I wrote last week about my experience at the IBJJF Chicago Summer Open and some of the “lessons” I took away from it. This post is just a continuation of that with a few more thoughts on the competing experience. By the way, here’s the “video blog” I put together for it.
Here we go, random and wordy, but hopefully useful to someone out there:
Open Class Excuses
My division was on at 9am in the morning and the absolute division didn’t start until 6pm at night. So there’s about a 7-8 hour wait between the two. That’s plenty of time for my body to start providing excuses for not doing the open class division. I was sore, mentally down due to losing my finals match, and also just mentally and physically tired as anyone would be after a hard training session. I went to Starbucks, relaxed and “forced” myself to not think about jiu jitsu or anything related to competing. I just read a little Camus on my Kindle, and enjoyed an excessive amount of fruit that I bought on sale at a supermarket across from the venue. There was a 5 lbs bag of apples on sale for $2.99. I couldn’t resist.
I went from not feeling like competing any more to being curious about how well I’ll do to wanting to kick some ass! My mind is a damn rollercoaster sometimes when it comes to stressful things like competition. I just try to ride out the lows, and capitalize on the highs. When I was feeling good, I went back to the venue and just watched jiu jitsu for a while. A couple of hours later they called my division, and I said “why the hell not”. I put on my cold wet gi, and went down to the mats with a stupid happy smile on my face.
I think Bill Cooper said in an interview somewhere that he brings two gi’s to a tournament so that he could put on a fresh gi after he fills the first one with the nervous sweat of the first several matches. I think that’s a great idea, and maybe one day I’ll actually be smart enough to go through with an idea like that.
Tired is Good for Learning, Fun, and Winning
I’d hate to make prophetic generalizations, but based on my experience, some of my most fun and educational matches have been when I was tired from having already fought 4-6 matches earlier on in the day. I stop caring about stupid stuff, and just step on the mat relaxed and confident. The first several matches release the nervous energy that I still bottle up as a relative beginner.
One of the things that I notice mentally is that I stop caring about winning or losing, but care more about executing my techniques to the best of my ability, and working towards a submission. It seems like an obviously desirable state of mind to go to, but it’s not easy for me to achieve on cue without first getting a few matches in.
Big Competition Teams
I’m just a blue belt, and my opponents are just blue belts, but especially for the finals, some guys have roaming armies of loud supportive teammates. It’s cool to see a sea of Alliance, Gracie Barra, CheckMat, Atos, or Lloyd Irvin shirts all really excited if their guy is winning, and all really pissed off (usually at the ref) if their guy is losing. I like going against guys with a big cheering section, because I feel like it gives me an opportunity to earn their respect as a good clean competitor with solid fundamental jiu jitsu.
It’s cool to have friends and teammates there, but to me it’s not essential for the actual match. What is important is that a coach is there or at least gets to break down the video with me after the tournament. Josh has helped me tremendously by breaking down most of the matches I lost in recent tournaments and specifying the things I need to fix. I view tournaments as learning experiences, and that’s why analyzing video of tournament matches is pretty much one of the most important things you can do as part of that experience.
Reffing Ain’t Easy
As a quick closing note, let me mention that I had a conversation with one of the IBJJF refs after my division was done, and he was saying that after attending many of the ref courses IBJJF offers before the tournaments, he still feels like he has a lot to learn about the game of sport jiu jitsu. It made me realize that people who complain about the rules often don’t understand the intricate details of those rules.
It’s important to learn the rules! You don’t have to, of course, but then you better be dominating your opponents on points, or better yet, submitting everyone.