I’m competing in the IBJJF Atlanta Open this weekend. I’m in a big division with many tough competitors, several of who live and breath jiu jitsu, training 2-3 times a day. That means that when I step on the mat I better be ready for a battle, and not a fun picnic out on a peaceful Saturday morning.
Everyone has a slightly different mix of emotions that they deal with when they compete. For me, the first battle is always relaxing about the fact that I (always) have several big deadlines coming up at work either before or after tournaments. I’ve learned that if I don’t deal with the stress of that first and foremost, everything else just falls apart because I won’t enjoy myself at all. And when I’m not having fun competing, the experience is never worth it in the long run.
The following brilliant lecture from Sam Harris inspired this post. He talks about facing our mortality and the realization that living for the present moment is the only kind of happiness we can hope for in our short lives.
For me, competing in judo and jiu jitsu tournaments helps remind me of that very important lesson. It may sound a little absurd, but doing something that fills me with (a rational amount of) fear, brings the present moment in focus. It reminds me that I should live for the current second, for the smile that follows a silly-ass joke, or the shock of disbelief that follows a loss in a close match.
I spend too much of my days thinking about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. I keep planning ahead, keep improving, keep learning, keep growing. And an occasional tournament helps wake me up a bit to the fact that I’m human, that one day soon it’ll all be over, and I should just enjoy the hell out of the current moment, out of being happy, tired, angry, frustrated, blissfully content, or whatever other random emotion fills my brain as I spend a day on the mat, far away from home.
All that said, I’m a proud descendant of apes, and this competitive ape doesn’t like losing at anything. I don’t care if it’s tic tac toe, chess, or an argument about why Microsoft Windows is better than Mac OS X or visa versa (and I’ll often take both sides of that argument). So, that’s a warning to all the guys in my division. If you want to beat me this weekend, you’ll have to work hard.