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October 20, 2022

My Journey to Blue Belt

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My Journey to Blue Belt

Editor’s Note: Dalton Anderson, one of our lead Tiger Coaches and soon to be an adult BJJ instructor, is a two-stripe Blue Belt. This piece was first written by him in August 2021.

My days of being interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stem way back to high school, circa 2010.  I remember playing one of the original UFC games on my Xbox where you could create your own fighter and choose their fighting style.  I always picked Jiu Jitsu instead of wrestling; at the time, I was super skinny and loved the idea of smaller people being able to use leverage and submissions to beat larger opponents. 

Video games are one thing, but training BJJ in real life is a whole other story. I started training Jiu Jitsu in 2019 after almost getting into a fight with a crackhead (yes, you read that right).  Some coworkers and I were eating lunch outside at an outdoor shopping mall when this dude came up to us.  Me, being the smallest guy in the group, he singled out for his ranting and raving. 

Upset that none of us had a lighter he could use to smoke his drugs, he hopped over the railing that separated the outdoor seating area of the restaurant from the street and aggressively started towards me. 

Now, at this point in my life, I had no training in striking or grappling, so I did what I thought was best in the moment. I went full gangster. I stood up (no way I’m getting punched in the face sitting down), and told this crackhead if he touched me, I was going to stab him in the throat.  Not my finest moment, but hey, it worked.  He moved on to harass some other patrons and we got the heck out of there.

Reflecting on this moment on my way home from work that day, I had a couple of realizations.  One, I don’t think if I had to fight that guy I would have been able to defend myself effectively.  Two, I was out of shape and on my way to skinny fat which is not a good look.  I made a decision that day to correct both of those things.  I started working out about 3 to 4 days a week and signed up to start training BJJ.

I began my training at Zingano BJJ in Brighton, Colorado and instantly fell in love with the sport.  It was always something I’ve wanted to do, but now I was actually doing it!  Every time I struggled through warm ups or got absolutely destroyed rolling, I did so with a smile. I knew that I was getting stronger and a little better each day.  I trained at Zingano for about six months before moving my family out to Bailey, Colorado over an hour away.

Finding a home gym

After the move, I took about two months off to get settled into my new place before finding a new academy to train at. Easton Training Center Littleton was the closest place, so I signed up for my trial class and hit the mat.  At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay.  I was a one stripe white belt who was already rolling at the other academy and as you may know, at Easton you need to have two stripes to roll. 

Boy, am I glad I stayed!  For one, I loved the way that Easton taught and how we moved through positions and techniques.  But secondly, I was getting absolutely demolished by all the white belts in my class when I got my second stripe, they were so good. I knew that if I stayed, I could be as good as them some day.

So there I was… Two-Stripe Dalton.  I wanted to get better, and I wanted it to happen quick.  I showed up 30 minutes early to class to get some rolls in and stayed after class to get as many rounds in as possible.  I got my ass kicked over and over and over again. 

It was hard and I didn’t feel like I was getting any better; I was getting beat every time.  But something had started to happen… I wasn’t getting submitted as much.  I was still in very much survival mode, but I figured if I could slow my partner down and be a pain in the ass for them the whole round, I can take that home as a win. 

When it clicks

Everything clicked for me about 18 months into my training.  When Easton Littleton opened up its schedule after Covid, I went to a Saturday Randori and rolled with a whole new group of people I’ve never interacted with before. (During Covid, we had specialized rolling groups.)

I didn’t want to go in there with anything to prove, so I decided to roll very conservatively, just go with whatever my partner gave me.  To my surprise, it was the best I had ever rolled.  I learned it didn’t always have to be a fight.  I could slow down and even control the pace to some extent. 

This is really where my offense took off as well. I began to develop a decent guard game and was able to start working on some of the top positions.  I still struggled getting out of side control, but I was getting better and better. As I approached the two-year mark of my training, I decided to compete to test my skills, and I could see my blue belt on the horizon. 

Getting ready to compete was a great experience; it helped me solidify a lot of the techniques I felt I had under my belt.  I ended up placing third, with four wins and one loss.

Then it happened.  July 25, 2021 I earned my Blue Belt from Professor Peter Straub at the Easton Training Center in Littleton, Colorado.

Special thanks to Professor Nick, Coach Esteban, and Coach Theresa — you are all amazing coaches and instructors, and I learned most of what I know from you all.

Shout out to Rodrigo, Parker, and Tyler Skavdahl.  You will always be the OGs of the noon crew and kicked my ass more than anyone out there.

I want to thank the rest of the members and coaches as well as you all have helped make this an amazing community to be apart of, and I appreciate you all more than you could know!

For anyone interested in trying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time, click here to take a free class!

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