MY FIRST TOURNAMENT JOURNEY
FIRST TOURNAMENT JOURNEY..Oh. Ok.I remember the moment I told my husband that I wanted to compete in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament with extreme and vivid accuracy. You know one of those memories that appear in HD versus standard definition when you think about it? That is one of those moments for me.
Why? I can only guess that I feel it is some pivotal point in my life and the BJJ journey. I believe it has (or will) affect me greatly. Whether it is the circumstances that led me to blurt out “I think I just need to compete!”, or the training that has followed that emotional statement... I don’t feel like the same person I was just two months ago.
Two months ago...
There are many wise teachers of this sport that explain the ups and downs of the training process. The visuals of hills and valleys, the ebb and flow of tides, or peaks and caverns help to describe what most Jiu-Jitsu practitioners experience. When your doing well and feel that you are progressing as you should, then you are on a high point. Going to class is a joy beyond what anyone who doesn’t train could ever understand. It’s stress relief! It’s encouraging! It’s empowering! It’s like a therapist who knows just the right kind of medicine to give you, so you can go out and function in this crazy world. YASSSSSS!
Then, at other times - you are in the valley. You feel stuck. Are you even progressing? Sometimes it gets so bad... you feel that you might be somehow regressing. How can you be losing your Jiu-Jitsu? How is that even possible? Going to classes can be difficult. Are you falling out of love with the sport? Have you plateaued and reached the limit of how much Jiu-Jitsu your brain can handle?
This was my state when I emotionally stated that I would compete;
And just angry at the whole situation.
Once those words were out of my mouth, I knew I couldn’t go back. My Black Belt husband who teaches some of the classes at our home gym, as well as three of my children (who all train), were witnesses to my emotional outburst. Being a family of our word... I had really sealed my fate with the statement;
“I don’t really know how I’m doing. I don’t know if people in the gym really see me as someone who legitimately trains or am I just the teacher’s wife to them? Maybe that’s what I am to myself... I think I just need to compete!”
My children all smiled and began talking excitedly at the same time.
“Can I compete, too?”
“I can help you train, Mom!”
“Which tournament are we going to do?”
My husband nodded his head, slowly.
“Well,” he took a deep breath and I knew he had a lot to say, “We need to come up with a training schedule for you. As soon as deciding which tournament you will sign up for, then we will know how much time we have. Then, we need to look at the weight brackets...”
The planning had begun.
Now - two months later and three weeks out from my first tournament - I do not regret my impulsive exclamation.
One of my daughters and two of my teammates have been training with me, as well as signing up for the same tournament. Another teammate and her husband are taking the road trip with us for support. My other daughter has trained with us, allowing us to use her as a ‘dummy’, in order to help us.
I have seen sacrifice and camaraderie to an extremely high level.
I have experienced teamwork as I have never seen before.
And most amazing to me - I have already begun my climb out of the valley.
Pre-comp-training me vs. comp-training me. The transition has been difficult, but extremely satisfying. I can see the gains in my progression again! I can feel the excitement of training every time I step on the mat again! I look forward to every training session and class I can attend! YASSSSSSSS!
Even though I have not competed yet - I feel that this training has been an important part of my Jiu-Jitsu journey. It’s been like the first half of a two-part experience. Soon... it will be the second part.
Will I do well?
Will I be submitted right away?
I was very anxious about these things immediately after my vocal commitment to competing.
I don’t really think about it.
Thanks to my family and training partners, I have been training to the best of my ability.
THAT IS ALL I CAN DO.
There is a strange peace in knowing that.
I cannot control who I will be competing against. She may be stronger. She may be faster. She may be a Jiu-Jitsu phenom!
I can only control how I train. I can only push myself to give my maximum output when the time comes. I can only control - ME.
Post Tournament Revelations and Stuff
If you haven’t already done so - reading my previous post about trapping myself into participating in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament, might be helpful in understanding this particular post. Also, while my opinions on this subject are unique to me - I have learned from many of my fellow BJJ practitioners and teachers that my observations are pretty common when training in this sport. In other words - I’m not trying to sugar coat and embellish on my experiences in this sport. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that I am incapable of doing either of those things.
