The winning attitude.

Ashley and Andrew, and a grumpy Eric out of frame on the right.

So there I was at the 2016 Worlds in Long Beach, in the stands with two good friends and watching some of the best in the world go at it, yet I couldn’t bring myself to be happy. Even when my friend Ashley pulls out her camera and declares that it’s selfie time I can’t bring myself to smile and am rightfully cropped out. My mind was still on what had happened just thirty minutes prior when I lost my first match and was eliminated from the tournament in the first round.

Being a sore looser isn’t a rarity in sports and I in no way thing it’s admirable but here I am writing a blog about it anyways, to break the mold of everything shared on media being a highlight. I think it begs a larger question of what exactly fulfills someone who chooses to compete in a largely amateur sport like Jiu Jitsu. There are so many benefits to be had just by committing to a competition for the average JiuJitero, I have personally seen men and women seemingly transform there diet and training habits overnight for a shot at a medal. There is the beauty in those that never cared for sports while they were younger are putting themselves out there simply to test themselves, with no end goal of a career or dreams of glory. That is a thought that gets me through many a hard practice, the realization that Joe Smith is doing the exact same thing as I am while being twelve years older and having about a thousand more responsibilities. So to simply make it to train a few night a week, refine their techniques, and make weight to compete is a victory for them in and of itself.

I had a similar path to my first competition, going from a hundred and eight pounds to under a hundred and fifty five pounds for my first tournament. Going into this competition with three months of training I had zero expectation for myself for a few reasons. The biggest being that during the previous eighteen years of my life I was just about the least athletic person you’d ever met, random health issues like tonsillitis and ear infections kept me from ever having a real drive in any sport. A lack of self esteem didn’t help but I wanted to compete because it seemed like fun, plus my best friend was also going to do it so no way I was just going to wait. So in I go with a free a beginners mindset and I took first, it was a wonderful experience and I was immediately aware that I had finally found something I was actually talented at. I was addicted to the winning feeling because I hadn’t experienced it much growing up, and around 2013 I knew I wanted to make a career out of competing. In many ways I was a victim of my success, always expecting to be able to replicate my early triumphs. So that lead to a high expectation of myself, it has pushed me to never settle, to never just be happy I made it or think that second or third place is good enough. That isn’t for everyone and every journey is different, but it is what I’ve come to accept about myself. I have yet to win an Ibjjf (The most prestigious title) gold medal, but by the time you read this that will have changed. So here I am, three weeks away from heading back to the Worlds, back to the highest arena in the sport. Every failure adds to my success, and I will not stop tell I’ve proven to myself that I am among the best grapplers in the world.

So I think that competition and Jiu Jitsu as a whole can be whatever you want it to be, a way to exercise, socialize, defend yourself. In many ways I envy those that are able to step back and see that the sport isn’t everything, I am fully committed and to me it is both a source of happiness and frustration and sometimes even tears. If I knew a better way to improve yourself you would know, because that’s what I would be dedicating my life to spreading instead of sitting at my kitchen table typing this post up. Thank you for reading, I’ve got to go ready myself for training tonight.

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