Ancient religious texts the world over speak of events that are so rare, so inexplicable and unearthly that only one term can be assigned to describe them– miracles. Indeed, such was the case when, last Wednesday, one of the longest-held stereotypes in jiu-jitsu was broken. Not just broken, but shattered like a shoulder held too long in a kimura. Yes, it was last Wednesday that Samuel Drake, a local purple belt, showed up for warm-ups.
Not only did he show up in time for this dreaded pre-class ritual, but he showed up in time to do some light hopping motions and hip movement exercises before any actual group participation began. The other class members looked on with skepticism as if watching a man possessed, someone who couldn’t be accountable for their actions.
It was, however, a blue belt that finally approached Drake to see the motivation behind his uncharacteristic timeliness for class. Drake responded, “Bro, you don’t get it. I was thinking the other day, right? If the blue belt is an underachiever’s black belt, I’m basically a red belt to the plebs and untrained masses. Bro, I can’t be squandering that status.”
The class commenced and Drake did all the warm-up exercises: the high-knees, the buttkicks, he shuffled in, he shuffled out, he forward-rolled, backward-rolled, and even shrimped.
The instructor made a joking remark to Drake in front of the class once technique started, sharing everyone’s shock that he was, in fact, there for warmups.
Drake then stayed the entire class, even rolling reasonably well. Afterward, some of his training partners approached him to joke about his uncharacteristic participation. He nodded with a self-satisfied squint in his eyes, saying, “I don’t know where to go from here. I’m a god in the eyes of the untrained masses. So leading by example seems like the right thing to do.”
At this point, witnesses say that everyone shared an unsure glance, concerned for Drake’s perception of reality. Despite this, Drake continued, unwavering in his conviction, “I mean, where do you go from here? Red belt is the highest rank there is, right? I guess I’ll have to make my own ranks from now on.”
Everyone went home after training, but the uneasiness surrounding Drake’s behavior remained. One student, a brown belt named Rex Howard, remarked to his wife over dinner that this was a culmination of odd behavior. Howard recalled that, upon receiving his purple belt, Drake remarked that his new belt meant more than just a different color wrapped around his waist he was now officially a “mat shark” and that the “ground was his ocean.”
After his promotion, he started referring to blue belts as though they were of lesser status at the gym than him. He even scoffed at one blue belt’s attempts to get the attention of a notable female black belt via social media. A misguided attempt? Sure. But the blue belt meant no harm.
The next day, Drake showed back up at the gym for training. He was, again, in time for warmups. He started to work with lower ranks during drilling, adding in details that were different–sometimes in direct contrast– from the instructor demonstrations.
Howard approached Drake to tell him maybe to calm down with the ego trip to which Drake, still engorged with delusional grandeur, replied, “to you, I may be only a purple belt. But to the untrained? I’m a red belt.”
Howard then rolled his eyes and asked, “What does that make me then? I’m a brown belt.” Drake scoffed and replied, “What’s a lion who doesn’t even know how to roar? Nothing. Just a silent lion without a pride sitting around, having to convince others and himself that he’s a lion. A real lion would never have to convince others of anything.”
It was at this point that Howard knew this was going to be a problem.
He went over to his professor and asked him what they were to do. Without missing a beat, the professor nodded toward a new white belt in the gym, a D1 wrestler who wanted to expand his grappling knowledge. Howard’s eyes widened in anticipation of the cleansing to come.
Drilling concluded, and it was time to start rolling. The class’s professor told Drake to start rolling with the wrestler. The instructions were simple. Start standing.
They slapped hands, bumped fists, and the wrestler wasted no time. He hit a double leg immediately and used his excellent hips to smash Dakes’s guard and pass. A look of distress now appeared on Drake’s face as he finished the round under the wrestler’s mount for five minutes.
Drake, however, saw it differently and immediately stood up, boasting about his ability to swim in that water or something along those lines.
We reached out to multiple witnesses. But the accounts were all differing. They amounted to some inane drivel about sharks, the ocean, and meals. It was all very unclear.
Class ended, and it was time to bow out, but the professor started awarding some stripes, so everyone stayed after. Drake’s face was filled with enthusiasm as he took a surreptitious step forward, asserting himself from the rest of the group.
Despite this, however, he received no new promotion and quietly walked off the mats.
The next day, class started, and Drake was not at warmups. He did, however, show up for the latter half of technique and sparring. When someone asked him why he wasn’t at warmups, he shrugged and said, “I’m a purple belt. Are we ever at warmups?!”
Jeff Nelson is a brown belt under Danilo Cherman of Team Nova Uniao. He started training jiu-jitsu in 2014, and he always complains about Star Wars on his personal Instagram account.