Journey to Black Belt – Reflections by Dane Barlow

I first met Dane at as a blue belt at a submission only tournament in Utah. He is a genuinely nice guy and a fierce competitor. I’ve enjoyed following his career and admiring his successes over the past years, but never knew his background or his story. This weekend, unsuspecting, he was awarded his black belt. His words in response to receiving his belt are beyond inspiring! You NEED to read this!

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By Dane Barlow

Ok, I have processed this amazing event in my life. I made big plans for a return to competition next year at brown belt but Mitch and the Knights of the Round Table had a different plan. When I started training Jiu-Jitsu I had just lost everything in the home building collapse. My son wanted to train and I had to find a place. I met Mitch Coats in his small academy (Alliance Jiu-Jitsu, Boise, Idaho). And I watched the Jiu-Jitsu art. It was like ballet except fighting. I had never seen something so fluid yet both offense and defense were being played. I signed us both up that night and a week later I told Mitch I didn’t know how long I could afford to train but that I would go till I ran out of money.

I had barely reached the point living in the attic of my sister Noel’s garage with my wife and kids- that I could constantly provide food and basic needs consistently. The pipes froze that winter and we had space heaters and blankets to keep warm. At two months I felt like I either had to go all in or quit. You see maybe my story begins when my step dad told me in high school that I was no one’s hero. I should give up on dreams and plan on a regular job right out of high school. I wanted to be the hero of my own story. I wanted to leave the disparity of my failure behind.

Jiu Jitsu and Mitch gave me the confidence to take back my life and mental attitude. I set a goal to save 10,000 dollars and change my life. This was impossible but I set the goal anyways. I also told Mitch I wanted to be the best white belt. I began to restructure my life with discipline and tapping out and restarting daily if needed. I was on a journey. I told Mitch I wanted to be somebody at Jiu Jitsu. I won countless medals in white belt tournaments all over and shortly after my blue belt promotion travelled to Brazil to compete in Rio at the master international championship. I won a silver medal after a tough finals match I lost by points. With that I came home and changed my life.

I had saved $20,000. I spent $4,000 to take my wife with me to Brazil. And I called a man up and offered to work for free to learn to make teeth! Within six months he handed me a porcelain brush and taught me everything he knew. Six month later under stress of life and bad decisions he had to sell the business. I took the reigns of my life again and told him I would find investors to buy the business. I told Mitch I would be somebody at Jiu Jitsu then do the same thing with my career. I did find investors and I promised to pay everyone back in one year. My mentor told me it was impossible to do and that I was silly and making a mistake by setting impossible goals.

Well I did it. And I won the Pan American championship and a #1 world rank at the same time. Kristi Barlow, my wife, took care of me. Supported me. Went to many matches or took care of the kids so I could leave and have these journeys against myself. I met so many competitors I consider fellow travelers on this journey. All over the place. Too many names to list. Guys who fought so hard to beat me and I them. Thanks guys! You all know who you are. You guys honored me with battles.

I spent the next year paying off my debt and equipment. I spent $250,000 in two years to get the business and equipment leases paid off. I redid countless smiles for charity with Doctor Huff. I sacrificed more money to charity than I took in income for two years to prove it could be done. Kristi let me do it. We bought dinners for thanks giving and dinners for Christmas for countless families because when we had nothing someone did the same for us. Sitting in our little attic with a 1-foot tall Christmas tree Jessica Brennan bought us we ate food some mystery family left at our garage door. I had to return the favor.

At the brown belt level I won several tournaments and a bronze at masters worlds. Then Mitch pulled me aside and said, “Quit competing and go do what you said. Become somebody at your profession.” I wrote magazine articles and shook hands with everyone. I shared information with anyone I could trying to help others and I also helped myself become better. I was spotted by Dan Boskocevic with GC America and he told me he wanted me to share myself with his customers. I lectured internationally in Mexico first I did the entire lecture in Spanish. I met Von Grow and he introduced me to a whole new world of sharing information about teeth. Later I would be elected to become a member of the dental technicians guild. One of 150 in the world to serve and share information to help build up our industry with passion handmade teeth. I would go on to lecture and teach all over as well as speaking at the Chicago winter meeting. A big deal for our industry. And then I made plans for my return to competition. I was promoted on a weekend in which I also donated a new smile to a woman and finished the last implant crown for Johnny Goforth. A black belt. A new beginning. And a full circle of giving back.

Jiu Jitsu and Mitch Coats changed my life and along the way I have had the honor of changing other people’s lives. I did nothing on my own. My team was there the whole time. Countless to name individually I love you all. My brothers and sisters in the battle of life. We were not born perfect. I do not have a perfect life. I fail. But I tap often and start again. I drive to be better. I challenge myself. And you all join with me. We can’t help the past, but we can change our stars by the choices and goals we make today. Thank you all my friends. Each one of you who read this to the end was most likely someone so special to the reformation of my life. You are all special to me.

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The Proving Grounds Invitational

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September 10, 2016 will put Utah on the world grappling map. The Proving Grounds Invitational is a brown/black belt only tournament that will feature 3 pools of ridiculous  Jiu-Jitsu talent in a winner-take-all, submission-only event. The winner of each tournament bracket, -160 lbs., 160-190 lbs., and 190+ will walk away with $2,000 all for the privilege of  beating people up all nigh!

This tournament is an exceptional blend of big name grapplers like Bill “The Grill” Cooper,  World Champion Grapplers like Brandon Ruiz, UFC Vets like Tyson Griffin and Jerermy Horn (did you know he has 91 professional MMA wins with 63 submission???), Bellator Fighters like Alexander Huddleston and Scott Thometz, local ninja nightmares Jacob and Jason South, Utah legend Justin Ellison, and many, many more! To top it off, Proving Grounds is giving away a sick AR-15 from Reactive Gunworks!

If you are anywhere near Utah (like, within a 400-mile radius) you DO NOT want to miss this event! Tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 9th at 10am. For more details on the event, the gun giveaway, and to buy your tickets, visit www.thegaragemma.com

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