BJJ White Belt: Tournament Prep – “Once more unto the breach…”

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Read that link. Let it stir your soul. It’ll take you a minute and a little Shakespeare is always good for you.

Back in mid-December, my Coach announced that a tournament was coming to our backyard, Boise, Idaho, on 02/10/2018. This brought forth both excitement and an unexpected level of dread as I considered entering into my second BJJ tournament. It took me a couple weeks to commit to entering this tournament and going to battle side-by-side with my teammates.

With this “BJJ White Belt” post, I’d like to go into my internal battle; the trepidation I had before entering into this new tournament and how I came out of it. As always, my aim here with these “BJJ White Belt” posts is to help other white belts along the path as well as hopefully give Coaches and higher belts more insights and reminders of when they were “young” in the art.

So, without further ado…

Like I said, I had some mixed feelings when Coach Shane announced the upcoming tournament. We were aware of a couple tournaments in Salt Lake City, and a potential tournament (still not announced) that was “supposed” to happen in March in Boise also, but this one caught me off guard.

Part of it, I believe was the suddenness of it. My last tournament, I committed well over three months prior to the event, this one was announced roughly seven-and-a-half weeks prior to the event. Would I be “ready” in time? This was a question that buzzed around my head.

Now, like I mentioned in my previous post about my first tournament my overall experience was a positive one. I didn’t win, but I did learn a lot: I hesitated, didn’t have faith in the moves I had put the time and effort into, I got in my own way and I worked on those things in the following months.

One thing that bugged me, if you recall, was that one of my teammates took a knee for me so I could have a second round. For context, read that post. Because I lost that particular round, it didn’t sit right with me. Despite having a positive experience, and everyone doing a great job, I felt that I let the team down and I let him in particular down. So, thoughts and emotions regarding not wanting to let my team down also came into view. I haven’t belonged to many teams in my life and I do what I can to take it seriously. So being a part of a team, there is a sense of honor both internally driven and externally driven (within the team environment) that I project into the situation. I want to do well, for myself, for my team, for my coach. I want to represent my school well and represent the art well. This can be a catalyst for action, but if not handled properly can be a detriment to progress.

Losing in front of my wife and kids also messed with my head a bit. I didn’t want that to happen again. Being local, there is a good chance other family or friends would want to come and support, so I projected failing in front of them onto that mindset already.

As you can see… this is a problem. Allowing these thoughts to continue would set me up for failure.

I understood that I had to confront and shake these things out.

I also knew that if I didn’t step onto the mat again, soon, that I might just keep finding excuses to not step on the mat the next time and the next time and the next and before I knew it, 2018 would be up and my goal of participating in a certain amount of tournaments would be shot.

This is one reason why I am so appreciative of my Coach and the people I am honored to call teammates. The feedback and input I received from them, directly and indirectly, were some of the things that helped me reset and get my mind straight.


Having two teenagers in the house, two female teenagers, can be a bit tricky to say the least. With all four of my children, but especially my oldest as they can observe, internalize and measure what I do versus what I say: I do my damnedest to lead by example. One of the things I teach all of them is to get back up every time you fail; to not let past experiences fully dictate future action – learn from it, yes, but don’t let it hinder you from learning and trying again. I knew that if I didn’t commit to this tournament, I wouldn’t be living my own conviction; something I’ve been internalizing and living for quite sometime now. I’ve been through mentally and emotionally taxing things before, continually driving forward and not letting it stop me…so why should I let ONE tournament experience hinder me?

Another thing, as I’ve briefly mentioned a couple times on this blog, was an issue I’ve been dealing with in my shoulders. Long story short: a bit of bicep tendonitis along with shoulder impingements. Despite being on the path of recovery and having set up a good rehab program with my Doc (one of my awesome teammates to boot!) I was wondering if my body would be up to the task of competing. But then I remembered a quote from one of my favorite essays from Jack Donovan, author of “The Way of Men” and “Becoming a Barbarian”. In his essay, “All Training is Sacrifice”, he says,

“People seem to take almost as much pride in the untested reasons and rationalizations they’ve dreamed up for why they can’t learn in a certain way or do a certain thing as they do in untested delusions of grandeur — especially in this slave age that prefers victims to victors. Often, their perceived limitations are like those of a boy who believes he can’t swim or doesn’t like swimming because he fell in a pool once and didn’t know what to do.

The world is also full of men who want to tell you how much they used to lift or how fast they used to run, before they got “old” or suffered some injury that elite athletes work through all the time. “Limitless potential” is a fantasy, but most people set their own limits long before they come anywhere close to the top end of their potential.”

As you see in the bold emphasis I have added, I didn’t want to be one of “those guys”. I didn’t want to be, as he says in essay, one of the “millions of doughboys”.


The only way to get better at anything is to keep doing it. There is a quote that I hear in one of the motivation videos I watch from time to time and it goes something like this, “I don’t do well at writing. You’re right! Because you’ve never written before!”

Even in my nine months plus of learning Jiu-Jitsu, that is one of the biggest objections I hear when I invite people to try out. “I don’t know what to do!” Duh! That’s why I’m inviting you, so you can learn!

I can’t get better at Jiu-Jitsu if I don’t put in the time and effort on the mats with my team. I can’t get better at competing if I don’t go and compete. So, if I want to improve my Jiu-Jitsu, if I wanted the experience, if I wanted to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself… I need that kind of feedback – training and competing. I need both experiences.

Something my Coach said to me and a teammate, right before I committed to this tournament went something like this (I’m sure he’ll forgive me for not quoting him 100% accurately), “You’ve been here before. You’ve competed before. If you think about it, there is really nothing “new” that is coming at you at this tournament.”

This got me thinking. He’s right. Really, it’s me versus another white belt. He could have more mat time, equal mat time, or less mat time. That doesn’t matter. It’s the same game either way. He has his way of deploying it, I have mine, and that’s the test. It’s all the same though: takedowns, guard pulls, guard passes, side control, knee on belly, arm bars, etc.

Another teammate of mine said something else that helped me break through the clouds in my mind regarding experience. He mentioned how by the time the tournament is here, we will have put in roughly another four-and-a-half months of practice since the last tournament. That’s a lot of growth, learning and mat time that I didn’t have before. Again, more experience. And he’s right too. It’s all in the mindset I choose to take.


Without giving my own personal mindset away regarding my training for the tournament: mindset is crucial. It’s not about motivation. It’s more akin to having a clear mind about mission objectives.

This is how I am going to handle this situation.


Over the years, I have realized that when I (and really, everyone is this way if they take a step back and observe themselves) decide to do something. I do it. But even when I’m not too keen on something, like say, getting up at 0415 to get to the gym by 0500, I usually have a high amount of discipline to get it done. It’s taken time to develop and hone, but it’s there. For me, I know I couldn’t just say that I’m going to participate in the tournament. As in years past doing The Dirty Dash and other fun runs, my act of commitment is paying for the damn thing. When I put my money where my mouth is, it seems as if I get an extra edge on my ability to discipline myself and get shit done. So I didn’t make the announcement until after I paid my dues.

So now, with dues paid, a clear mind and the commitment made, it’s just a matter of putting in the work, keeping a clear mind and letting the cards fall where they may when the time comes.

So, here we are, once more going “unto the breach”. I know, win or learn, I’m going to represent myself, my team, my Coach and the art of Jiu-Jitsu in a positive light and my Jiu-Jitsu will once again improve.

**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in what I am writing about or know someone who would, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of these posts. Leave a comment or two, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for reading!**

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