“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, lost almost 300 games, missed the game winning shot 26 times. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan
A fellow Aussie BJJ blogger Katy inspired me to write this post about competition. Check her blog out at www.http://kaysosayso.blogspot.com.au
This year marked my 20th year in competing in some sort of high level sport – rhythmic gymnastics for 12 years, cycling for 5 years and now BJJ. When I was a gymnast I loved the competition and I excelled with adrenaline pumping through my blood. I was confident, loved the attention and genuinely had fun doing it. You would have thought the skill would transfer to other sports… Alas this is very far from the truth.
When I was about 19 years old, I switched to a very diverse sport – sprint cycling. In cycling you are not only responsible for your own actions, but also how you react to your opponents trying to attack you. This situation was very new to me and proved to be a problem in my competitive career as a cyclist. Coming from such an individual sport to one where only you are the constant was challenging. I started to experience what it’s like to have nerves to the point where my heart rate was so high and my body so flooded with adrenaline, that as a result my performance went on a downward spiral. I decided to see a sport psychologist to get me through my competition anxiety, which was an immense help. I learnt visualisation, meditation, perspective, goal setting and plans. I also started managing my training and fatigue better, and slowly my race results started improving. That’s not to say I didn’t get nervous, but I was much, much better at dealing with it.
Just when I thought I had enough of competitive sport, I started BJJ to keep fit. 3 months later I was entered in my first comp. If I thought cycling was harder then gymnastics when it comes to competition, jiu jitsu was another level…Combat sport, where you are facing the opponent one on one is such close proximity and personal space made me have minor panic attacks. My breathing was bad, my skills got worse than I could have ever imagined, and I had no idea what I was doing.
BJJ is unique in terms of making concrete game plans. You can have your A game that you want to execute, but really, it depends on what your opponent is planning to do on you. In gymnastics I had Plan A. In cycling I had Plan A, B and C. In BJJ…well having Plan Z is not really enough!
It’s not only the physical skill you have to get right on the day, but also your mental state and preparation, your weight etc, etc. The uncertainty can make many freak out… It has certainly made me freak out MANY times in the last 2.5 years.
However, with a lot of mental work, I am happy to say I am getting better at it. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline. I am breaking old and bad habits, I am more aware, I am learning about my physiology, my triggers, my make-up and myself as a person.
And why would I bother with all this? Mainly because BJJ translates to my life more than I have ever imagined. By conquering my claustrophobia and anxiety on the mats, I can also sleep in tents better and get on packed trains without a worry. Competition provides such a fantastic platform for me to learn about myself and test my skills. I have lost MANY times already. I will lose a lot more. But I can surely say that I have learnt more from the fights I’ve lost, than from the ones I won. My coaches and team mates have never thought less of me for losing or winning a fight (or so I hope!). My skills always sky rocket after comps, because I get to analyse where I make mistakes and then never make them again.
I am also realising that jiu jitsu is all about the journey, the process, the perspective, the rush, the friendships and the pure joy I get from training and competing.
If you are thinking about competing and haven’t yet, give it a go. Believe me when I say everyone gets nervous before fights. I still poop my pants. But in the end, I do not have a crystal ball and I will never know the outcome before the fight ends.
So in the meantime, I am getting calmer, more confident, happier and more and more ready to BRING IT ON!
“Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park. Sport is a theater where sinner can turn saint and a common man become an uncommon hero, where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.” -George A. Sheehan