This weekend, I was fortunate to be part of a really special event--namely, the summer gathering of the Scott Devine clan. Twice a year a number of instructors and students who are affiliated with Scott make their way to Brunswick, GA for training, promotions, breaking bread together, and drinking lots of good beer. While I had been to one of these meetings in the past, the one this weekend was particularly special because four of my training partners were getting promoted to black belt (along with two of Scott's students from Brunswick).
The six people who were promoted ranged in age from 38 to 56 and had an average of roughly 15 years of experience training jiu jitsu. After the promotions, these six individuals joined six additional black belts to roll with the white, blue, purple, and brown belts (in order). While the gym was hotter than hell (owing to an untimely broken AC unit), the training was excellent and the experience was transformative. Being part of this gathering reminded me of just how lucky I am to have found such a great group of training partners and friends.
It also reminded me of how nice it is to train under someone who is as dedicated to his students as Scott. For instance, in addition to providing the new black belts with customized mono-graphed belts and official certificates, Scott also hand-made each black belt a framed piece of art that included each belt (from white to black) along with a patch with their names embroidered at the bottom. It was clear that he took a lot of pride in his students and reveled in their accomplishment.
It was very motivating seeing everyone reap the rewards for dedicating so much time and energy to learning and teaching the gentle art. It's especially exciting to me since our new gym here in Charleston will now have six black belts--which is as exciting as it is unusual (at least for the low country). I very much look forward to continuing to learn from each and every one of them. Hopefully, I will see several of them tomorrow morning at the 8:30 am training session! For now, I wanted to share a transcription of the brief but inspiring speech Scott gave before and after the promotions.
First, Scott started by mentioning the well-worn (albeit admittedly unsubstantiated) statistic that only 1 out of 100 people who start jiu jitsu end up earning a black belt (see here and here for earlier discussions). He went on to make the following remarks:
That’s crazy. 1%. That’s like one of you guys. One person out of everyone in this room. That’s crazy. Even if you multiplied that by 10 and said 10%, that’s still crazy. There’s a reason you start jiu jitsu and then there’s the reason you stay. And they ain’t the same. They ain’t the same. These guys’ job is to remind you of why you want to stay. Because like I said, after six months whatever the reason you started jiu jitsu has been satisfied. “I want to get in better shape.” Six months, you’re in better shape. “I want to learn how to fight.” Six months, you learn how to fight. Whatever it is, something makes you want to stay. Something makes you want to come back. Life has a way of revolving around. Sometimes you leave and why would you come back? Something makes you want to stay. And that’s the burden placed on these guys. That they can impart that to you.
Garth [a third degree black belt under Scott and Relson Gracie] already alluded to the fact that it’s about the people. We have good people here and that’s what I want beside me…good people. There are a lot of people out there. But we need more good people. And I think I am very fortunate. Because I am getting good people and I am keeping good people. And I hope I can keep keeping good people. And then we can start to spread. That’s what’s important. My technique’s OK. But it’s more than that. I have a black belt, but I have to be more than that. I have to be an example. I have to be someone that you can follow.
Rolling in and of itself is the reward. You have nothing left to achieve. It’s amazing. Why come back? Because I love it. Rolling in and of itself is the reward. There is no winning. There is no losing. There is only the joy of the roll. That’s why we come back.
We've talked a little bit, so [now] we have to get a little philosophical. Like I said, we are doing some promotions here. Part of the beginning of the process, is I have to chase…I have to chase that rank. “I want to get this, I want to get that.” But in reality, the man does not follow the rank, the rank follows the man. This is not a reward. This is not a gift. This is an affirmation of what has already taken place. That’s what we’re here for: To celebrate something that has already happened.
After he promoted each black belt and gave them their framed certificates, Scott made the following remarks:
I started out talking about why we train. If I took away the rank, would you stay? If I took away the rank, would you stay? Think about that from time to time. Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? A little more contextually, we talk about how [most] people just don’t understand how significant this is. Somebody tried to relate it to college degrees. Blue belt is like getting a bachelor’s degree, purple belt is like a Master’s, and black belt is like a Ph.D. So, I present to you, the new professors from the school.
Then, we posed for some pictures and started training--which lasted the better part of three hours. Afterwards, we all went back to Scott's for dinner and drinks. Having now made my way back to Charleston, I am as tired as I am inspired. So, thanks to Scott. Thanks as well to Jeff Robertson, Michael Sanda, Michael Enright, Bryan Enright, Tom Sheehan, and Maxwell Boyd--the Scott Devine black belts I will hopefully be training with and learning from for years to come. Congratulations, gentleman. Thanks for your help and inspiration.
p.s. If you're in the area and you'd like to come train with a stable of black belts, you can find out more about our soon-to-be-opening gym here.