6 Years at Black Belt

6 Years at Black Belt

As is tradition around these parts, it’s time for me to tell my annual “X years as a black belt” story. Earlier this year, I passed my sixth year at black belt. So, what have I been up to since my last check-in?

I designed a school curriculum

The school I teach at has several instructors running various classes, which lead to some confusion about what to teach with everyone coming up with lessons on the spot.

In a spreadsheet with a row for each week of the year, I wrote in topics for the beginners and advanced classes. Some are broad like “closed guard” while others are more specific like “scissors sweep to armbar”.

The goal was not to say exactly which techniques to teach and how to teach them, but to make sure we were cycling through all the positions, including the less “exciting” ones that are easy to overlook, while giving each instructor the freedom to share their unique take. The system isn’t perfect, but it has served us well, and I’m looking to update it soon.

I got certified in FRC

Regulars to the Panda Nation blog will have seen many of the articles I’ve written in the last few years about mobility and joint health for BJJ. You can find them all in one place at the new Fitness and Mobility category. 

Most of what I have to say about FRC is already in those articles, so I’ll just restate that if you suffer from joint pain and recurring injuries (which of course you do -- you do BJJ), you owe it to yourself to learn about FRC and to see a FRC provider.

I went vegan

For personal and ethical reasons, I decided to go vegan about three years ago. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else in BJJ who was vegan and I had questions about how viable it was nutritionally. With some research and experimentation, it has worked fine. Since then, I have met a handful of other black belts who are vegan, too, and it seems to be catching on some in the mainstream.

I started by cutting red meat, then chicken, then fish. Dairy and eggs were hardest to give up, because I love eating them and because they are in so many foods, but I eventually made the commitment to go fully vegan.

If you are interested in going vegan or at least eating a “plant-based” diet, here is my advice:

  • If you struggle with going fully vegan, start by cutting one type of animal product at a time to ease yourself into it. But eventually you’ll just need to take the plunge if you want to go all the way.
  • Learn to cook for yourself or be OK spending a lot on pre-made products. Talking to my “vegan elders”, they tell me I don’t know how good I have it because of all the plant-based products that are widely available these days, but they are pricey. Learn to plan meals and prepare them yourselves.
  • Don’t expect the meat and dairy substitutes to be true to their counterpart. You can get plant-based burgers that mimic meat by “bleeding” and such, but I usually prefer staying out of that “uncanny valley” by eating something that makes no attempt to pretend to be meat. That said, you can find many good products like vegan butter, mayonnaise, some cheeses, etc. in most grocery stores these days.
  • Get your partner to do it, too. Needing to shop for both vegan and non-vegan groceries and cook two types of meals is too big of a challenge for most people. You will tend to eat whatever people around you are eating, especially your partner. Getting them as committed as you are helps tremendously.
  • Do some research on vegan nutrition and supplementation. People will always ask “But where do you get your protein?” which is actually not a very hard question to answer once you do a little research. You will need to supplement B vitamins though.

As I always say when I close my articles, if you have questions about anything I’ve written about -- BJJ curriculum, FRC, or veganism -- just leave a comment!

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