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A Loss is Only a Loss if You Say It Is - My First Time Competing
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A Loss is Only a Loss if You Say It Is - My First Time Competing

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Do you have the "Win or Learn" Mentality?

So, I’m here to tell everyone about my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament and the experience I had. Super fresh to the BJJ world with just three months of experience and one stripe on my white belt I asked my professor if he thought it would be okay if I competed in a tournament. Just barely comprehending the basics and pretty much nothing else, I was extremely driven toward the competitive side of this art and it what it may have to offer. With that being said, he told me “Yes.”

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Fast forward to about a month later and we’re on our way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 6 a.m. I barely knew the people I was with, but I trusted them, and I was filled with anxiety and motivated to win at the same time. Ego taking over “I’m going to win Gold. All submissions.” Then being consumed by fear “I’m going to lose every match. These guys are going to destroy me. Why would my professor say yes when I asked to compete?!”. Aside from all of the chaos taking place in my mind and body I didn’t back out. My teammates assured me I would be fine. I’m not sure why, but I believed them.

Weigh-ins go as planned. I can’t control my adrenaline and I could not relax. My hands were clammy all morning in anticipation, waiting on my first match. I hear my name called over the loud speaker to mat 2. I had an instant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I could have thrown up. My professor gave me some quick words of encouragement. I listened. My bare feet hit the mat, I saw my opponent and all of a sudden, my fear disappeared. No time to think.

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We shook hands and the Gi grips started taking place shortly after. Some pushes here, some pushes there. I leaned backwards rolled onto my back put my shin between his legs and flipped him. It was chaos after that. I forgot 98% of what I picked up in class and it was survival mode. In a dominant position most of the match I was ended up in a very technical and tight triangle from my opponent. My vision started to tunnel and I wouldn’t let my pride get in the way. I tapped. I didn’t flip out. I didn’t slam the mat and I showed respect to an opponent who must have been training extremely hard for that moment also. We stood next the ref and his hand got raised.

I stepped off of the mat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t feel my legs. My hands were numb from gripping the Gi and not letting go. I didn’t have any time to collect myself before I quickly got called to the mat again. Match number two. Same type of interaction. We got to the ground and he had an extremely tight guillotine in. It was too soon in the match I couldn’t let this happen. I put everything I had into it and very un-technically ripped my head out of the submission. We’re both already dead after this point. After a few scrambles he ends up in my closed guard. Fighting tooth and nail I was trying my best to listen to my professor and his coaching. I heard what he was saying but my body just couldn’t respond physically. Him being just as tired as I was if not more and being up by a couple points, he chose to stall in my guard and finish out the match.

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After this second “loss” I separated myself from the group. Having never experienced any of this before my emotions got the best of me and started to cry in front of my professor. In that moment I felt as if I had let everyone I knew including myself down. Not giving myself a chance to be proud of even having enough courage to step out onto those mats.

I was consoled by my teammates and lifted back up to finish my matches. I didn’t think I had anything left in the tank but they believed in me, and kept picking me up. I finished out the day and ended up winning a match and taking home two bronze medals. The rest of my team also placed, and brought home some hardware.

The experience was life changing and the growth I’ve experienced from it since has been enormous. It’s helped me in more than just BJJ. The experience changed me as a person in so many positive ways. Approaching situations, I’m scared of and not quitting when things start to not go my way to be more specific. I encourage anyone interested in competing to do so. And I hope to continue to develop in this art and compete many more times on my journey. You can learn something from any situation in life and no matter what your expectations were or how things turn out, a loss is only a loss if you say it is.

Photos Courtesy of Third Eye Imagery LLC.

Tom DeBlass has joined forces with BJJ Fanatics to share all of his favorite submission escapes from all of the worst possible spots you will find yourself stuck in on your BJJ journey!  Once you know you'll never get caught, your mat-confidence will grow by leaps and bounds!  Get your copy of Submission Escapes here!

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