This post was submitted to us anonymously at the author’s request. Any photos used are unrelated to the author.
I used to despise the BJJ blogger. It seemed that along with every white belt given out to a new student, a blog must have been distributed as well. The internet, flooded with posts about nonsensical and unproven things and theories from those new to BJJ and just dying to tell everyone how cool they are, made me a little sick. Even though I have a great love of writing and BJJ, I avoided the trend and kept my eye on the mission at hand. Now, after 8 years of dedication, I find myself in a strange and hard to describe place in my journey and I feel that it is now important to share my story and journey with others who may have befallen the same fate, or that may learn here to avoid such a turn.
What is an Old Dirty BJJ Bastard, you may ask? I’ve named myself after my favorite martial arts movie character of all times(I’m an old school movie buff too). Sam the Seed, the Old Dirty Bastard, the Grey Fox, Drunken Master, and a few others were the names of Yuen Tso Tien’s characters. He was usually depicted as an older bum,
wandering, training, and fighting with the best he could find(or that came to find him for a challenge!). He said, “I have the sky for a roof and the Earth for my bed. Where ever I lay my head, is home.” I represent a small sect of BJJ practitioners who, through various trials, tribulations, decisions, and mistakes have found ourselves “homeless” in the world of BJJ.
Please allow myself to introduce myself. For the use of this blog I will only refer to myself as ODBJJB, though I’m sure eventually my identity will come to light. I am 38 years old and began my BJJ journey a week after my 30th birthday. Training BJJ was the first physical activity I had participated in since little league baseball. I was over weight, out of shape, smoked a pack and a half of Marlboro reds a day, and partied HARD often. I was working security at a bar at the time and had no clue how much I didn’t know, but I’ve always been very tenacious.
There were a couple of guys who were friends of friends that I had met who frequented the bar where I worked. Not particularly impressive looking to be honest, but they had cleaned up a few handfuls of frat boys in a couple of different altercations at the bar and so I knew they were legit. At the time, I was told by our mutual friends that they were “cage fighters” and that was all I knew. We had a lot in common and so we hit it off pretty well during a few smoke sessions in the old keg room. They invited me to come out and train and like most people, I was apprehensive at first. They boasted about their instructor’s abilities and assured me I would enjoy it. Eventually I met their instructor at the bar one night. He was a bit shorter than me, but stockier. Not knowing anything, I didn’t think too much of him. I kept the notion of training with these guys in mind.
Now, I was always kind of anti-jock. Not that I hated fitness or even sports, it just seemed that a lot of the assholes I had met in my life were jocks. I was [a] dirtbag metalhead kid. In retrospect, I would have been much better off to have embraced some of the aspects of school sports as I would’ve at least been stronger when I got into the dozens of fights that I did… with said jock types. I had a friend many years prior to me meeting these guys at the bar who was having some good success fighting in the cage back when they were limited to open palm striking and no elbows [in] about 2001, but he was part of a crew that to me wreaked [sic] of jock and that aspect really turned me off even though I loved to fight and wanted to learn. The vibe kept me from even considering going down to his gym back then.
I mention these items for a specific reason. I had a strong desire to learn martial arts ever since I was a kid. I collected Black Belt magazines when I could and dreamed of ordering myself a shiny pair of sai, a bo staff, some nunchaku. I always wanted to learn, but opportunities to do so were few in my youth of meager means, rural living, and zero parental concern. When the opportunity arose to train with some cats that I knew, hung out with, and that I had a lot in common with (we all partied HARD!) I knew it was something I needed to do.
One week after my 30th birthday I went to class with my boys. By this time I had moved into the same apartment building as them as so it was all too easy to just ride to class, too hard to bullshit my way out of it, and I wanted it. They gave me a spare gi some other schmuck had bought and left when he quit. It was a nice, brand new Atami A3 and I could barely squeeze my jiggly, fat ass in there, but I did and with my belt tied all wrong, I went to my first class. Often when I invite people to train they say, “You’re just gonna kick my ass.” To which I reply, “For the first six months or so, you’ll be too busy kicking your own ass.” BJJ taught me that. I was not athletic, just out of school, or even a wrestler back in the day. I found out that day that this shit really worked; my friend who looked like he was 120 pounds soaking wet could control me and do whatever he wanted and there was [not] a damn thing I could do to stop it even if I wasn’t about to drown in my own pitiful lack of oxygen. It was at that moment that I fell in love with what BJJ (and Muay Thai) had to offer.
