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.

Why I love competition.

Five days from now i’ll be back in Irvine California competing at the Pan American Championship, a tournament I have done every year starting in 2013. Now getting there isn’t always easy, as an athelete with no sponsors I must pay my way to get to a competition with zero prize money. A competition that I haven’t placed at sense the first year I did it in 2013. You might wonder why I’d commit so much of my time to a persuit with a relativly small reward, it’s because I love the process, irreguardless of the results. Competition is the ulimate reflection of your efforts as an athelete. A metaphor that I enjoy is the arch of John Jones’s carrer. Long story short is that if your winning everything is ok.

At first he was able to win championship level fights while not having a healthy lifestyle, no change was needed because he was getting the result he desired with his current habits. Eventually his life outside the octagon began to reflect inside and a change was needed. While he still has yet to suffer a loss as a consiquence it is clear at this point that his starpower and earning potential have taken huge hits as a result of his actions. I see paralels with my own journey in Jiu Jitsu. (Not saying i’ll never have the talent or abilities of an athelete like Jones). I began competing after three months of competing and was winning a majority of competitions at white and blue making so so many mistakes. I had no conditioning program, terrible gameplans (like plan A being a submisson from the bottom of side control). There was no change necessitated because I was winning. Then when I got to purple belt it became very clear I would have no sucsess with my current aproach, failure demanded adaptation.

Throughout the years I’ve made just about every mistake you can make, everything from missing weight, missing my flight, forgetting my belt and over or under estimating my opponent. I learned from all these and have never made the same mistake twice. Something Rafael Lovato JR once told me is that all your failures add up to your successes, and I carry that with me always as a reassurance that every failure is a lesson. This process has improved my quality of life, cutting out bad habits and replacing them with good ones. Now getting fired up for your big competition in eight weeks and sticking to your routine is one thing, but where it really starts to transcend into making yourself a better person is incorporating all your “in camp” habits into your every day lifestyle. This way I know that each time I compete I am the best version of myself, I am not hesitant to test myself at Pans this weekend. As always I am glad to answer any questions you may have, and a free two week trial of my coaching service is available to all my friends and teammates.

The other 23 hours.

As a coach and a trainer I often have one hour a day to work with my clients, what happens in the other twenty three is up to them. For that one hour I get to step in and say “Hey I’ve got you, what your about to do with me is the best possible way to spend the next sixty minutes in order for you to reach your goals.” Now it’s on the client to make the most of the other 23. For a Martial Artist there are so many aspects to consider to make the most of your time off the mats. Just like a student in school, failing to prepare is just preparing to fail. I hear it often, “I wish I could train as much as you!” This is often coming from a man ten years my elder, with a wife and kids, and who knows how many other responsibilities. It’s just not in the cards for them to be able to train as often as a professional athlete. That’s where the other 23 hours come into play. If your showing up to train sore, mentally exhausted, and malnourished it’s going to be very hard to make the most of your limited time on the mats. Ownership plays a huge role in combating this, ownership of your progress in Jiu Jitsu.

Things would prescribe that take zero equipment or prep time include affirmations to help motivate yourself towards all your goals, not just those in Jiu Jitsu. They require you to really take scope of what your immediate and long term goals are, and to actively remind yourself to work towards them. An example is that many people want to be more positive or to have better self discipline. It is easy to say these things, what’s hard is to look yourself in the mirror everyday and repeat “I am a positive and self disciplined person” five times in a row. Mental exercise/ Meditations can be done in minutes while on a break from work and pay huge dividends in keeping yourself mentally sharp and hitting the reset button on a stressful day. A good example is to visualize having a “perfect practice” where you see yourself successfully hitting the moves you’ve been drilling, or escaping a position that gives you problems. Another one that I recommend highly to any competitors out there involves association and disassociation, try to set aside five minutes in your day to do this. First step is to think of a noise that doesn’t excite your nerves in the slightest, like the noises you might hear in your office. Sit in the middle of that noise and find a point to focus your vision on, close your eyes then picture your next competition while hearing that everyday sound. Then open your eyes, focusing on one point in the room and force yourself to hear that tournament noise that we all know. (Personally I thing of one hundred people trying to yell over each other.) Alternate between the visual and audio stimulation every thirty seconds. The idea is to associate what would otherwise be a stressful sight with something routine that doesn’t excite you, and vice versa for the stressful noise. Now where this technique really comes together is at the event. When you are sitting there waiting to compete simply close your eyes and picture that point, or open your eyes and hear that routine noise. It not only gives you something to focus on but you will train your mind to think that this competition is just another day in the office.

Diet is the part that can take a little forethought, but as Jiu Jitsu teaches us there’s a best technique to everything. Preparing meals before hand goes a long way, as well as having many ingredients prepped that you can put together in minutes. The most obvious solution is a slow cooker. Personally I use one to prepare all my chicken and carbs for the week in a matter of hours and all for around 15$. Even if you have a family it is understandable that as an athlete your meals will have to differ from what the kids are eating every night (Although I don’t blame you for sneaking some mac and cheese). Another fun way to add variety and save time is to prepare ingredients separately and combine them fresh. Chopped onions can be used for eggs or in a salad. Two heads of lettuce rinsed and dried serve as a base that you can add any number or fun ingredients to, like nuts, avocado, eggs etc. Now I can already hear the most common push back to this method, “But I don’t like eating leftovers!” Well some of us don’t like wasting time and money during the work week, and I think we can all agree that those are more important than appeasing your pallet

The last thing I wanted to address is recovery. Now contrary to what it implies recovery is the farthest thing from plopping down on the couch and taking it easy all night after training. In fact if you allow everything to tighten up and don’t bring yourself back into alignment you might just be stuck on that couch forever. Active recovery is key for maintaining our bodies, find and activity you enjoy outside of training and get moving! Yoga is one I highly recommend, and it’s much easier than most people make it out to be. It doesn’t require a membership at a studio (although I would go to a few classes to work on forum). Just find a routine that addresses your problem areas and get stretching, personally I do the same thirty minute flow every night to work on my neck, hips, hamstrings shoulders and forearms. In the same vein as stretching, self myofascial release has done wonders for me personally. The explanation for what facia is could be a whole new blog but here’s a simple metaphor. Say your muscle is a rope, that rope has a knot in it, no matter how much you stretch you wont get to full range of motion with that knot in there. This has become a big trend in fitness so naturally there are a ton of people doing it wrong! Rolling back and forth over the knot doesn’t do much to actually break it up, the key is consistent pressure and moving through a range of motion. I must confess a lack of a complete understanding of the science, but I know it works so I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. I am fortunate to work closely with my friend Jen Davis on a weekly basis, I couldn’t recommend her services enough if you are looking for a Rolfer. She is a purple belt so she knows all the right spots! Email Longspeakmobility@icloud.com for more info.

So I know what your thinking, man that’s a lot to keep track of! Luckily for you there’s someone you know who is happy to help guide you every step of the way and keep you accountable every day. Contact me today and together we can optimize every aspect of your life, on and off the mats.