I didn’t really sleep much last night. My mind was racing all night long in an attempt to process what happened in class. After 284 classes (totaling well over 400 hours on the mats), half a dozen seminars, countless videos, bruised ribs, several black eyes, and a fair number of other miscellaneous bumps and bruises, I was finally awarded my BJJ blue belt. However, before getting my blue belt, I had to undergo something I had never seen before, and had only heard about from some of the old hands…the gauntlet! In BJJ, it is not uncommon to not have a formal test prior to being awarded a belt. The gauntlet was my “test”, so to speak. Basically, I had to spar with everyone in the entire class, about 20 people tonight, starting with the white belts and ending with the brown belts. Each person had less than a minute, before the next person rotated in, usually forgoing any niceties, and simply leaping on me from behind. It felt like I was in a giant washing machine with an 800 pound gorilla hugging my waist. By the end, I was so exhausted, I couldn’t stand on my feet without assistance. It was one of the most grueling things I have done in jiu jitsu so far. At first, I was trying to win. But, that didn’t last more than one or two matches. After that, it was pure survival mode. I think I even did some jiu jitsu somewhere during all that, but I can’t be positive. It was all a blur. After the gauntlet was over, and I had a chance to rehydrate a bit, I was awarded my blue belt. But…the fun wasn’t over yet. At my gym, when you get awarded a new belt, you have to crawl the length of the mat and back, while everyone takes turns whipping you across the back with their own belts. It stung a bit, but honestly, my back was kind of numb on the return crawl, so it wasn’t so bad. The gauntlet was far worse, in my opinion. To cap it all off, the head coach presented me with a bottle of champagne to share with the class. He explained that the champagne box would serve as a coffin for my old white belt. It’s a very nice case. I will have to find somewhere in the house to display it. So, what does it mean to have a blue belt in BJJ? I’m not entirely sure yet, since I have only just been awarded the belt. My initial impression is that it kind of feels like graduating from High School. High School sucks for a lot of people, but you have to get through it in order to get a good start in life. If you learn enough to graduate, you know enough, hopefully, to pursue a higher education, but usually not enough to be immediately hired by anyone for a decent wage.