This, for me, is the beginning of my journey in BJJ and also the crossroads of my paradoxical battle with BJJ culture. You see, I loved that BJJ could make me stronger, teach me things, help me win a battle, but I NEVER WANTED TO BE A MONK. I NEVER WANTED TO BE PERFECT. I didn’t sign up for that. I loved it because the guys that brought me in were beasts. They would stay up all night, drink and party hard, then get up and go just as hard. They weren’t angels, they were warriors. I understand the idea of being role models in BJJ to younger students and kids. I’ve certainly settled my ways since my boys were born for that very reason, but I still represent my beginning. I still rebuke the notion that in order to be a good BJJ practitioner you have to be self-righteous and pious, eating only Acai bowls and avocado, never making a mistake or poor choice. I mean, we’re all trying but at what point does the art of self-defense and the science of being a perfect model of society depart from one another? Is it possible for me to just train hard and be recognized for the work I do on the mats and not my life choices outside the gym, barring I harm no one? The BJJ community is small and becoming ever more tight nit [sic] I believe. Lately, as this is happening and social media has been making a rise, there is so much pretentious bullshit on the web about being better than this guy or that guy when in reality the only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday!
My two friends who brought me in were polar opposites body wise. One was tall and skinny, he was a two stripe blue belt. My other friend was short and barrel chested, he was a two stripe purple. At the time when I started my instructor was wearing a brown belt with four stripes. This was the first time I had seen the BJJ belt ranking system and had yet to have any real comprehension of what differentiated between the different levels. All I knew was I was the chum, but I started shrimping and never stopped.
My instructor was very knowledgeable and my friends’ progress was evidence, to me, of that knowledge being passed on. At this time I honestly didn’t know anything about tournaments other than what I had seen on Karate Kid, and to be honest, I had forgotten that. Remember, I didn’t wrestle or even play high school sports. I came to class, I trained diligently for two years. I got to test for the blue belt.
By the time I earned my blue, I was well aware of tournaments and even though I was the only one interested in competing from our
camp. I was not met with a great deal of support. I was just told more or less that I should leave that to the good guys, the athletes. Granted, I wasn’t training at competition training levels as I know them today, but I wanted to see how far down I was. I wanted to know. I wasn’t more scared to lose than I was to live on not knowing. I had my first competition about two weeks after my blue belt test. I’m 5’11’ and I entered the super heavy division because I didn’t want to try to cut weight. I weighed in way under the 220 cutoff at 217. I fought two monsters with WAY more size and experience than me and had a couple of tough, but great matches. I lost both to sub, but I went. I did my best and I learned. More importantly, I got put in my place and I went home and trained harder knowing I needed to do so. However, back at the ranch there was some animosity for having gone and lost after being told I shouldn’t compete.
I went back to training and hit it harder. Put myself in worse positions, worked on what I had failed at in competition, and tried to improve. As time went on, I would notice comments made by my instructor to the class while training like, “if you do so and so, you’ll just go to the tournament and get your ass kicked.” I noted it and kept pushing. By this time I had been training over two years with my instructor, I had noticed many things. Some things I didn’t know to look for or notice in the beginning. The rub was that I was the only student in the gym that was competing…I took it as a very passive aggressive shot directly aimed at me, but again, I kept pushing I came to train.
Time passed, I trained on. Eventually, after a few more years I was ready to test for the purple belt. The preparation was grueling. I had damage to my left knee already and further injured it during training one day due to my own poor posture. I had to rehab for a while before the test. I had a partial tear of my ACL and MCL with damage to the meniscus. I worked hard, never stopped working; either rehab or training. Once my knee was feeling less floppy, I was ready.
Up to this time, we had no gym. I began training with this crew out of the YMCA, old school, club style. I dug that aspect. I liked that it was private. We just payed our dues to the YMCA and they would let us lock out a room to set up our puzzle mats and train for two or three hours. Bros and obvious douches would try to come in and we would send them to the local mma gym where they could be with their kind. Eventually they wanted us to allow people in and kind of work with the YMCA and so it was time to move from that space. I had a commercial space and we started clearing out my motorcycles and setting up the mats there on training days. The space was cramped and I really wanted to train more. I realized I wanted to be doing BJJ all day, everyday. So, I asked the guys if they would chip in on some rent and I would get a bigger space. One where we could have a good 1000 square feet to roll in. They were all in, so I made the move. We got some more puzzle mats and we had a nice, big space to train. I had mats in my back room. I was like a spider on his web, just waiting for someone to walk through my door so I could train.
Very shortly after this move to the new shop and getting settled into this great new space, I tested for my purple and earned that rank on January 13, 2013. The reason I had a shop in the first place is
because shortly after I started training in 2007 I started importing and retailing fight gear for BJJ and Muay Thai and I had a retail store in the front and the gym space in the back. Now, this is where the plot starts to thicken… We only had evening classes three days a week and a long class on Saturday. There were maybe ten of us if everyone showed up, which they didn’t. I wasn’t get enough training in for my satisfaction. I wanted to push myself harder. I wanted to enjoy BJJ more.
