The lessons of Lovato’s new black belts

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Rafael Lovato Jr. is a black belt of eight years, and is as passionate about teaching as he is competing.

Rafael Lovato is busy preparing himself and his team for the upcoming Pan and Worlds, but in between all that, he’s had the opportunity to celebrate two of his students becoming black belts and one getting his brown belt. With each new belt comes reflection on lessons learned and the journeys that have been traveled. The two students who received their black belts were Travis Serna and Robert Harper. Like every student who has ever made it to this coveted milestone in life, they say the road has, at times, been long and arduous, but mostly joyful and rewarding. For the professor who gets to promote his students, the experience is nothing less than euphoric.

Travis Serna, prior to promotion / Photo:

Travis Serna has learned that believing in himself has been the key to obtaining his black belt. “Training is not always easy, but it’s always worth it,” he says, “The most important lessons I have learned on my journey in becoming a black belt have been to always believe in myself and my own abilities. There were times when I doubted or questioned the reasons I put so much time and energy into training, but I always made myself train through those moments. Once I got past those feelings of doubt, I came out on the other side mentally stronger and hungrier than ever before for Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is a lifestyle and I can’t imagine life without it. It becomes as much a part of you as your arm or leg.”

Robert Harper, prior to promotion / Photo:

Robert Harper expresses similar sentiments, but he also sees the value in competing and how it can improve your game and also enhance your personal life. “For me, the lessons learned would be keeping a positive attitude and believing in yourself,” he says, “Compete as much as you can and most of all, have fun. Keep an open mind because you can learn from everybody. Share the techniques you know with others, because it will make you better in the long run. Respect your teammates and your opponents.”

As Rafael looks on proudly over his students, he offers some good advice to keep in mind for those who are diligently trying to accomplish this same desirable goal of getting to your black belt. “Remember that everyone’s journey is different,” he says, “Don’t compare yourself to other people and allow yourself to get frustrated because someone is moving through the ranks faster than you or because they are getting better results at the lower belts. It is an individual journey and it is all about becoming the best black belt YOU can be. Nothing really matters at the lower belts, it is just part of your educational process. Some people are great blue or purple belts, but fail to become a black belt. Stay consistent and always keep your eyes focused on becoming a black belt, then the real journey begins!”

If you would like to learn more about Rafael Lovato’s school/team in Oklahoma and their recent performances at the Houston Open and the Europeans, their competitive travels, or about Rafael’s 2012 seminar tour, you can check out his blog at

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