Today is a special day — 30 years ago on the 23rdOctober 1989 when I was 19-years-old, I received my black belt from Master Jacaré’s hands. It was my dream. When I say “dream” this was because it was the main objective in my life at that time. Ever since I started my journey in Jiu Jitsu between the age of 13 and 14, that dream of becoming a black belt was really strong and vivid. I could always see it in my reach, and it was always my objective.
I also imagine it’s the objective of many of you who haven’t yet reached that point. You may have the idea of receiving your black belt as the greatest objective, like something that ends your Jiu Jitsu path. This sentiment is really natural, because of course you don’t know what it’s like there. I like to think of it like a mountain which you’re climbing, and becoming a black belt is the pinnacle, but you don’t know what’s on the other side. When you get to the other side, you’ll see that the journey is really just starting. It’s the same in Jiu Jitsu: when you actually get your black belt, your journey is really just beginning.
This is exactly what happened with me. I received my black belt really young, as a 19-year-old boy which is today the minimum age the International Federation will approve a black belt graduation, so I was right at the beginning of that journey. I started to compete and as a black belt that was the highest level that existed to compete and now 30 years has already gone by. It took me 5 years to get my black belt and I’ve now been with that belt for three decades, which obviously made me understand that I learned a lot more within the black belt than before it. The path of being a black belt is much longer, daily life is much more enjoyable because I think it’s where you learn so much. I make sure I learn as much as I can every day and it’s not just the technical part you need to develop as a black belt, it’s actually a daily fight to evolve in all areas, in everything you do; your commitment to things — I think this is what it is to be black belt. You gain the sufficient discipline to move forward regardless of the obstacles that arise in your path. I have a routine now in my life, so for example early in the morning I do my physical training and I also like to do an hour of reading before I leave the house. Today, I was re-reading a book called “The Obstacle is the Way” which talks about exactly this; that we can use the obstacles that arise in our life to help us improve. I think Jiu Jitsu teaches us this a lot and as a black belt you can master this, finding a solution for every problem leaving that situation better and stronger: more confident, more resilient, more grateful.
All these events that happen during your journey as a black belt, will help you become a better person. They help you become more balanced. I think it’s this that has happened in my life now. I like to celebrate all my “black belt” birthdays, maybe even more than my actual birthdays! When you simply just get older, it’s not that much fun! But being a black belt makes you more experienced, you gain more wisdom. And this is really what I look for in my life now. I try and ask myself how I can improve every day. I think “every day” has to be ours. People who live and train Jiu Jitsu understand that we need to be better every day and they can make that analogy easily.
I think we have to bring this to our life and always ask, how can we be better every day? Today is a really happy day, because I’m completing my last year as a black belt. I’m sure you already know the rule that once you’ve been a black belt for 31 years you can graduate to a coral belt. I imagine this will happen to me because of my career and my daily contribution to Jiu Jitsu, teaching classes, training and evolving; I think the coral belt will happen for me next year. But I really want to tell you that my journey as a black belt is incredible and has been incredible — as a competitor, as a teacher, but mainly, as an apprentice. It’s amazing to think how I could learn so many things inside this 30 years of being a black belt, with all of you, within the whole community of Jiu Jitsu, with all my students, my teachers, my master Jacaré, the whole of Alliance and all of our affiliates.
For me, you are all a constant source of learning. I would like to thank-you for being with me on this journey for so long. When I talk about Jacaré that’s obvious, but with Alexandre (Gigi) he’s also been with me on this path since the beginning, ever since we started so long ago. It’s incredible to think I could have learnt so much with you and how you’ve given the support when I needed it most during the difficult moments, and how you helped me through those obstacles. So, a huge thank-you for everybody, and actually to the whole Jiu Jitsu community. I have great friends in other teams, people I admire a lot, people who have taught me a lot independently of the team they represent.
I really understand Jiu Jitsu like a big family; I think the community needs to be helped and to help each other, and this is my life purpose. As you all know I’m not at the forefront of my academy anymore — I passed this over to Michael Langhi and he’s doing an incredible job there. Now I’m not a competitor anymore and although I still have that role as a teacher, I’ve drastically reduced my teaching hours so I can really dedicate myself to sharing my experiences with people, the things I’ve learnt over all these years: as a competitor, as a manager and as a true black belt.
So, thank-you to everyone and your feedback which is always made with care and respect. It motivates me a lot to continue sharing things with you, things that I experience today and that I’ve experienced in the past within Jiu Jitsu. So, for my black belt birthday, I want to tell you that I’m really happy that I followed this path in Jiu Jitsu, that I believed in it right from the beginning ever since I was 15-years-old when I decided that I wanted to follow this life path.
It has been an incredible journey and I hope it will continue for many more years together with you.
Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.