your name as we walk this path together, from now until we meet again.