I haven’t rolled (sparred) with knowledgable adults since before the new year. This right away means two things: my cardio is off and my timing is off. Jiu-jitsu is not a seasonal sport; you must practice all the time. So when a friend invited me to his school I said sure.
As a black belt judoka I have trained at lots of judo schools. When one arrives at a judo club, especially as a black belt, one is received well and as a friend. There is no assumption that you are there with something to prove. No one sizes you up. No one questions your rank. You are welcomed as a guest, and sometimes even asked to teach something during the class. It is expected that you have something to contribute.
As a black belt BJJ player I have never trained anywhere except for my home school (and on two occasions two other Gracie Barra schools for a single session). When I arrived at my friend’s school, as a black belt, people said hello, but with a particular look in their eye. Everyone assumed I had something to prove. Everyone was sizing me up. Everyone questioned my rank. I was welcomed, but I was not allowed “in.” It was obvious that I was an outsider. To be sure, no one was rude. In my mind I could hear people saying, “Who is this guy? Why does this American have a black belt?” The class went well. I got to roll with a couple of blue belts, a purple belt, a brown belt and the head instructor (a 2 or 3 stripe black belt). I held my own with all of them, except for the head instructor. He pretty much mopped the mat with me, in a very polite fashion.
Upon reflection I thought about how we as individuals treat visitors and how churches, my own in particular, treat visitors. I wondered if I am more of a judo-culture host or a BJJ-culture host. Do I welcome guests as they are? Do I assume that every guests has something to contribute? Do I honor them for no other reason than that they are guests? Or, do allow guests in, but cast a wandering eye? Do I size them up as if they are my competition instead of a friend? While I love both arts, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, I much prefer the judo-culture. That’s the kind of life I want to live and the kind of church I want to lead.
(By the way, thanks for the roll down in San Diego!)