I am STILL reflecting on my experiences at the Fuji Kentucky State Tournament. Even though it has been more than two months since it happened, I still think about the different aspects of that day. My performance - the good and the bad. My teammates - their matches and their support during mine. The behavior of the different people at the event - the participants and their teams/coaches. Even the event itself has given me so much to think about.
I am not the same person I was before I participated. I know I have talked about how training in this sport has forced me to grow a little each day. Well, participating in a tournament felt like the equivalent of 20+ classes.
It’s like... BOOM! Here’s a crap ton of knowledge, insights, and epiphanies for you. Two months later, I am still deciphering.
First off, I realize now that while it was obviously good that I trained specifically for the tournament in the weeks leading up to it... there was really no way of knowing exactly how I would react or what techniques I would need until the match started and it was ‘go time’. I mean, I trained two specific takedowns relentlessly and didn’t use either of them. I worked hard on my open guard defense but was never put in a position to use it. I had some KILLER submissions from closed guard in my arsenal, and not one was seen that day from me.
Instead, I found myself instinctively using positions I normally wasn’t incredibly fond of and going for submissions that I was surprised my body even remembered. What the heck happened?!
Instincts. Muscle memory from a year ago. Reactions to styles of Jiu-Jitsu that were foreign to me because my opponents were strangers to me. Stress. Nervousness. ALL things that very hard to train for. Ohhhhhhh... makes sense. Sucks. But, makes sense.
The good news - I was able to see (even if it was trial by fire) the answers to all of these previously unknown variables. I can change what things I train for based on my reactions to this event. My husband/coach could see my weaknesses and (surprising) strengths and better advise me on what to do for next time. My potential growth factor now is HUGE compared to if I had never done the tournament.
But, I won’t lie... it was rough. Because there are not as many females competing at these tournaments, the brackets tend to get smushed together. Fuji was really awesome in offering refunds to all their competitors if they couldn’t find someone to be in a bracket with you. They offered me one in my No Gi division, since there was no one over 30 for me to compete against. But, because I had been put out after one match in my Gi division, I didn’t want to leave the tournaments that day having competed in only one match - that I lost. So, I agreed to be in the bracket with girls much younger than me. In No-Gi. Which I hardly ever trained. I felt it was a disaster just waiting to happen. But, if there is one thing that BJJ has taught me, it’s that you learn more from your mistakes than your triumphs. So, I had to just resign myself to the fact that I was probably about to learn some hard lessons in those matches.
I should have learned from my brutal Gi match to expect the unexpected.
I did much better in my No-Gi matches. I even placed and received a Silver medal! Wha...?
After the tournament, the amount of encouragement being exchanged between the competitors was pretty overwhelming. I had never been in such a competitive environment, where the person who was trying to choke you an hour earlier, was now offering you tips on how to avoid getting caught in that submission next time. Or the person who armbarred you to win the Gold medal ended up being the sweetest person who was a mom, just like you (might be my story - maybe).
One of the most amazing moments was when the young lady that lost against me for the Silver came up to me as we climbed onto the podium for our medal pictures. She could not have been over 25. She hugged me several times and thanked me for an awesome match. She meant it. Thinking back on our match, I was shocked that this young female was THANKING ME! It was enough that I felt tears coming and had to busy myself with gathering my things so we could leave for dinner (and I wouldn’t cry). Our match was not something I expected any gratitude for...
At one point, I had mounted on her and resorted to the only submission my mind would give me at that time. A No-Gi Ezekial Choke. Even as I set up my arms and sliced my hand against her neck, I was very much aware of how brutal the finish was and felt bad. This was made worse when she didn’t tap. She gurgled and wheezed. I felt terrible. But, she didn’t tap. Eventually, she swept me and I worked the rest of the time to hold onto the half guard and not let her pass. I won. I couldn’t believe it. And she thanked me?!
But, that is the spirit of Jiu-Jitsu. It’s something that is so lost in this world. The idea that you would thank someone for exposing your weakness, so you can work on it later. The notion that you would respect your opponent and when the match is over, make sure you show that respect to them. It’s a way of life that is so foreign to most people in this world. Going to that tournament showed me that it is very much an integrated and expected part of Jiu-Jitsu.
Will I compete again? YES!
Because of my age and other adult responsibilities (yuck), I probably won’t be able to attend more than one tournament a year. However, I can see how beneficial the experience can be. I learned. I grew. I loved it. Even if I got arm barred.
It was worth it.