img_7825.jpgIf you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be training in Jiu-Jitsu, I would’ve liked the sound of that and more than likely believed you. It was on my radar. As someone who takes an interest in self defense and protecting my family, I knew that I needed to improve my “ground game” (read as: non-existent ground game).

If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be training and competing in Jiu-Jitsu, I would’ve been highly skeptical. Full contact competition was a far off dream; an aspiration that I had discarded to the “I missed my window” bucket of my life.

On Friday morning, the day before the tournament, I reflected on everything I had gone through and endured in the last two-plus-years to arrive at this point. Participating in this tournament was very meaningful to me. Meaningful as a martial artist. Meaningful as a man pursuing mastery in his life. Meaningful as a father and husband. Meaningful to my life’s journey as a whole.

Getting there Saturday morning, standing in the gym with the noise of the cheering, the coaches yelling to their students from the sideline, the announcements over the PA system, the buzz and vibrant energy…it was an interesting experience, to say the least.

I hope that I remember this tournament for a long time to come. Not only to build off the things I learned, but also to remember it from the white belt viewpoint. I like helping people, so I want to use this experience to help my teammates who are yet to join our ranks as competitors, and also to help you, dear reader, if you should raise your hand and step on to the mat for the first time. Perhaps what I write here and the words of wisdom from my Coach, will help you to be successful in more ways than just medals, when you get to your first tournament. Perhaps you are farther down the line and you have forgotten what it’s like to be a white belt. Hopefully these BJJ White Belt posts are helpful.

The Footage

Looking Back, Being Real

I’ve watched the above footage of my fights handfuls of times. As I watched, I would recall as best as I can what was going through my mind, what my body was feeling. As I watched, I would pay close attention to my performance, listening to the words my coach was shouting from the side of the ring, and above all seeing where I made mistakes. From all of that, I’m making notes of things I think I need to work on; resolving to get back on the mats and do better.

Pause.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in not securing the win.

Bluntly?

It fucking sucked.

With my coach, my teammates and friends and my wife and children watching – I didn’t come through… twice.

Fucking. Sucked.

You, like I, could have the best attitude in the world. You could understand and accept that you win or learn and be dedicated to learning from your mistakes. You could be a good sportsman, sincerely congratulate your opponent and be mature about your loss. But if you lose, you are going to be disappointed, upset and maybe even a bit pissed off.

I think that it should happen, if you want to get better and improve. You should be disappointed. You should be pissed. That is the part of your ego that pushes you to do better, to become more than you are, to learn from your fuck ups and blast through them next time. The wrong path, of course, is to be so upset, so disturbed, that you are a puddle of melted snowflakes. Don’t be that person. Be the other. The one who brushes himself of, gets up and moves forward.

If you lose and can’t think of a single thing you did wrong, I think that’s hubris trying to cover your feelers from getting hurt.

Embrace the fail, the suck, then move forward.

That’s the step I’m on. Moving forward.

Mind and Body

I mentioned above that I tried to recall how I was thinking and how my body was feeling.

I mentioned in the previous post about my nervousness. The nerves quieted down when I committed and stepped on the mat. The first round was exhausting, it felt more exhausting than the second even though I think I expended more energy in the second round fighting and keeping my opponent in my closed guard. Correction, I know I used more energy. That’s one thing my coach and I went over regarding the second fight.

As far as the mental plane is concerned. I wasn’t afraid. I just got frustrated… a lot. This is an area Coach and I have been working on and will keep working on. I didn’t execute with conviction. What I mean by that is this: there were techniques that I have successfully executed during live rolls in class, techniques that were part of my game plan for the tournament, and I didn’t have enough faith in myself to pull them off. I heard my Coach, I barely saw the openings, but my lack of confidence in executing instead of listening to my coach, drawing on the successes and executing with belief and conviction in them, led to that failure.

Reviewing the footage, it was painfully obvious the openings that were presented to me.

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Back to the physicality of the tournament. I’ve trained, I’ve conditioned and I’ve regularly hit the gym as well as the mats and those two rounds were extremely taxing. In a prior post I spoke about how my body and mind shut down during some rolls with my team. During that first roll, those same physical and mental things began but I was able to push through it and it was easier on me.

The unpredictability and uncertainty of an opponents game, plus the fight or flight physiological responses your body generates, added to going full on against said unknown opponent add up to an entirely different experience when compared against rolls with teammates. Even those taxing and exhausting rolls with your teammates where you feel like collapsing on the floor afterwards. Its just different.

My grip was shot by the end of the second roll. My forearms, especially my right as I favored the cross collar grip on both fights, were pumped out and it took almost ten minutes before I could unscrew the cap for my water bottle. Seriously.

I woke the next morning sore. Primarily my upper back, arms and forearms but I did have some stiffness in my legs and glutes. I only did two rolls, going the full five minutes each time, but it had felt like I had gone through a harder workout. That’s the physiological response, the adrenaline, the amped senses and muscles, etc.

The Team

We’ve spent a great deal of time coming together and fostering the environment for both competitors and non-competitors to come together as a team. We had spent countless hours preparing, drilling, rolling, sweating and nursing our bodies back to health only to do it all again over the last three plus months. We truly wanted the best for each other and looked out for one another as best as we could all the way to the tournament and back. The camaraderie, the support and care for each team member was evident

Coach tried his best to be ringside at every match, but when it came down to multiple team members being on multiple rings at the same time, we all made sure to have at least one team member ringside to help the one in the ring. Coach had instructed us on this prior to the tournament: things to say, things not to say. Our primary objective would be to help the teammate in the ring keep track of time and points if Coach couldn’t be there.

