Answer: Because I can’t sing or dance.*
This post (and a subsequent discussion of it) made me ask myself the same question, and given that the British Open is only a few days away I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject with you all.
The truth is: I don’t know. Not really. Why does anyone do anything? To get laid, presumably. But since dedicating myself to rolling around the floor with other men has kept me more or less single for over a year**, I don’t think that can be the case. I don’t think it’s for fun either. Not in any normal sense of the word fun, anyway. Given all the extra training, the cutting weight, the worry that I’ve just spent £30 to spend 30secs getting choked out on the mat, the not sleeping the night before, the getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to get there in time and all the other aspects of general pre-fight badness – I think I passed “Fun” a long time before even getting to the comp…
Then there is the comp itself, the actual fighting part: It’s horrid. Stepping onto the matt with the intention of ripping someone’s head off is hardly the way a civilised person should conduct themselves; and of course voluntarily stepping onto a mat with someone who’s trying to rip your head off is clearly a dumb way to spend your leisure time. It’s painful, exhausting, and nerve-racking. So why do it?
Partly I think it’s about knowing how well I’m doing. I often worry about my progression and how I compare to others (I know you aren’t supposed to and all that “personal journey” guff – but everyone does; I’m just honest about it) and I see a competition as a good check of my ability. It’s a freeze frame of my ability that shows where I was in my BJJ journey at that point. I like the fact I can look back at my fights and see a progression there. My last comp I managed to break even on the loss:win ratio and I hope to one day be able to tip the balance and actually win something for once.
I’ve never won anything before, not really. I have a few second place and “also ran” trophies from my dark Kung Fu past in a box somewhere; and the one time I did win 1st place it was a friendly inter-club tournament where I only had to fight one guy (who happened to be a lower grade than me). This is hardly a spectacular fight career, and something I’d like to address. Plus actually winning a medal would make conversations with my non-BJJer mates so much easier – As trying to explain progression in BJJ to a non-BJJer is like trying to explain archery to a rock – I could simply say “Well, I won a medal in a national competition” rather than having protracted conversations about how a white belt in BJJ is still quite handy, actually. I can’t be the only person who grows increasingly weary of the “What, you are STILL the same belt? Haven’t you been doing it ages?” conversations. There is a wonderful irony here: The better you do at comps the more likely you are to grade to your next belt but the quicker you grade to your next belt the worse you are likely to do at comps.
Of course it’s not just about measuring progression. If it was simply a cold objective test of how I’m doing I doubt I’d go. Competitions are much more than that. They are alive. I love the atmosphere. I love watching the fights. I love seeing my team mates do well. I love the support of my club mates and my instructor, the feeling of being part of a team. When I go out on those mats I am proud to represent the RGA and I am damned if I’m going to let them down. And this is the main point: It’s about being part of something. It’s the adrenaline dump as the fight starts. It’s my mates screaming for me to win. It’s about sweat and ragged breathing and burning muscles. It’s walking through the fire and coming out on top. It’s the joy of having your arm raised at the end of a match. It’s about smashing people. It’s about passion and ego:
I want to win, damn it!
I want to show people, and myself, that I am actually good at this sport that I break myself to train in. I want a medal I can be truly proud of.
*If you don’t know where this is from, your education is sadly lacking my friend.
**Single, not celibate. Let us make that point perfectly clear!