The combative art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a deep and complex fighting system that spawned the, now legendary, Vale Tudo matches in Brazil. The phrase Vale Tudo literally translated from the Portuguese means "everything is valid" or as you may know it 'No Holds Barred'. This particular form of competition was the forerunner for what is now termed Mixed Martial Arts or Cagefighting as popularised by the Ultimate Fighting Championships held in the USA since 1993.
The idea was simple; the Jiu Jitsu practitioner would fight any other style of martial art to prove the efficiency of their system in a match that had few rules and no time limits. The vastness of this ever evolving martial art is such that there has only ever been 20 British born black belts so far, now meet #21 our very own Darren Currie.
So you just got your black belt, how does it feel?
It feels kind of strange to be honest; the belt feels 'heavy' as they say but I'm growing into it.
When I first started training you were lucky getting to train with a black belt at all, the prospect of home grown UK black belts was a long way off. The only time I got to train with a black belt was when there was a seminar with someone who had travelled in specifically from Brazil or USA. I guess we are indebted to these guys for doing what they did and laying a foundation for the UK scene to be built allowing the level of home grown Jiu Jitsu to flourish to the point that we have our own black belts now. We have really come a long way in 10 years or so.
It is also a privilege to be part of the 1st generation of UK Jiu Jitsu instructors, there are some very talented people passing on our art to the next generation but I guess that is our responsibility to keep the art flowing and passing it down teaching others as we ourselves were taught.
Does it change things at all?
Yes I think it does change things, with greater reward comes greater responsibility. I have black belts in other martial arts but the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt feels like there is more responsibility with it. Maybe because there are not that many of us in the UK compared to something like Taekwondo for example, I trained Taekwondo for about 10 years and saw some really good black belts and some pretty poor black belts too whereas I have NEVER seen a poor Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
I would also say that being a black belt brings a much higher level of expectation, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts across the board will strive to meet this high level whereas, in my experience, some black belts from other arts fall a little short.
Again maybe because there are a relatively small amount of black belts in the country that the expectation from them is so high providing some extra motivation to keep improving all the time, not just in your own personal training but also in the coaching and just as you are as a person.
I also think that there are some brown belts in this country that are black belt standard and have just not yet been promoted for whatever reason. We are at a stage where there are quite a few of us who have trained 10+ years so I would imagine more black belts will be imminent.
How did it come about and what did you have to do for it?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is very informal compared to the majority of martial arts so there is no pomp and ceremony to my promotion. I was grappling some big guy who pulled up my gi top, my coach ran over and whipped me across the back with a belt, threw the belt to me and said 'congratulations, you're a black belt now' then just went back to training.
What did I have to do for it? Quite simple, I had to dedicate myself to training for about 14 or 15 years, make a lot of sacrifices, competed to test myself under pressure, taught to help spread the art and travelled to get some instruction/practice with some top guys. Reduced my hours at work to enable me to train more for the last 3 years and spend countless amounts of money to travel to train abroad a bunch of times.
My friend Simon Hayes, himself a black belt & instructor with the Carlson Gracie Revolution Team, sent me a message when I just got promoted that included "Many years of dedication, time, patience and injuries have been duly recognised".
This sums it up for me perfectly