Grappling Industries once again came to our little neck of the woods here in Boise, Idaho, on March 16. This time the tournament was held at Boise High, just a stone’s throw from downtown. Collectively, our team had been preparing for a few months to meet this challenge and another tournament that is slated for the end of April. Two tournaments within forty-five days of each other. Here in Idaho, we do not get very many tournaments in-state, but hopefully as the BJJ community continues to grow here, we will have more tournaments to compete in throughout the year.

It has been nearly seven months since my last competition and those of you who have read that post understood that I have been coming across mental challenges in executing my game plan and competing with a clear mind. This is something Professor Shane and I have talked about it in great detail and we’ve been working on for awhile and will continue to work on.

A Debut In Blue

The tournament came and went, and I’m proud to say that even though I didn’t take a single “W” in the four matches I had, the experience and my own performance were night and day different compared to my first three tournaments. To date, I functioned and played the game better than I have before. It was also my first tournament as a Blue Belt, which means a higher grade of competition and with this particular venue, certain techniques/submissions are permitted at blue belt that aren’t allowed in other tournaments, like an IBJJF competition for example.

So what was different as far as my performance goes?

For starters, my preparation process both on and off the mats was different. From music to breathing, from how I approached every roll in the gym to small changes in my nutrition, from reading material to mindset and listening more intently to my Professor when I roll. To explain that last one, I have an inner ear disorder in my right ear, and tinnitus comes with it, so when I’m on my left side, it’s much harder to hear coaching. It’s like hearing the trombone sound of the teacher from Charlie Brown, sprinkled in with my name or a move. So I had been focusing on tuning into his voice easier, and more importantly, responding to his coaching. This means trusting in the skills I have and the direction he is trying to lead me. It definitely paid off during the final fight I had as I could hear and respond to his instruction much better than I had in other tournaments. With the changes in nutrition I’d been steadily making over the last year, and especially in the last seven months or so, I fought at my lowest weight to date at 168.8lbs, feeling and moving great and I believe I’ve found my competition weight class. As comparison, my first three tournaments I fought around between 180-185lbs.

After this next tournament, I want to create a post that goes into greater detail on the process I had for these tournaments in hopes that it helps others in their journey along the path of BJJ.

I had about four paragraphs detailing the matches to the best of my memory and things I learned, however I don’t believe it would add much value here. BJJ is as internal with what you find out about yourself and what you take away in lessons learned as it is external in the moves you learn and how you execute them.

Win or learn. Even if you win, learn something from it.

Having lost the four matches, all by submission, I took away some good things regarding weaknesses in my game or tweaks to make. I learned a few things about myself. I saw the results of how I approached becoming calmer in the months leading up to the tournament pay off. I felt the nerves come on a little but I was able to stay calm and focused. I was able to keep the nerves at bay far, far better than in the past. So much so, that when I stepped on the mats, I can confidently say that I greeted the ref, my opponent and squared off with a calm, light hearted look on my face.

I found myself not obsessing as much over the tournament results in the following week as I had before. I thought about my fourth match a couple times (I had a 9-0 point lead early on and lost it all plus got submitted) but I did not obsess about it in the way I had before. There was more acceptance for what was, truly taking in the learning moments and being proud of how things went down – for example, that’s the most points I’ve scored to date on an opponent. But, regarding the overall results, there was no dread, no embarrassment, no obsessing, no thinking I let my Professor and my team down. And more importantly, I let the tournament pass on into the past. What’s done is done.

I came, I squared off with some good competitors, and I went home. And now I’m back to training. Another tournament is on the horizon and I’ll probably face a few of the same guys again. I could lose, I could win. For me, either way it is just another chance to play my game against solid competitors and to understand what is working, what isn’t and how to change it for the better.

Another chance to grow with my teammates as we work towards the goal of competing as a team, side by side.

And most importantly, it is another step along the path toward the long-term “macro” goal I have for BJJ in my life and another chance to learn more about myself.

Speaking of another step along the path toward my goals, I was able to taste a bit of it during the week following the tournament. A handful of our team got sick at or after the tournament, including Professor Shane. Under his supervision from the sidelines, he asked me to teach the class, carte blanche on whatever I wanted to teach. I chose to run the class through fundamentals of a closed guard pass and an open guard pass. The two guard passes weren’t anything new, but overall, I’m a reps and fundamentals kind of guy, so I love getting both in as much as possible to continue ensuring my foundation is good as I build on the more advanced techniques. The class was smaller, primarily white belts, save for a green belt and myself, and we were able to get in a good amount of reps on each guard pass before we did some “pass/sweep/submit” rolls to close out class. I had a good time and was thankful to be entrusted with leading the class. Definitely another debut in blue.

I look forward to the next time.

In close, I’ll leave you with a quote from my Professor. He said this to me the week leading up to the tournament and, man, I think it’s one of the best things for any jitsuka to hear.

“Jiu-jitsu is jiu-jitsu no matter who is standing in front of you.”

Professor Shane Mount, 208 Combat Club, RMNU