I’m lucky to have witnessed a few jiu-jitsu black belt promotions. For the most part, these men and women have endured at least a decade of sacrifice. Many took a break along the way because injuries, family, children, careers and marriages. For some of us, we still find our way back to the mat. It’s our sanctuary, and it’s our only therapist that we know and trust explicitly....and it freakin’ works.
Regardless of who it is, there are always tears. I cried at every single black belt promotion. When we listen to their jiu-jitsu journeys, it reminds me of life. There are plenty of “ups and downs”; however, we find our own way to carry on. Life Goes On.
Last weekend, I witnessed one of the most beautiful ceremonies. He is our partner in Kekoa and also one of my best friends, Jeff Huang. His jiu-jitsu journey is rather abnormal as he had to travel and move quite a bit for school and work. With that, he constantly changed academies. The longest period at any school was about 3 years. Along the way he found a mentor, a professor that has been training for over 25 years under the legendary Master De La Riva, Vicente Jr. They met in North Carolina back in 2000’s. They have a beautiful and a sacred relationship. They are more than your typical student and professor relationship. Vicente Jr means so much to Jeff - he was in his wedding as a groomsman. Although they are not physically under the same roof, mentally and JIUJITEROLY they are connected. Vicente has guided Jeff on and off the mat since his blue belt days.
After living in Hawaii for the last 3 years, Jeff found the academy and professor who understood and welcomed his past relationship with Vicente. There will never be another Vicente Jr but Larry, his new professor, seems to have a very similar effect as I witnessed them together on the mat. With Larry’s blessings and support, Jeff had asked Vincent Jr to wrap his black belt around his waist when the time was appropriate. This was going to be some time in 2019...so Jeff thought.
For the past three months, Maite (Jeff’s wife, an excellent purple belt whom he also met on the mat) and Aubrey had been planning a surprise ceremony. Jeff's beautiful mother, Lucy, his sister, Tina, and her husband, Nathan, all flew in as a surprise. His best man at his wedding, Carlos, and his entire family, also surprised Jeff with a secret trip to Hawaii. It felt more like a family reunion than a belt promotion.
From afar, it was one of the most powerful, yet unique ceremonies. It was a night that we all celebrated jiu jitsu and its magic. The mat was filled with smiles, tears and most of all L O V E. The love of bringing like-minded people together in the name of jiu-jitsu is simply beautiful and moving.
When I observe Jeff’s essence, these are the words that come to my mind: respect, aspiring, inspiring, honorable, and loving. I guess if these words are what being a black belt means, then I truly believe Jeff is a great ambassador to the Gentle Art.
Imagine if all of us were to live these words on and off the mat - the world would change, and our professors would be proud beyond any medals or championships. It matters more how we honor the art of jiu-jitsu before any logos or names or patches that are stitched to our gis.
I love you Jeff and words cannot describe my love, respect and admiration for Who You Are.
From all of us that are so lucky to have a roll with you...congratulations🙌❤️