Last Sunday, one of my best friends was promoted to black belt. I was the one to tie the belt around his waist Dave and I have been friends for over 15 years. He is the first kid I met when I moved from Chile to New Jersey. I was in 8th grade—Mr. Ferguson’s class—and I was assigned the seat behind him. Dave is the guy that explained to me what a first down was when I asked him what those sticks are during a freshman football game. He talked me into joining the wrestling team. And, most importantly, he convinced me to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Dave’s promotion got me thinking about how rare it is that both of us made it to black belt. I’ve heard all kinds of stats over the years about what percentage of people will make it to black belt. Some people say that 1 out of 10 people that start jiu-jitsu will make it to blue belt, and 1 out of those 10 make it to purple belt, and so on. Somehow, we beat the odds.
We both bounced around schools quite a bit at the beginning. We started at an MMA school in central NJ. We trained there for two classes until sparring became ground and pound practice: one guy in closed guard, top guy throws punches for a 2 minute rounds, bottom guy survives. We switched schools soon after. We spent some time at a very traditional Gracie school. When one of the purple belts asked if the instructor could show some x-guard sweeps, the instructor answered, “Royler didn’t teach us that so we don’t do it.” We were out of there soon as well.
Through all of this, I believe we may have given up on jiu-jitsu if we were taking the journey alone, but having someone to go through the crazy stuff with kept us on the path.
Even when Dave moved north for school and he trained at a different school, we kept training together. We visited each other’s schools during open mats and exchanged techniques, whatever our respective instructors showed that week. I think this was one of the periods where our games expanded the most.
We finally got settled and started training at Alliance NJ, as soon as it opened (I believe we were students 3 and 4). Many of the classes were Kevin (our instructor), Dave, our friend Andrew and myself. The four of us spent years not only training together but traveling together to tournaments up and down the east coast. If you want to hear about our epic Boston trip you can .
I owe much of my game to Dave, he has spent hours with me helping me figure out my game and showing me what he would do in certain situations when I had questions. Also, sparring with a smaller training partner for years has given me a much different game than most big guys: I play a much smaller guy’s game than most grapplers weighing more than 200 pounds. I owe much of that to Dave.
Thank you, Dave, not only for getting me to do this jiu-jitsu thing, but for always being there. I’m looking forward to continuing down this path with you. As for our blog readers, I hope that you can find a Dave in your training and in your life. You’ll be much better for it.