Back At It After Your BJJ Tournament
This past weekend, I got back on the competition mats after over 6 years away. As a student of Professor Tom DeBlass, I've always been inspired by his no nonsense approach to competition for his students. Do it, if you want to do it. You don't have to do it, but if you commit to doing a competition, you must be dedicated to the process and make it to your goal without excuses. The training and preparation that leads up to the competition is arguably the most valuable aspect of signing up for that competition.
At 46 years old, I found myself eating better than ever, training harder and more often than ever leading up to the weekend's competition. Our gym has a group of hearty individuals who train at 5:30am on at least three days a week. I found myself getting up at 4am during this prep period to get some extra training in and absolutely loved it.
All of these things paid amazing dividends, not just for me, but also for my relationships with my teammates who were also preparing for the event. Several of them were like me and hadn't competed in quite some time. Others were doing their very first tournament. There are few things that I can compare the months leading up to a competition to in life. It's an extremely special (and sometimes difficult) experience that I would recommend each and every jiu jitsu practitioner try at least once.
Though, ultimately, I was not successful in the tournament, losing two matches to come in third in my division, I was able to pull many positive elements out of the event, along with important constructive elements. The positives were as follows: At 46, I have a sport like BJJ where I can step on the mats and face like-minded individuals and challenge ourselves. Jiu Jitsu has elements that are both individual, but also team-oriented. To prepare, you need training partners and peers who will help you. There's a lot to be said for that element of BJJ. There are tons of practitioners who are older than me and still competing. That makes me feel both proud and inspired. During the competition preparation process, I was able to lose about 20 lbs, safely and in a healthy way. I was also able to work through and around a few different minor injuries that in the past, would have probably led to me not competing. I had invested too much effort into this competition prep. There wasn't anything that was going to stop me.
After my matches, I spent the rest of the event rooting for my teammates who did amazingly well. I watched white, blue and brown belts from our academy do what we do everyday and were very successful. Beyond my individual experiences, watching someone else be successful is one of the best parts of BJJ. On the long drive home from the tournament, my mind was already putting a plan into place for achieving new goals. It got me thinking about what the most important things to do right after your tournament,whether you win or lose.
Celebrate the Positives
If you won, celebrate. To go onto the competition mats and secure victory is an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud. Hopefully, you are able to share the moment with your teammates and family--as they are the folks who most understand what you've accomplished. The next Monday at work, you may find a coworker or two that may ask you about the 'karate tournament' you were in that weekend, but most have no clue.
If you lost, it's okay to be disappointed, sad, frustrated, angry or whatever, but don't dwell on it. Most of us will never experience what it is like to compete on the highest stages of the world, so of course, I am making no claims as to what to do in that case. For that, you'd have to talk to people like Bernardo Faria or Gordon Ryan who have stepped on the highest stages. But if you're like me, Joe Average Practitioner, remember win or lose, no one outside of your little circle even cares. No one is going to look at you any differently whether you won or lost that day.
If you lost, make sure you acknowledge the positives that came out of the experience. Maybe you got into better shape, perhaps you lost some weight. Maybe you added a new element to your game during your training that you had never used before. Maybe you had great matches and it came down to simple, most likely frustrating, "dumb" mistakes and had you not made one or two mistakes, you could have just as easily been victorious. Maybe you never thought that you'd be a competitive person in your life and you showed yourself that you could in fact step out there into the unknown and face your fears. There are literally millions of possible positives that can come out of competing and losing. If you ask all of the greatest competitors in BJJ history, what drove them most--I guarantee it wasn't their wins. Our losses are the fuel that drive us to be better or destroy us. That's a fact.
Embrace the Negatives
Maybe "negative" isn't the right word, think of it more in terms of constructive things that you can take away to work on for your game and for future tournaments. It could be big stuff like maybe your strength and conditioning needs work to help you survive the rigors of competition. Perhaps you've got some woodshedding to do with your takedown approach. Maybe your guard game could use work or even your escapes. Whatever it is, be honest and put it down on paper. That is the first step to making a plan together that will help you improve.
Get back at it as soon as possible
Whatever you do, get back to your normal training routine as soon as humanly possible. It's okay to take a day or two off to rest if you've got any bumps or bruises, but the faster you're back on the mats, the faster you can take the lessons learned and get to work improving yourself. Whether you win or lose, taking huge chunks of time off, will do very little good for you and your BJJ.
After the dust settled, I went back to teach Sunday class as I have been for the last few years. I shared a little bit of my experience with my team and we worked the submission I had gotten myself caught in and some defenses. At the end of the day, it's not the defeats that define us, but the perseverance to come back and never, ever quit. Get out there if you can. Win or lose, you will be better for it.
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