Did You Lose or Are You a Loser?

This weekend my BJJ school had an in-house tournament, just for our students. It has been well over 10 years since I have competed in any martial art so there were a lot of things I had forgotten. Like how absolutely, positively exhausting your first round on your first time out there is. Between the nerves and the adrenaline, I was out of breath about a minute and a half into a 6 minute round, a fact which took me by complete surprise, even though I should know better. Thankfully, I managed to recover as the round went on and we settled down a bit, but wow!

Competing in anything as a newbie, even a low-key tournament like this one, has all kinds of experiences that go along with it. The butterflies in your stomach as you wait for your turn. The frantic beginning. The sore muscles afterwards. The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The exhausted and slightly depressed feeling you get right after the last bit of adrenaline slips out of your body.  It has been a long time and I had forgotten about all of these things. 

I lost both of my matches on points, which I suppose is better than losing by submission. But I did learn a lot. Here are just a few of the things that I took away from the day:

  1. I thought I understood the scoring system but I really didn't. Or at least I didn't know enough to base my game on it. BJJ scoring is tricky. There were plenty of times, especially during the first match, where I should have pushed a little harder, or defended a little better, but I just wasn't thinking about preventing points. In class I really only worry about getting tapped, that and the obvious things like keeping her from getting the mount and off my back. The competition round requires a different focus, one which I clearly don't get yet. 
  2. I need to work on guard passing. A lot.
  3. All those moves that I can perform so well in my head, when it comes to rolling at full speed...not so much. But I now have a mental list about a hundred pages long of things I want to get better at. Thankfully I have a long-term approach to training. And a lot of free time.
When it comes to competing I have always been of two minds. On the one hand, putting yourself out there is a great way to see how your game measures up. There is a lot to be gained from overcoming nerves. And there's no denying the thrill of facing off against a real opponent. But it is hard to train to win and still be a good partner in class, one who cares about helping others get better. There is a tendancy to specialize in order to perfect one or two foolproof moves, which means you may shy away from learning anything new. And too much focus on winning and losing can make your martial arts life have the roller coaster feel of a long night at the blackjack tables. It is easy to forget that there is so much more to training . This tournament, although exciting,  did not make me want to compete more. But, all things considered, it was a very good experience. And it served as another reminder of just how big the study of jiu-jitsu is and how far I still have to go. Which is good because I don't plan on quitting any time soon.

I really hate losing in front of Matthew, even though he had no expectations of me. So that part sucked. But it did give me the opportunity for a really great parenting lesson on doing your best. Maya watched my first match with great interest, even adding helpful coaching from the sidelines. ("Push mommy, push!") By the time I got to my second, however, she was watching Return of the Jedi on Matthew's tablet and asking him if they could go home yet. (I understand, it was not a very exciting round for me either.)  Afterwards she had this to say: "You did good mommy but I wish you had won." 

I wish I had won too. But I really could not expect much more from a first tournament. I did the best I could and I have a whole lot of things to work on.

Losing is just a part of the game. After one of the men's divisions, Matthew overheard my teacher say this to a disappointed white belt: "Did you lose or are you a loser?"

I may have lost this one but I am no loser.
I'll see you on the mats soon, working hard and keeping it playful. :-)


  1. Vey nice piece. Congrats on competing — most never get to even do that.


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