Umesh Thillaivasan

Exhumed from litost.

I believe it to be a positive choice to link rewards with achievements, and I learned the hard way what happens when the former arrives to the party without the latter. I received my blue belt in 2012, and to be clear I was well aware that I was not a great white by any means, but I didn’t think I was plankton either. Being a peripatetic grappler with out a home club, or a pronounceable name for that matter, I sought out opportunities to learn and help develop my skill set, so I packed up and moved to Nanaimo, BC for the summer for the sole purpose of improving my BJJ. I arrived on April 28 and started ebulliently training right away only to be disproved that I was in fact plankton. Students who had just begun training no less than 6 months prior were exhibiting movement and technical ability that simply exceeded my skill set. I was repeatedly swept, strangled, and submitted. At the beginning of my trip, I was contemplating joining some of the Island Top Team (ITT) competition crew on their journey to the IBJJF World’s 2013 Championship at the end of May, but that amount of failure started to take its toll on me and I began to question what I was thinking when I booked that plane ticket in the first place. Here’s the thing, I thought I was higher up in the food chain and quickly that delusion was exposed – the mats are brutally honest. We all suffer at some point, in some aspect of our lives, and you can succumb to attrition or you can muster up some resilience and keep going. So I took off my blue belt, dawned on a white belt and tried to just enjoy the strangles in stride while maybe earning my stripes. I decided to compete in the World’s and lost in the Quarterfinals. Sure I was disappointed, but I was also proud for stepping on to that platform despite all my inner reluctance. I kept training and over the 3 months I earned a stripe, and soon another, and then another. I ended up earning medals too, a gold, the next day another, and then another. I mentioned to Professor Rob that with all this training, once I earned that next stripe, I’d treat myself to a box of Oreo’s. Days went on and I began finding my stride. I really practiced the structured modules ITT teaches, and worked on the curriculum everyday. I went from being walked over, to giving a hard time, to being competitive, to dominating, and then to submitting some of my beloved team mates. We all elevated one another, and the beautiful thing was that when one person became better, they inspired others to challenge themselves too.
Yes, it was an immensely difficult summer for many reasons, but I am thankful to Professor Rob and ITT for their lessons, for how can one truly appreciate great heights without the experience of profound depths? So I encourage you to challenge yourself, and if you ever find yourself in Nanaimo, BC, please treat yourself by visiting Island Top Team. You learn biomechanically superior techniques which are structurally supported by conceptual instruction borrowing from an array of sciences including human physiology, kinesiology, mechanics and physics. And you’ll leave with an idea that may grow inside you, asking you “Can I be more and am I courageous enough to find out?”
And in case you were still wondering, I never actually earned those Oreo’s. I earned my Blue Belt instead.