BJJ in My Eyes September 2009 – Achieving a BJJ Black Belt, and the Responsibilities You Must Accept with it!!

BJJ in my eyes September 2009 – Achieving a BJJ Black belt, and

the responsibilities you must accept with it!!!


September 5, 2009 congratulations to three new Vandry BJJ Black belts!  (In

photo: BJJ Black belts King Webb, Carter Fisk, William Vandry, Carlos Machado

and Manny Galvan)

Whew.  The mid and last week of July and the first week of August this year were three weeks of a reflection upon myself, my community, my career, and my meaning to myself.  In BJJ and even the blending with MMA, our community search, meaning and pathway in our destiny to find our meaning is a question that will never fully be answered, but like good and bad, black and white, right or wrong, we always have a general idea of the general meaning.

I have been a businessman since childhood.  I have been an athlete since sixth grade.  I have excelled in athletics, and have also learned that in life, talent and gifts are themselves not the end to all, but merely an opening to a new beginning of different pathways of learning and developing not just in martial arts, but in life.

My absolutely awesome staff at the Austin Vandry headquarters!  (Jay Hume, Ted

Osborne, Marshall Bellows, William Vandry, Carlos Machado, Carter Fisk and

Jeremy Carbone)

I own an academy of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, No gi, Thai boxing and children’s classes.  My academy has a large base of students that are there for their particular reasons.  My academy has one of the closest knit, community of friends and family, and is more than just a martial arts academy to me.  It is an academy about learning, correcting mistakes, developing your personal goals, developing strategies to overcome flaws, and developing maturity in life whether that be your personal frustrations, your goals for your destiny, your work, family, life, etc.whatever your personal path may be.

When I teach or give advice, I base those creeds upon my own philosophies.  If I tell someone to watch their diet, or to restructure their particular diet, I already have my own self as an example.  I am six feet tall, about 228lbs. and approximately 9-10% bodyfat.  My own health is determined by my daily training in BJJ, weight training, cardio, rest, diet, mediation of personal time and sleep.  I express myself because I charge myself as an example to mentor others.  If I tell someone to roll into this leglock or armlock, it better be something I do myself.

These ideals and philosophies are engrained from example in life, and mentors we follow.  I speak with many students to discuss their goals, philosophies and to review their own goals.  If I were an overweight, heavy smoker or drinker that taught and lectured others on ideals I did not follow, this would definitely be a way of mentoring with the old adage: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I don’t believe in that.  I am a man of conviction and values.  I once told a student that is trying to start his own school that selflessness is your master of disciplines in the martial arts.  You have to give to students to develop their growth and health.  I myself practice what I preach.  I have mentored students, I had a student years ago that I personally bought a month’s supply of groceries for them due to their financial hardships.  I remember a student that had a hardship during the Christmas holidays that I took care of his children’s gifts.  The reason I am even mentioning these points in my September article is its relation to my article title: “Achieving a BJJ Black belt, and the responsibilities you must accept with it!!!”
By doing this, up until now I have never even mentioned it, and the ideal is for the better of a part of my community.  Unfortunately sometimes even well wishing or well-intended helping will never be understood.  At times it may be taken for granted, or even at times students feel ‘entitled’, but do not understand the value of community and work with it.

When I thought about this month’s article, I reviewed teaching, business, my students, my associated academies in Texas (Luling, Seguin, Buda, Weslaco, Brownsville, Harlingen and Austin), and I reviewed in depth these subjects over the last two weeks.  I went back and thought about my academy’s first ever UFC party at the Austin Dave and Busters.  This was a resounding hit, and family members from children and adult classes came and approximately 120 people from our academy attended.  Wow.  I had talked to the GM and even coordinator at Dave and Buster’s, and reserved the pool table room for the event.  It was nice.  It was something that made me reflect on future goals.  I have always believed in community, and my students hear that word more than hello from me.  In our field, many people think community is wearing an Affliction t-shirt together, or talking bad about Karate schools.  What nonsense.

I learned the ideals of community from my parents.  I grew up as an army brat, and my parents always hosted soldiers that had no family where they were stationed for holidays.  I remember 20 or so soldiers over eating dinner, and I always valued that philosophy of responsibility.

Back to what I was mentioning, at times responsibility by a Black belt, and more importantly a mentor in this field or any field, is dictated by your responsibility.  Responsibility is bestowed upon us the first time we get a job in life.  Whether we mow a lawn, or bag groceries, or do odd jobs, this is where we start our school of responsibility.  This applies to students in BJJ.  Our martial art is not predicated on pure athletic or physical talent, but the science and the responsibility.  Slow stages of white belt development grow one day into achieving a blue belt.  Then the number of techniques builds up along with experience to purple, then a mantle of responsibility is placed upon you when you earn Brown belt. It starts with white belt, but leadership grows at Brown belt.  You have senior status and rank.  Mentoring students comes into play.  Usually this is what separates other belts.  Our two month white belts help develop newer students, and the blues help them, and so on.  Back to the selfless point.  Now not all students are like this.  Some students have a selfish point where they only care to develop themselves, or think they are actually a lot better than they really are.  This self grandizing behavior is full of shame, and disgrace to the philosophy of martial arts.  In athletics, many sports figures lose face after an act of disgrace.

Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, was sentenced to jail for previous charges of illegal dogfighting using Pit bulls.  Vick is an athlete, but I feel his unprofessional, and callous regard for dogs and emotionless feeling for them tells a lot about him than simple football.  Actions speak much louder than words ever will.

On a smaller level, we in our field of BJJ have the same spotlight image.  If you are a bully on the mat, or arrogant, you will never achieve your full capability, nor do you ever deserve it.  At times conflict occurs, and at times is to be avoided.  One of my newest Black belts, King Webb, emailed me about a challenge match he faced at his academy in Seguin, Texas.  He was disturbed if he somehow had broken our philosophies.  I told him of course not.  I told him about my first three years of any type of new headhunter that would try to spar or challenge me when I first started teaching.  It happens.
In another article I wrote, I discussed my first three years akin to the Wild West.  I got challenged at a seminar on Ft. Hood, Texas.  I accepted, and I must admit, I was not kind or even forgiving, nor was I very merciful.  At these times, I think people like that are a black eye to every aspect of any community.  No one needs them, or the like.  Every school has a hothead, an arrogant student, or a student that simply does not belong there.  Not all people fit for all schools.  For instance, if there is a bully type, that attempts to injure other students, he will not stay very long.  The overall line of students never benefit from those.  We have all types of students, but the main issue is to always follow to help the academy as a whole, not to self grandize.

Brown belt Jeremy Carbone leading the UFC Vandry studio party at Dave and


I received my Black belt in BJJ under my instructor, Master Carlos Machado on June 1, 2002.  I will never forget that day, and it was filmed.  I had trained, taken private lessons under Carlos Machado for years, and learned much in all areas.  I had overcome a head trauma that nearly cost me my life.  I had come back, and developed physical training until I was once again training full speed.  When I received my Black belt, I was one of Master Machado’s first four in Texas. (UFC fighter Travis Lutter, Klay Pittman, Tim Burril and myself).  I personally did not think I was anything special, just one of the first four Black belts.  When Master Machado introduced me, he introduced me explaining what I had overcome in my life to one day be a Black belt.  I will never forget people I did not even know who hugged me, and were crying.  I never felt I should assume myself so important, and I was absolutely overwhelmed.  I remembered that when I hosted my quarterly in house seminar September 5.  I remember the four hour drive for years, the private lessons, the countless hours of mat time, my personal notes that I wrote every single class, and more importantly, how I developed until today.

Now that’s a seminar!!!  What a great community!!

I have heard of instructors that teach sometimes have decent mat ability, but have poor technical breakdown or explanation of techniques.  Some have decent explanation, but lack physical abilities on the mat, or have poor abilities of technique.  I remember when I first met the Machado brothers, I was entranced.  Their physical and technical ability is second to none.  I learned so much from them, that I always gave them credit for their knowledge, and to develop my game.

A BJJ black belt falls under many categories.  Many of us can be brutish, arrogant, insensitive, or even worse a disgrace or disgraceful actions.  When I look at UFC champion and BJJ Black belt Machida, I look at a man born from humility.  I admire, and respect this man, as I wrote some comments about in my last article.  I look at the great Rickson Gracie, who defined himself under the Bushido, or warrior code.  Rickson is a man of philosophy, and I like that, and feel we all must have an underlying and defining philosophy as BJJ black belts to set precedent of our future teachings, goals and future students.  I review my teaching each week.  I look at techniques if they can be added on, or simplified or modified.  I look at the overall class, and always set a curriculum for the week.  I do this because I teach students for the long run.  I teach so they have a set course until they achieve Black belt.  So what constitutes a Black belt besides knowledge and mat ability?

For me, it comes down to three things:

1. Ethic
2. Selflessness
3. Control

By ethic, it is the mere everyday actions you are held accountable for.  If we have a student that is arrogant or has a lack of humility, those usually get taken care of quickly, or they are simply someone that no matter where they go, they will always be an outlaw, and those types will not be a great BJJ black belt.

Selflessness.  By this, you have to attain mercy, kindness, passion and an ability to moderate your training with your partners.  If a new white belt is too fast, instead of hurting him, it is better at times to just side control, or have them burn out.  This will teach them to slow down and pace better.  A student that does not get a technique should always be aided, and helped to improve his or her abilities.  Being selfless is not common, but I believe this will aid to better your enlightenment as a BJJ Black belt.

Control.  If a new student goes too fast and accidentally hits you in the face, it’s his misunderstanding, and nervousness that makes him this type of a student.  He needs to understand safety and understanding of his eagerness.  These types of students will understand once they know they are not threatened or need to worry about injury.

I could delve into a plethora of angles on these three subjects, but in general, these are three I discipline myself with, and my top students and assistants should as well.  If you cannot understand or practice these philosophies, the entire book is still empty.

Absorb and think.

Professor William Vandry

P.S. Congratulations to Manny, Carter and King on earning their well deserved Black belts!

Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) & Muay Thai Boxing, Austin, Texas.

Submitted by William Vandry on Sat, 09/12/2009 – 11:46