After 22 Years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training, I am Awarded my Black Belt.
After 22 years of taking lessons and practicing the very challenging art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I was awarded my 1st degree black belt, in Denver, CO, on May 5, 2019. The fellow I’m with in the picture above, martial arts teacher Dave Kovar of Sacramento, California, helped facilitate some of the very first jiu-jitsu lessons I ever took. He was present for my award —and worked alongside my son, Shannone Callos, and former Zen Planner staffer Chris Mierzwiak to make the award happen. Thank you my friends!
I am most definitely not the black belt I wanted or hoped to be, not nearly the black belt that all of my teachers and classmates and 2 sons are, and not the technical expert or top athlete I imagined I might be at this age and with this many years of practice under my “belt.” Nevertheless, I’m so very grateful for what the martial arts have done for me in my life —and I will be the best black belt I’m capable of being, both for myself —and the martial arts community in general.
I owe a lot of thanks to the many people who’ve helped me learn and train along the way. Thanks first goes to my Taekwondo teachers, the legendary Ernie Reyes, Sr, who had started taking BJJ lessons himself —and who asked all of his most senior black belts to start as well, and my first teacher Master Lou Grasso of Reno, Nevada —who helped me fall in love with martial arts practice —and who gave me a safe place to train and years of mentoring and friendship.
I owe thanks to BJ Penn and the Penn family, who were some of my first serious training partners when I lived in Hilo, Hawaii. BJ, of course, went on to have a legendary career as an athlete —and helping him get started in BJJ is one of the many extraordinary things that happened with or around me as I worked on my own skills.
I owe thanks to The Gracie family. Without their work where would we be?
Thanks goes to my many BJJ coaches, including Renato Verissimo, Jay Penn, Marcos Torregrosa, Cassio Werneck, Eliot Kelly, and Gustavo Enriques. I’d also like to offer appreciation to Professor Andre Galvao and Pedro Sauer for their participation.
And finally, special thanks to my son Shannone Callos and my stepson Keenan Cornelius. Both are rough and tumble black belts who have, through their own enthusiasm, talents, and passion, often kept me involved and participating in jiu-jitsu, despite my physical limitations.
For the record, I began taking martial arts lessons in 1969, in judo, then seriously in TKD in 1971, earning my first degree black belt in TKD in 1979, my 7th degree black belt on April 14, 2014. Earning my black belt in jiu-jitsu at age 59, with 3 hip replacements (so far) and numerous other injuries, caps a nearly 50 year career as a martial artist —and it’s something I hold very dear. Thank you again to all those who have helped me —and that I’ve had the honor to help and encourage along the way.