Last night I wrapped up my final training session before the tournament.

Since late June my mind has been fixed towards this Saturday, the 23rd and the training that needed to happen. Calendar-wise, I’ve spent the entire summer training for this tournament that takes place the day after Fall begins.

I still had to balance work and family in the mix, so I wasn’t there four nights a week or anything but I’ve made deliberate changes to my training since June to make sure I was giving myself the best shot possible:

  • Increased my training and mat time.
  • Reprogrammed my gym routines to help increase my endurance while maintaining a sufficient level of strength.
  • I added specific routines to strengthen and undo the tightness and discomfort in my shoulders.
  • Maintained a healthy food plan and did a good job curbing my sweet tooth.
  • I’ve taken notes, studied, asked questions and participated in extra classes that coach was offering on the weekends.
  • I’ve had weekly chiropractic & wellness visits during the last month of training to make sure everything was on point.

All in all, I believe I’ve done what I can to prepare. It will all be over sometime Saturday afternoon and I will have experienced my first competition. Just as important, I will have experienced how I perform in this kind of situation and pressure. That last note is probably the most important of all.

I’ve had some great milestones and successes and I’ve endured my fair share of frustrating nights over the summer wondering, “What the hell happened in there tonight?!”

I’d be kidding myself if I said that I didn’t have a desire to win and go the distance in my bracket and weight class. I’d also be kidding myself if I said I haven’t gotten nervous a time or two. I didn’t really start getting nervous until about two weeks prior to the tournament. I got shook up a bit last week. My mind was all over the damn place, I felt winded during every workout and BJJ session. That Wednesday, the 13th – also my birthday – Coach put up a scoreboard and acted as referee so we could get a feel for how everything goes down in competition. It was a good eye-opener. We’ve rolled many, many five minute rounds but this was a whole different animal. The sense of urgency was up, the points board is going off, etc.

My mind felt scattered, all over the place and in a word: fucked. I struggled to get clarity. I was frustrated and couldn’t get my head into the game most of the night. I was not impressed or pleased with my performance. My main enemy was my own mind and body and I struggled to master them, much less take on my training partners and teammates.

The first match was the most difficult, physiologically my body shut down within the first 30 seconds. I had a hard time getting my breath under control and the inner enemy, the weaker side of me began to cry out “Quit! Just quit!”. I remember clearly fighting the urge to just say “Stop, I’m done!”. 

Both Shane, my Coach and Karina, the assistant Coach/Team Captain, as well as a couple of my team members were trying to help me get out of my own head, find the “reset button” and move on… as they say on the interwebz: the struggle is real.

Objectively, I did OK. Six total matches, I won three, I lost three. Until I wrote it down, I didn’t think I did that many matches. One loss by disqualification, two losses by submission. The win’s were in the same pattern. The two matches I came ahead on were a direct result of calming down as best as I could, relaxing and taking it from there. At the minimum, I was able to get into “hunt mode” enough to get the win.

It took me a few days to get my head back on completely straight after that. Primarily because I was upset and angry at how my body was reacting and how it felt like my mind was betraying my true self by wanting to give up so quickly. But I got it back on and straightened it out.

I am a huge advocate of positive affirmations and creating the proper mindset; creating the proper reference point or frame for a given situation.

No… I didn’t read “The Secret”…

Having the right frame of mind going into a given day or activity is about strengthening and buttressing the mind against negative mindsets, doubts and fears. It’s about dismissing false information that your brain tries to bring up due to past failures and fears and creating the counter arguments (so to speak) based on facts of past successes, wins and skills you know you are good at.

So, I wrote down a few affirmations, put them in my BJJ journal next to my mind-map game strategy and I’ve been meditating on them each day leading up to the tournament. I even took it a step further, as I am currently experimenting with podcast recording, and recorded some affirmations and through that, actually created a few that were more powerful that the original ones I wrote down.

Here’s a very small sample of the frame I’ve created for the competition:

I have put in the training. I have put in the time. I have pushed hard. I have developed my game. This is my time.

I trust my Coach’s instruction and guidance. I trust the training I have received. I trust the skills I can deploy.

This is fun for me. I enjoy this.

I’m not going to share all of them at this point, maybe during the “AAR”, but let me tell you, there is definitely something to writing down the positive things that you believe about yourself in a particular situation, reading those things and even speaking them.

For me, it has been even more powerful listening to my own voice confidently say them with conviction from a recording. This is actually the only time I have ever enjoyed, or been OK with, listening to my own voice, which was an interesting feeling in and of itself.

Try it out, your mileage may vary.

Regardless of if I win or lose, I can and will use the experience of each match to become better at Jiu-jitsu than I was before. I’ll get my feet wet in tournament life, figure out how much I enjoy competing and then continue my BJJ journey from there.

Like my coach says, when it comes down to it, win or lose, it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. To really boil it down (with respect to the tournament host who is graciously putting on their first event in our state – they are well established in Utah), this is a tournament in a town of under four thousand.

I’m not going to be carried through the streets in a parade if I win.

I’m not going to be chased out of town if I lose.

There aren’t any contracts, sponsorships or anything else at the end.

This isn’t the Worlds, this isn’t the Pan-Ams and even if it was, the majority of the world doesn’t know or care. Multiple-time world champions walk down the streets of their towns daily and the majority of the people are unaware of or don’t even understand the significance of being a BJJ World Champion. Life will continue regardless of the outcome and most people aren’t going to know or even care that a tournament happened.

Outcome independence – that is the key. To seek a specific outcome or result, but to be detached from it to the degree that missing the desired outcome or failing will not derail you. Win, lose or draw – literally and figuratively – I will learn from this experience, I will use the experience and the knowledge I gain to become better at Jiu-Jitsu and deploying my game. Being outcome independent means you create the meaning for the event. You ultimately must realize that you are creating the degree of attachment to whatever outcome you seek, in any area of life. To the degree you attach yourself, will be the degree that you experience negative emotions if you do not attain that which you seek. And even if you seek it, you may not find the elation you dreamed of exactly because you became so attached to the outcome. The outcome matters, but it doesn’t.

I plan on doing an “After Action Report” regarding things I learned, the experience as a whole, etc. That will probably come out within a week or so after the tournament as I process my thoughts and review any videos I have of my matches. So stay tuned for that.

In closing, to boil all of this down into a few sentences:

  • I am not ashamed of the time I invested in my training.
  • My skills and ability have grown a tremendous amount in the last three months.
  • I know that I have good instruction and coaches.
  • I have a great team – both those on our team who are competing and those that aren’t.
  • I’m looking forward to Saturday.
  • I know that I will be better as a teammate and as a BJJ martial artist because of this experience.
  • Come what may, I am as ready as I can be.

Pursue Mastery

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