There are 3 reasons people do Jiu Jitsu. Fitness, Self Defense or Competition. I don't think anyone starts Jiu Jitsu to be a competitor. Most people usually start from an interest in the martial art, to learn self defense or just to do something fun and active. These are all great reasons to train Jiu Jitsu and most people that you find training are there for one of these reason. Don't let the pressure of feeling like you need to be a competitor affect your enjoyment of the sport. First and Foremost you should be having fun. But for most, once you begin to train, the idea of competition will cross your mind at some point most likely, so today I am going to talk about a question that almost everyone will ask themselves at some point, "Am I meant to be a competitor?"
Let me start by talking about my first experience competing. I had been training for about 9 months. I spent the month before stressing about the outcome. I often think back and wonder if the outcome that day had been different if I would have continued on. I had so much anxiety and really at that time could only think about the result of finishing at the top of the podium. That day I did win Gold, I felt accomplished for myself, but quickly realized that winning one Gold Medal was not what it was about. Winning a Gold Medal as a white belt didn't mean I was the best or that I didn't have more training, work and learning to do. It just meant that that day against those opponents I had done well.
Since that first comp 3 years ago I have had many more competitions. Not all have had the same result of Gold. Many have, but many have resulted in no podium pictures. The first time I didn't podium was last year and in a lot of ways it was a shock to my system. I lost in the quarter finals at IBJJF World Masters absolute division and was disappointed when I realized that was it. I was done. No more fights, no medal, no podium picture. I remember walking away that day upset. I was upset that I didn't make the podium and for my own personal goals began to think about why I was upset. I was upset because I felt I didn't have the mental focus I needed to be there that day. I didn't put the time and effort into my training to have the result I wanted.
Since that day last year I have had a roller coaster result on the comp circuit. Getting tapped more than once, not making the podium again, promoting to a new belt and have even tougher competitors. Overall, I have continued to have more success than failures, but each time you don't have an outcome you want it is hard to see that perspective. What I have realized is that Winning is easy. Loosing is when real champions are made. Loosing is when you have to work up the courage to come back and fight harder. When you have to motivate yourself, drag yourself back to the gym to train harder, even more focused and put the work in.
Everyone has the ability to be an awesome competitor, but.....they have to be willing to put the time and work in. Don't expect to get a result of winning if you don't put the work in. Don't quit competing if you don't win either. You have to grow into your role as a competitor. Most successful competitors don't start off wining. They have make long terms goals and stick to them.
I know a lot of people that train Jiu Jitsu but don't like to compete. More power to them. One for training, but also for acknowledging that they don't want to complete. However do not ever think that your lack of desire to compete should translate into not wanting to train Jiu Jitsu. Training is so valuable, it makes you build good character, it humbles you daily and really its the one place in life when you cannot fake who you are. The mats don't lie and have the ability to expose you like no other. They force you to be honest with yourself everyday. They teach you not to quit even in the worst situations. Overtime Jiu Jitsu shows you that you are capable of so many things you never thought you were able to do and this will translate into every area of your life and give you confidence to be successful.
If you have the desire to compete, than you are a competitor. How to become a successful competitor is something that takes time, effort and patience. Don't stop competing because you think you aren't good at it just because you aren't getting the result you want. Go back to your Coaches or team mates and ask them what they are doing that you aren't. Be honest with yourself, are you are doing everything you should be doing to have the best performance. All too often in life, people have a mentality of "This is too hard. I don't like it right now so I'm gonna quit" You have to understand that life is hard and you aren't always going to like it. But quitting everything that you don't like for just 1 day or because it gets to challenging is not the answer. It shouldn't be an option. Especially when training Jiu Jitsu, you have people that depend on you. Not only are you sacrificing your own growth but you are also sacrificing your teams training. If you start something, you should finish it. Don't give up half way through because it got to hard. Keep your word and finish what you started. Don't focus so much on the result. focus on what you need to do to get the result. The journey there is what is most important.
If I were to Answer the question, "Am I meant to be a competitor?" I would hands down say YES. Not because I feel I am meant to win gold medals, but because I want to work hard, I want to know that even when I want to quit I am going to train myself to persist on. Because competing helps me to set goals, to keep goals and to have the focus I need to chase after those goals. I will not let the fear of failure dominate me. I will not quit when I am in the storm of failure, because I know the rainbow will come as long as I persist on. But if I quit while in the storm, then storm won and I will be stuck there, maybe not as a competitor in Jiu Jitsu but in something else that comes along in my life. Becoming a successful competitor is about learning the discipline to set and achieve goals and being able to do this in Jiu Jitsu will help you in every aspect of your life, whether you want to get straight A's in school, lose weight. or go after that job promotion. Set the goals, put the work in and the result will come.
So are you meant to be a competitor? If you think you are, you are. If you think you aren't, you aren't. Believe in yourself, because you are most likely your worst enemy.
If the answer is Yes-Latch onto someone that has walked in those shoes. That has the expertise to help lead you down that road. Don't be afraid to ask for help or share your fears and discouragement with those that have walked this path already.
If your answer is No-Enjoy all that Jiu Jitsu has to offer with the fun, fitness, self defense and support of the team that it has to offer. You too are going to gain much of the same benefits of the competitor.