Somewhere about the time I was earned my first stripe a young man began frequenting my shop who was a Muay Thai fighter, but who showed a great deal of interest in learning BJJ. The young man was very respectful, but he was a beast. A weight lifter with a wrestling background, he stood about 5’10” and 260 pounds of pure beef. I really wanted to see how I could do against him, but first…I had to get permission. I would never take a student at my rank without express permission. I had been helping plenty in class as I was the highest ranking student now, so I knew I could pass on the basics. (Both of the guys that brought me in had left on bad terms, a point I’ve pondered at length. Two other blues that were along side me left as well…)
The problem was, this guy worked at night. He could only train during the day when my instructor was at his day job. So, I mustered up the nerve and told my instructor about this guy, explained the scheduling and asked permission to teach him some basics to start in the mornings. I wanted to train more and I wanted the challenge of handling this gorilla. My instructor finally gave me his blessing to teach the morning class after a few months of semi-patiently waiting. My instructor didn’t like the new student and hesitated, but I just felt it was some kind of ego thing because the guy was obviously strong and had been training Muay Thai somewhere else previously, the kid seemed legit and down to work.
I have to tell you, the first day this new student, who I will hereby refer to as “J”, came in to roll I was not sure what to expect. He was way bigger than me, I was about 205 at that time, he 260 and jacked. I didn’t know what he knew. He told me he had trained some with another purple belt, but that he tapped the guy one day and I suppose egos were damaged and they parted ways. I knew he was stronger than me and that I would have to be smarter, faster, and rely on timing and leverage like the old school had taught me. I knew he wasn’t sure I could whoop him and likely didn’t believe I could. He was respectful, but I could tell he thought if he could beat me, he certainly couldn’t learn anything from me. I put him in a gi, wore him out with gynastica and movement drills, then it was time test the waters. Neither of us could wait to find out. He was strong and big, but I was ready.
We rolled pretty hard as he used a lot of size and strength to try to smash me and do some damage. I weathered the storm and hunted my opportunities. I tapped him 100 different ways and his attitude changed from challenge to dedication. He became a model student
and we trained hard for two hours a day, five days a week for the next year. I was still hitting all the evening classes too and was training 30+ hours a week and loving it! I woke up to training and went to bed right after training. I was happier than a pig in shit. After that first year of hard training and mostly private instruction, J was moving like greased up spider monkey. He was down to 225 and I had all but broken him of the “big guy shit” as I call it that is typical of big dudes. My biggest challenge teaching him was and is to keep him from relying on his size always reminding him that his game would worthless against a larger opponent if he developed that handicapped style.
I always invited all the evening students to come in and work basics in the morning for some extra work and also so that J could roll with some other bodies than just me. I swear, he ate up every evening student that came through. White belts, blue belts, all of them. My instructor had awarded J his first two stripes and eventually, he came to the morning class and after seeing J’s undeniable progress, he awarded him his third and fourth stripe, as well as awarding me my fourth stripe for my instruction of J.
I had done one comp after I got my purple, maybe around one stripe. I went against a couple of tough fighters, still not in control of my weight yet, in the masters 2 heavy weight division at around 195. There were only three of us, so I fought both of these guys and they hugged it out. I lost both matched and I hated it. I was totally the are you mad bro dude on the podium and the answer was hell yes, I was mad. Mad at myself. Mad because all I had was lower belts to beat up with only my instructor above me. He was much heavier and far more skilled, so there wasn’t a good equal level challenge for me, which I feel is the toughest fight in BJJ. When you’re just dominating, it’s not hard. When you’re being dominated, you can only do what they allow or you can get away with, but when two fighters are very close in size and skill level, the intensity of the matches can really amp up I believe. Either way, it was back to the drawing board and time to work, fix my weight, and train harder. That’s about the time I started training J five days a week.
The cheap shots kept coming during class though about “losing at the tournament.” I was still the only one competing, so I still took it as a direct jab. Animosity was building and I wasn’t sure why. I was spending at least $400 out my pocket every month to pay for the gym space because we didn’t have any students that would show and pay dues. I had my instructor’s logo and name painted on the wall, not mine, anywhere. I had placed my medals on the wall from various tournaments, and encouraged anyone else who would
compete to also display theirs, for the glory of the school, not myself. I was training 30+ hours a week and by far the most dedicated student my instructor had ever had. I gave all respect to him and even J who hardly saw him, knew him as the instructor and me simply as the assistant, his coach. He had also become quite religious and this had brought my personal lifestyle into the limelight of his judgement as well. Despite all this, so much animosity quietly brewing. And it only got worse…
By now I had been around long enough to know a few things and there were more than a few question marks that had developed in my mind. Remember, I didn’t even know what BJJ was before I put on the gi the first time. I didn’t know about lineage, self-promotion, fake black belts, or any of the other things that can happen when I started. It took some time to learn about all of it, and by then, I was knee deep. I noticed that my instructor’s lineage was not clear. I realized at some point he had self-promoted from brown to black claiming that it had been awarded by an old friend who was now a black belt, but whose name didn’t seem to exist in any register. I wondered if that was the only self-promotion. In a conversation where I first mentioned affiliation with a reputable association, he mentioned that he feared they would demote him back to purple. So assumed that was the last legit belt he had received.
