I am boldly setting a goal for the Shupps family. We will all be BJJ blackbelts before Olivia turns 21. That’s right! Amy too! Here’s why…

I began training in martial arts at the age of 7. I eventually became obsessed with it, and literally lived at the dojo for two summers when I was a teenager. I became a black belt in Judo, Karate, and Aikido. I had become reasonably competent in Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Kenjutsu, and even had dabbled in Ninjutsu. I was one of the top students at my dojo, and couldn’t imagine a time when martial arts would not be a part of my life. Then, a series of events conspired to keep me away from the dojo that had become my home away from home, and for the past 20 years, I have hardly trained at all. I managed to convince myself that I would never find another school that could compare, so why bother? I now realize that I made a grave mistake. I allowed my loyalty to a teacher to prevent me from seriously considering the merit of training with anyone else. That teacher passed away in 1995, and I haven’t been the same since.

If you train in martial arts, here’s my insight for you. It’s not about the teacher, it’s about the art! BJ Penn is a former UFC champion. He trained with Ralph Gracie, and then switched schools. Later, when Penn fought Ralph’s brother Renzo, Ralph felt betrayed, and acted like a complete jerk to BJ, after BJ won his fight with Renzo. Even BJ felt bad about fighting a Gracie, until Renzo later personally told him that it had been his pleasure to fight BJ. In order to be the best, Renzo reasoned, you have to fight the best. Ralph Gracie was wrong. Renzo was right. Martial arts is not about a person or a family. The Gracies didn’t invent Jiu Jitsu. Carlos Gracie learned from Maeda, who learned from Kano, who learned from Fukuda etc. At each step of the way, the art was improved and modified. My quest to become a black belt once again has officially begun…

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