My First BJJ Tournament & The Lessons Learned (Rise & Claim)

My First BJJ Tournament & The Lessons Learned (Rise & Claim) by Charles Sledge

This is a guest post from Peter of Rise & Claim a site dedicated to fitness, masculinity, and helping men get the most out of life. In this post Peter is going to talk about entering his first BJJ tournament and the lessons he learned. Enjoy.

Last week I competed in my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tournament. To make a long story short I was knocked out in the first round, getting beat convincingly on points. The whole experience taught me a lot about myself and the sport as well. These insights are what I will share with you today.

Having only made the decision to enter one week before, I knew I would be in for a tough time. However, I am glad I decided upon entering. It would have been very easy to give myself an excuse as to why I shouldn’t compete. “I’m not good enough yet”“I didn’t have enough time to prepare”. These both sounded tempting along with many others.  The reality is there will always be a hundred reasons to not do something. If we were to follow this excuse-making machine in our heads indefinitely, nothing would ever get done. Dishes would pile up, assignments would go undone and dust would collect. Getting ahead in life is about finding that one reason among the rubble of “maybe’s” and “some day’s”. Find it and you can use it as a shield when lethargy and laziness calls your name.

This was the first time I had ever entered an individual sporting competition. The sports I have played in the past were all team games such as rugby and soccer. The dynamic in individual sports is completely different. When you step foot onto the fighting mats it is just you, your opponent and the official. There is no one else to hide your mistakes or inadequacies. If you are sub-standard, it will quickly be revealed. You cannot rely on anyone else to dig you out of a hole. The most you can hope for is words of guidance from your coach on the sidelines. Team sports do have their merits as well. Each team member can complement one another and provide their personal attributes towards the group effort. This can teach young men the virtues of collaboration to create a greater harmony.

There are similarities between the two types of sports as well. Physical contact will always have the same undertones no matter what arena you enter. The threat of injury is always present when individuals put their bodies on the line. Appreciation for the rules and respect for one another are the universal tenets of competition. These are what limit the infliction of injury to a minimum.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There is much to be enjoyed about the whole experience. Our coach always says “Jiu Jitsu is all about friendship”and I didn’t believe him until taking part in this tournament. Watching the rest of the competitors battle it out was a pleasure. To witness two individuals on the verge of seriously harming one another shake hands after is refreshing. This level of sportsmanship is rare to find these days and is what BJJ is all about. There are rarely ever any bad feelings once the timer stops. What happens on the mat stays on the mat.

Lessons Learned

Competing in my first BJJ tournament taught me a lesson in preparedness. There were a number of things I could have done differently looking back. I failed to warm up properly beforehand. Undoubtedly, this left me off my best for the fight I lost. It usually takes a while to “find your groove” when performing any serious activity. The “groove” for me, was never found. This isn’t taking anything away from my opponent. I was beaten and nothing will change that. Self-analysis is extremely important however.

Of course mistakes are inevitable the first time partaking in anything. These should be learned from because that is how we grow as human beings. No one should condemn themselves to making the same errors over and over again. Who wants to live in a world of continual Déjà vu until their last dying breath? What a dull flashback that would be on one’s deathbed. For evolution to be seen on a genomic population scale takes around one million years. The individual on the other hand, should be evolving much more rapidly than that. We should constantly be engaged in a process of birth and rebirth. Each cycle should do away with obsolete parts and replace them with their more useful counterparts. There is never a finish line to the journey and if you ever find one, keep going.

Another foolish error I made was with body weight. I was due to fight in the sub 215lbs/97.5kg category. This was perfect for me as I normally sit just below this. On the final day before the competition, my nerves got the better of me unfortunately. I made the decision to cut back my calories and carbohydrate intake substantially. The result being I weighed in easily under the limit by a couple of pounds. It’s not much I know, but it can make all the difference when it counts. The last thing I wanted was to not make weight. Failure to do so would have resulted in immediate disqualification. Due to a lack of energy available, I gassed earlier than expected. In the final few minutes of the fight my reduced effectiveness was clear for all to see. This was the price I paid for being ill-prepared.

Hopefully by reading this you can learn from my mistakes. Ideally, it would mean you could avoid them altogether. This avoidance is what enhances the learning process of those who come after. By staying clear of the pot holes, it allows your journey to be much smoother. Inevitably mistakes will be made at some point. They will find a way to creep in no matter the level of preparedness. When they do arrive, ensure you greet them with proper etiquette. A mistake should be treated as a learning experience. It is an opportunity to look back and scan for potential cause and effect relationships. Honesty with oneself must feature at the table. If there is no honesty, there is no truth. Without it, the past will be clouded with excuses and lies. This makes it extremely difficult to learn anything. It takes humility to acknowledge our wrongdoings. Without this we would never see the error of our ways. The ability to react effectively only goes to the well-prepared. They are the ones who have spent time in both thought and action.

While objectively I may have failed at the BJJ tournament, I feel like I won something else. It has opened up the door to allow me to perform better next time. When that time comes, I will be more prepared to do the best I can.

Do not be afraid of failure. It is a sign of someone who has at least tried. This is more than many can say. Out of failure springs the possibility of achievement, if the right steps are taken. These are simple at their core – learning and trying again. There is no limit to how many times or how hard we can try. We are free to put all our efforts in or none at all. This factor is entirely up to us. There are those with more constraints on their time than others. Some have massive commitments while others have none at all.  It is essential to decide what is important and what is not. Our hierarchy of commitments needs to feature what we hold dear. When everyone and everything of value gets a seat at the table, it will all become clear.

 Fear of failure is a major obstacle for men everywhere. It can stun like a rabbit caught in headlights. What keeps me going after a loss? The knowledge that my future self has the potential to better my present self. Had the fight took place 3 months later the outcome could have been very different. The gift of more time to prepare is a huge advantage. Every training session is an opportunity to improve. With each hour logged in the workbook, it becomes harder and harder to be defeated. Sure there are days when it feels like no progress is being made. When it seems no matter how many times a technique is practiced, it just won’t work. On these days feelings of frustration are present no doubt. Expect these days like you would ones filled with success. They are a natural part of the learning curve and a test of your resolve. The ability to persevere separates those who achieve and those who throw in the towel. Getting continuously submitted isn’t all that enjoyable in the beginning. However, given enough time and effort the person who began will be almost unrecognizable. That’s why I’m not quitting and also why I look forward to the next tournament.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it encourages you to keep pushing and to not be afraid of failure. I’d like to thank Charles for giving me this space to write and reach more men. This is a great platform and its a pleasure to guest post here.

Charles Sledge