I am very loyal. He had taught me diligently and I was dedicated, as I felt I should be. I’m no creonte. I didn’t think of leaving for a better school, although that’s what the other two blues had done. Instead, I suggested that the students all chip in so that he could test for his black belt under a reputable professor and get legit. We would chip in for the affiliation dues and would finally be able to open up our doors as a legit gym, after all…I’m over here paying for all this out of my pocket! By now I had purchased a fourteen foot steel mma cage and a full set of weights so that we could have a legit gym to train in. Remember, I’m doing this because I want to train, not for glory or recognition. I wanted none of that.
The pressure to deal with the affiliation I was pushing for and the ego battles with me teaching the basics classes led to a fall out. My instructor took all the students to a different location, told me I wasn’t welcome, said that I had tried to turn his class into a business, and left me with the bill for an empty gym with no
students, save one. J decided to stay with me out of dedication and loyalty. He had proven himself as a student and friend and he had felt the negative vibes of my instructor’s presence in our class from time to time. I sent them away with all of the mats and J and I continued to train regularly inside the cage. We have continued this for the past year.
The funny part is that I had a near death motorcycle accident in 2014 and after three days in the ICU, I was released to go home. Oct. 27, 2014 as I was leaving the hospital I got the text from my instructor telling me they were moving out and I wasn’t welcome to train at the new location. Heartbroken, I accepted it. I had a destroyed ankle and a broken skull, I had some time to recoup anyway. I knew there had been so much animosity building you could cut it with a knife at times, so it wasn’t a huge shock. More than a few times he had roughed me up in class when he had something on his mind, me never knowing what I had done to invoke his wrath. Temper outbursts weren’t uncommon and I had seen him deliver some brutal beatings in Muay Thai class for various **** ups and transgressions.
Now let me say this as sort of a disclaimer, I in no way claim to be perfect or at no fault. I am human. I am learning. I make LOTS of mistakes. I’m not one of these self-righteous BJJ monk types who sit in constant judgement in the hopes that looking down on others will somehow lift me up. No. I am a work in progress. I am the Old Dirty BJJ Bastard. I represent the ones who never give up despite not being young, the most fit, or free of all vice. In fact, I represent the ones fight the hardest and still EMBRACE their vices. I represent the old guys with two bad knees and more injuries than anyone cares to read who still keep coming, who work and train hard as hell, and who LOVE nothing more than giving the young bucks a run for their youthful money. And lastly, I represent the BJJ bastards, who by whatever twist of fate have found themselves roaming the Earth in search of the home they desire and truly deserve.
After eight years of dedicated, hard work, hardly missing a class in all that time, and achieving the rank of four stripe purple, I find myself a white belt again with no home. I did two and half years and hard test to get my blue. Three more years and another tough test for my purple. Two more years at purple earning four stripes. Yet I stand here a white belt in the eyes of the world because my instructor’s lineage and rank are not legitimate. It’s a very devastating thing. Think about it. This is a topic I’ve yet to see fully addressed in our community despite the recent rise in outings of fake black belts, no one really has discussed what to do with the BJJ bastards that can be left in the wake.
Now, I will close this by saying I have faith in my BJJ. I worked very hard and payed close attention to my technique, even if I did ignore some details of the surrounding circumstance or was ignorant to them. I believe my instructor should definitely be a black belt as I’ve rolled with several and his rolling has always been on point, though I know he hasn’t taken direct instruction himself in at least the eight years I’ve been training under him. That doesn’t change the facts however. I now have to start over. I have to test and prove myself and my level to a new instructor who I can get to accept a BJJ bastard. It’s not exactly appealing to them. So now, I’m shut out, screwed over, and tainted. And even though I’ve been training since six weeks after I walked out of that hospital, I’ve also lost a year of training being out here on ronin status. I am the Old Dirty BJJ Bastard and this blog is dedicated to all the other Old Dirties and BJJ Bastards out there who just want to train under a legit professor, be themselves, improve their game, and enjoy the many gifts that tutelage under a good BJJ professor can provide. I’ll be sharing more stories, techniques, and other stuff as time goes by. I felt I should start by defining myself and the purpose of this blog. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my story.