A little over a week ago now, I competed in my first BJJ tournament down in Mass. I've always been a competitor of various athletics growing up, so I made the assumption that this event would be very similar. Of course, I haven't competed in several years, but naturally my body would respond the same, right? I mean, how could it not? Surely, it will all come back to me the moments leading up to the mat.
The week prior to the competition, I was determined to put in some serious preparation. I've been watching my diet and making more conscientious decisions about what I should be fueling my body with. I had really started lifting heavy on my "off" days in order to avoid potential injuries and gain proper strength, which I had been doing for months. I was eating, sleeping, and breathing competition preparation....which, like I have already mentioned, is pretty normal for me in athletics. In training that week, I was setting specific goals, making daily notes on what techniques to practice, what movements to repeat so that my body and brain can respond in those moments of duress. I was finding the toughest partners in the room and really preparing mentally for how "tough" this was going to be. I would ask them to go hard on me, and really push me.
Despite all of that training and preparation, I forgot one simple small detail. So much so, that I had a mental breakdown just a few days before Saturday. Fear had set in, and made me believe I wasn't ready. Fear had led me astray and convinced me that nothing I was doing was going to effective, and that the past few years of training were spent with no benefit to me. How was I going to expect myself to do well when I couldn't even land one take down effectively during live training with my teammates, or escape side control when pinned to the mat. What if I'm not simply cut out for this? All of the countless hours I have spent already studying techniques and our gym's curriculum were all for nothing? Fear, self doubt, and the possibility of failure were taking it's toll----and I was crumbling. Not to mention the insane amount of pressure I have been feeling from myself. I always tend to set the bar high for myself, and that alone, sets me up for an astronomical amount of stress.
It took a nice long conversation with one of our gym's black belts--Paul....for my anxiety, fear and stress to finally get lost. He had told me that regardless of the outcome, win or lose, no one in that gym would be disappointed. That fear is normal and natural---and to trust in my jiu-jitsu. AND THAT---was what I forgot the most. That tiny, simple, small detail.....that changed my entire view about that tournament and competition in general. My jiu-jitsu was effective, and I needed to trust in my body, my execution and techniques. I had to commit to my moves, without hesitation or fear. The week prior, wasn't the time to be trying to master all the fancy sporty trends, or to review all of the curriculum moves. It's a small detail, but it made a world of difference to me.
Happy to report, that I ended up having 4 matches, winning 3 of them. My only goal was to win one, so I was pleasantly satisfied. But the winning wasn't the victory for that day---it was my new found belief in the really "hard" days on the mat. It was the sudden appreciation for all of the failed take downs, side control escapes, and the merciless challenges that some of the hardest partners in the room provide me. I gained respect and confidence in my abilities and put training into more perspective for me. So thank you fear and self doubt for helping me learn to trust in my jiu -jitsu.