I took ____ place in my bracket!
I knew I had the ability and skills to get to the podium, it is just a mind game to keep your sight picture clear and focused on what you are after instead of letting your mind rob you of what you know you can do.
The lines above were written for this blog post before the tournament took place, in anticipation of executing and doing well. The tournament came and went and it was definitely a good experience for me.
The results: I fought twice, lost both.
Ironically, or maybe even prophetically, the second half of the above quoted “pre-write” of this blog post is more clear to me now than when I wrote it.
To set the stage in this first part, I’d first like to give you our Coach’s words on the “Eve of Battle”. These are taken from our private Facebook page and are posted with permission from Coach Shane. It is my hope that anyone looking to compete for the first time, will heed these words. Take what you find is useful, don’t worry about the rest.
Coach’s Words of Wisdom
Alright competitors, here’s Coaches words of wisdom from 15 years of Jiu Jitsu and over 200 tournaments in the books for me.
Nothing you have ever done in your past will be anything like what’s ahead of you tomorrow, not your crossfit, not your bodybuilding, not your high school football, not a cell extraction, not a street fight, not a high school wrestling match.
Tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and then get in a fight, someone’s going to pull on you, twist you up, try to snap your arm, and choke you unconscious – and they’re going to be more brutal about it then you’re use to, because so far you’ve only rolled with friends. Nothing you think you’ve done will prepare you for that – that’s just the reality of it.
Second, as cool as you think you’re going to be tomorrow – anxiety and nerves will set in. Make a playlist on your phone or ipod, bring some head phones, and find music that will KEEP YOU CALM. It is not the time to let your angry “let the bodies hit the floor” mix go … we’re not trying to pick up something heavy and put it back down one time. We’re engaging in combat over and over and over again. You need to be mentally sharp and ready, not amped/hyped. Bring music that puts you in a confident place, not a cocky or obnoxious place.
Third, your friends and family are coming … if they begin to talk to you too much, or take you out of that “confident focused place” – walk away, find a corner of the gym to sit in, put your hood up on your sweatshirt, and zone out. They’ll understand, if they don’t … oh well, this is about you. You don’t need advice or reassurance from folks that don’t even do what we do or know what this thing is all about.
Fourth, Jiu Jitsu tournaments never run on time – pack a lunch, you could be waiting for a while. Bring snacks – healthy ones, that give you good energy. I also suggest an extra hoodie to use as a pillow, I find myself sleeping on bleachers almost every time when I’m waiting.
Fifth, comfortable footwear – at a respectable tournament, you’re DQ’d for being barefoot anywhere but the mat. Flip Flops or Tennis Shoes on your feet at all times … we didn’t drive 2 hours to get kicked out.
Sixth – BRING TWO GI’s … if someone rips your pants in your first match and you dont have a second pair, guess who gets DQ’d for equipment violation (here’s a hint .. it’s not the guy who has the unripped pants).
Seventh – you came to fight, so it’s not the time for selfies and facebook live and any other simple-minded social media bullshit. Get your head on straight, or your opponent will straighten it out for you – guaranteed.
Eighth – stick to what you’re good at, and take it slow. Tournament day isn’t the day to experiment with some bullshit off youtube – save that for in the academy.
I’m not trying to scare you or deter your confidence. I’m just telling you how this shit really goes. You have registered and paid money to get into a fight with someone that doesn’t know you and that ultimately is going to try to hurt you – think about that for a second.
S, J, R, K and myself are the only remaining members of this team that have done this and everyone of us will tell you the same thing, what you will experience tomorrow will be unlike anything else you will have done up to this point (not harder, different).
The amount of exhaustion and anxiety dump you’ll go through after the first match alone is unreal – I’m just telling you, so you wont be shocked. This is a Jiu Jitsu fight and the only thing that matters is how good your Jiu Jitsu is, not your physical fitness, not your social media presence.
HARD WORK will win tomorrow, if you’ve put in the work, and you do all the right things and you LISTEN TO YOUR COACHES you’ll be alright. If you think you’re going to cruise in and walk away a winner without leaving it all on the mat, you’re high and I want whatever you’re puffing on.”
In short: He. Was. Right. It’s funny what that much experience can do to your ability to predict things, huh?
First, I’d like to give a point by point reaction to my Coach’s words.
Point the 1st: As my faithful readers know, I hit a goal in 2016 of Squatting and Deadlifting 5×5@225lbs. This was not like that. I’ve intervened in a potentially violent situation a few years ago. This was not like that. I’ve been through grueling training sessions. This was not like that. I’ve done five, six, seven or more five-minute rolls – intense rolls – with my teammates in a night, many times over this summer. This was not like that. And I only partook in two rolls, roughly ten or fifteen minutes apart, maybe. Nothing came close experience-wise.
Point 2: Yep. It started a littler earlier in the week for me, and looking back to the prior post I would say they probably started two weeks ago for me. It’s in the waiting. I can’t remember if it was Shakespeare or Kipling who said that the worst thing is in the waiting before the battle. I want to think Kipling… help me out somebody! But yes, up until I bowed to the ref and stepped on the mat, the waiting is what gets to you and tries your nerves, combined with the unknown variables that go into a fight. I did take Coach Shane’s advice and on Tournament day, I had two stations as my go-to: Crooners & Pop Music.
To start out the day at the tournament, I listened to the crooners of old: Fred Estaire, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, etc. As the tournament switched to the Gi competition brackets, I switched to some pop/dance music: Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, things like that to help keep me upbeat.
The Crooners I usually listen to on Sundays, the pop stuff is usually when I’m trying to have fun with my kids while I’m having them help me cook dinner. My “normal” pre-workout/pre-BJJ music usually consists of Metallica, Disturbed, TOOL etc., or more aggressive Hip Hop/Rap like Dre, DMX or Eminem. It was definitely a gear shift, but I think it helped me this first time around. I’ll be experimenting in the future to see what really helps me set the mood of being a calm, professional, ruthlessly aggressive BJJ competitor.
Point 3: I didn’t have much of a problem with my family being present, but I would probably distance myself even further from them next time. I love my children and those emotions don’t need to be there when I roll. Although, it was nice hearing my youngest girl saying, “Come on, Daddy! Go, Daddy!”
Point 4: I had a light, but solid breakfast. But I had a hard time eating anything the rest of the day. See Point 2. But I did bring a banana, my pill-form supplements, a scoop and a half of protein shake (plus shaker bottle), 50 ounces of water and two packets of Haribo Gummy Bears in case I needed a quick sugar replenish, depending on my fight brackets and times. I was able to eat after my fights.
Point 5: Check.
Point 6: Check. Thankfully, I didn’t have to put on my second Gi.
Point 7: Check. I looked quickly at Facebook and Instagram once in the morning, but didn’t post anything or stay long enough to derail my thoughts. As soon as I got to the tournament I had Pandora in my ears.
Point 8: Check. While we’ll get into more of this in Part 2, I stuck to a couple things that I know and am good at, possibly too much. There were certain moves that Coach saw during the fight and that I saw looking back, which could’ve been executed had I seen or had the confidence to attempt.out of a fear of losing or putting myself in a worse position. To that I will say this: One cannot be afraid of risking and making attempts. I missed a couple arm-bars, as well as take down and sweep opportunities because I hesitated and didn’t put my faith in my training as much as I wanted to.
So, approaching 1700 words, I’m going to wrap up Part 1 here. In Part 2, there will be YouTube links to each fight along with lessons learned, etc.
Keep pushing. Keep moving forward.
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