“Okay, you’ve got four minutes left. Take your time.”

“You’re up by 3 points, keep going, you’re doing great!”

“Okay, you are down by 2, don’t worry about that. Let’s look a better position to even the scales. You’ve got three minutes to go, you can do this.”

Things like that.

Now, to preface what I’d like to share next, you need to understand that there were three brackets in which at least two of our teammates were competing together. This means that there could potentially be a fight for 1st and 2nd place at the top against our own teammates. Some gyms are fine with this, but as Coach explained to us before the tournament, we wanted to shut brackets down, not go against one another at the top. We roll against one another all the time at the gym and we didn’t drive two+ hours, spend extra time training, extra money on food, lodging, gas and entrance fees…just to roll against our own teammates. So if it came down to going for first and second place, we agreed that we would not fight, we’d have pre-arranged who took the gold and silver medals.

Hopefully, you see where this is going.

One of my teammates was competing in the same bracket as I. I have to give him massive props for his performance, sportsmanship and being a solid teammate. He lost his first round and won his second. His third round he was bracketed against me, which would’ve been my second round. It wasn’t a fight for first and second. We were in the consolation bracket going for third.

So, he and I were taken back for a second.

We told the judges as they called us up that we were from the same school/team and didn’t want to fight each other. Instead of arranging it differently, they told us “that’s just what happens”. My teammate then replied, “He’s going through, then. We’re not fighting each other.” The judges agreed to the request and they changed the bracket up.

Double elimination. He was out of the tournament.

Read the last two sentences again. Appreciate them.

He gave up his third fight so I could have a solid second fight against a different opponent. It was an honor that I still don’t believe I deserved. So for that reason alone, you could appreciate why I am so disappointed that I couldn’t secure the win on my second fight. I owed it to my teammate to give my best and secure the win.

I owe him one.

So, yeah, the team is solid. Continually getting closer as a unit, a tribe, a family.

We, as a team, did amazingly well in the tournament. 8 competitors, 6 medals including one double gold! A medal in each bracket that we competed in, save for mine. That’s pretty damn impressive! As a new school, going on 1 year old in early October, we were barely a blip on the radar on the day of the tournament. By the end of the day, each of us had multiple conversations from people we either competed against or others we didn’t know coming up to us and asking where we were from, who we were, etc.

We turned heads.

Back to the Garage

“It’s just like building a race car – you run it, see what works and doesn’t, back to the garage to tweak and mod until the next race.” ~Coach Shane

By this Wednesday’s training, as I said, I had reviewed the footage multiple times. I knew what I did wrong. Coach knew what I did wrong. Coach knew that I knew what I did wrong and he confirmed that as we reviewed the film together at class.

  • I fought too long and hard to keep my opponent in my guard, tweaking and modifying is needed here, back to the garage.
  • My framing for someone getting into side control on me is getting better, but it needs some tweaks, back to the garage.
  • I need to look at setting up multiple attacks instead of working one really hard then switching entirely to something else, back to the garage.
  • My sweeps need improving, back to the garage.
  • I need to put more confidence and faith in my takedown ability, back to the garage.
  • There are things that I am looking to implement in my workouts to continue increasing my strength conditioning as well as my cardio (sprints and steady paced), back to the garage.
  • Props to my opponents for their wins, but I allowed them to dictate the pace of the fight instead of setting the pace myself, being more aggressive and more assertive, back to the garage.

Back to the garage I go. Back to the garage our team goes, pushing each other and working with each other to improve and hone our game. There are a couple tournaments before the end of the year. I’m not sure if we will compete in those. For now, I’m sticking in the garage, but for any of my teammates who want to get out on the track sooner, I’ll be doing my part to help out. I know they’d do the same. I’ll be looking to compete at least twice in 2018, maybe more.

We’ll see what the year brings.

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Moving Forward – It’s Over

“What you’ve gotta understand is that it’s over. Seriously! Nobody cares anymore. That win is only as good as that day. If the day were done over again, a lot of the people who won could’ve lost. It’s like Any Given Sunday that way.

The only thing that matters is how good your Jiu-Jitsu was on that day, and now it’s over. It doesn’t matter anymore.

When the next tournament comes, it doesn’t matter if you medaled three times in the prior tournament. You still start from square one. Your prior wins don’t count at the new tournament.

Those who won might not have taken as much away, learning-wise, compared to those who lost. It’s hard to win gold and then try and dissect that performance, why mess with it?

It’s over.

Everyone, even the gold medalists have room to grow- that’s why we do this, to measure ourselves and then improve.” ~Coach Shane (an amalgam of a handful of recent conversations)

It’s over. Something I needed to hear.

I’m moving forward. Something I needed to do.

I know I am harder on myself than anyone else is. I’m well aware of my flaws, my shortcomings, my failures and mistakes, as a father, husband, friend and even in BJJ. But I move on. No navel gazing. No “woe is me”. No bullshit.

It no longer matters what happened. What will I do today to improve?

Back to the garage.

Pursue Mastery.

**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in the writing you find here, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of it. Thanks again for reading!**

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