Don’t hide behind your belt

Don’t hide behind your belt

Kyl Reber is a guest blogger at Old Man Strength. He currently holds multiple black belts across many disciplines and is head of the Brisbane De Been 100% Jiu Jitsu Brisbane Academy. Kyl also has his blog which you can follow at

I see this all the time, and it really saddens me sometimes.  Not for the instructor (which it usually is) who is hiding behind that rank, but for the students and peers of this person, as you can bet a lazy $20 they are more than likely going to end up doing the same thing.

I was told this a long time ago when I first start Zen Do Kai, and it is ALWAYS something that I try to live by day in and day out.

“The instructor doesn’t get the student to do anything they would not do themselves”.

Now this one is not meant to be disrespectful toward anyone, as I have the utmost respect for people that have committed the better part of their lives to better themselves through Martial Arts and Fitness, but I am sure everybody can think of at least one person as an example of this topic, and maybe we need to give them not an opinion, but instead a hand to get back on track, as one reason people get to this “level” of hiding behind the belt, is that they think maybe the horse has bolted, they are too scared to fail anymore, or they have their go-to excuses as to why they can’t do it anymore.

Unfortunately – The higher the rank, the more examples of this there are.  I’ll tell you why I think that is…

These are the usual suspects when it comes to excuses.

1.  I’m too old.

2.  I’m too injured

3.  I’m too busy

You know what?  They could all be mine too.  I’m 40 now, and things don’t move and heal like they use to.  Not looking after my body well enough over the last 20 years is catching up with me a bit.

I have had my share and still have injuries that stop me from doing certain movements, but instead I focus on what movements I CAN do.  There will be things that I just won’t be able to do, AND THAT’S OK…….  There is a truckload I CAN do, and do well.  I may not be as fast on the pads any more, but I can hit harder than I have ever hit before……  So the times I do hit you, it will hurt.

You want busy???  I run a business, have a family, have commitments at my kids school, am kinda on call 24 hours a day, BUT……….. for at least 1 hour every day, the phone goes off and I train….  The universe will keep spinning that 1 hour I have checked out from it….  The phone even gets left in the car so I don’t have that temptation to reach for it. I tell you some days that is hard, but it has to be done.

Don’t be afraid to be a little older and slower.  What you have maybe lost in conditioning (and if you really want to you can get it back – and you would be surprised how quickly), you make up for in knowledge, skill, and experience.  Trust me, that stuff wins a truckload more fights (on and off the mat) than just being fit and strong.  Do what you can, when you can……..  That is ALL YOU CAN DO.

After all, back to the quote earlier, what message are we sending our students if they see us at our rank doing a lot of arm folding and nothing else.  I know my students love the fact I still get in there and mix it up with them, although sometimes they would be more than happy for me to sit on the sideline and coach, I’m not there just yet…  If I am in there getting my hands dirty, their excuses to not do it diminish.

My inspirations aren’t these young and fit guys killing it physically, but more so the older 40 plus guys now that are still keeping up with the young bucks, and beating them with skill and mentality, rather than just brute force and pure fitness. A fit mind is 100 times more deadly than a fit body.  Look at Randy Couture, Matt Swift, The Chief (Bob Jones), Billy Manne, Richard Norton and many more.  These guys to me are the essence of what we do.  They aren’t deteriorating – they are getting BETTER.  That isn’t measured by their ability to do thousands of reps, but more so their resilience to maintain the knowledge and prowess to be still sitting at the top of their field.

Just follow these three rules, as opposed to the three excuses above.

1.  Do all you can,

2.  When you can,

3.  For as long as you can.

Your students and peers will respect you SO MUCH MORE if they see you constantly getting your hands dirty and dealing with all the struggles you force upon them every day.

Best of all – you will begin to respect yourself a lot more too.

That’s all you need to do.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.