“There is no losing in Jiu-Jitsu. You either win or you learn.”
-Carlos Gracie Jr.
The first first few BJJ tournaments I entered were submission only events, a series put on by Sub League in Portland, OR. The instructors I had been learning from taught more submission artistry than positional dominance, which happened to cater directly to this tournament series. I won the first two qualifiers by submitting nearly all my opponents and took second in the championships! Additionally, I just received my blue belt before entering the second qualifier, and still pulled off a victory. Just recently, I competed in my first couple of points tournaments and did absolutely awful… Bummer, right? Yes, it is a bummer, but even more importantly it has been a great learning experience as can be most any adverse experience in life so long as you view it within the right perspective; the perspective of the student. So, here are some things I have learned:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport– Yeah, this seems quite intuitive, but what does that mean? In this case, certain predefined actions award points to competitors who perform them; of course, a competitor can win by submission but a points system developed out of obvious necessity. Therefore, while sneakiness and craft may be used to set up and pursue submissions, they may not translate well into points!
- I am my greatest opponent– I am one tough bastard- which is great for me as long as I am not fighting against myself… Seriously though, the human mind is very interesting. I can feel so comfortable on the mat at the gym; staying one step ahead of my training partners, moving so intuitively,attacking aggressively- but then come tournament time, I can step on that mat and lose everything! The mind goes blank, action quickly withers into reaction, and all too soon the match is over and I really can’t recall what it was that I was doing… Just like your middle school football coach said, “It’s 90% mental!”
- BJJ competitors are generally cool people– There is a certain camaraderie we form as combat athletes, quite a deep one, that is hard to find in other sports and groups of people. Perhaps it is the appreciation for the hard work that you know the other guy puts in or the courage it takes to get on the mat. Or maybe, it is something less romantic, like being taught humility by your friends who are constantly trying to rip your arms off and sticking their balls directly on your forehead. Either way, I would say 95% of the people I have met through BJJ, including my competitors, have been very friendly, eager to share, and eager to learn; overall just great people to be hanging out with!
Obviously, I realized some techniques I need to work on, as well as some adjustments to my game plan that need to be made, like develop one for instance (See Lesson 2)… But that list is never-ending and I’ve got places to be. Overall, I would say that I have learned much more about BJJ by losing matches than I have by winning; loss forces examination and spurs growth in the true competitor.
If you have been considering entering a tournament, stop hesitating and sign up- the worst that could happen is that you may learn something!