Tag Archives: 2010

12 Days of BJJ Xmas

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me:

12 Black Belts smashing

11 Legs a sweeping

10 Fingers gripping

9 Gis a ripping

8 Guards for passing

7 Postures breaking

6 Backs for taking

5 HEEEEEEEL HOOOOOOOKS

4 Collar Chokes

3 Arm Bars

2 Kimuras

And a real life Renzo Gracie!!

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Jiu Jitsu Therapy

It occurs to me that my last post was a bit depressing* so I thought I’d write something a little bit more upbeat.

The start of November was, quite frankly, shit. I experienced probably the worst total mind and body failure in my BJJ career so far. The sort  of thing that makes you want to give in and take up Tae Kwon Do. Sadly for the guys at my club, and for you lot, I decided to soldier on. Sorry.

Since then I think I’ve made good progress. I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere and wasn’t having fun. So I decided to try and focus on just having fun again. I didn’t go to sessions when I felt I was forcing myself to go, and I didn’t beat myself up for missing sessions when I had other things to do (even things like catch up with some old mates down the pub). As a consequence I started to enjoy training again, started wanting to train more and started to progress again. Funny how those things go together isn’t it? Seriously. How many fucking times do I need to learn this lesson? Pigeons learn faster than me!

Skip to the end of November and I was feeling better about my training, feeling better about myself, and actually felt like I deserved to be wearing a Blue Belt for the first time in ages.  Good thing too really as I have now been given my first stripe to live up to… It never ends!

So, there we have it. Jiu Jitsu will save you. It took me from the worst I’ve felt in months to the best I’ve felt in months. Or maybe it’s just cos I got laid the other weekend. Further study is needed. Anyone? Purely in the interests on science, obviously…

*That’s the problem with being depressed. It is a bit, well, depressing.

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Winter in Kiev.

There is a voice in my head that I try not to listen to.

It whispers to me all the time. At training. At work. In my sleep. It speaks with a wisdom I can’t argue with it.

It tells me I’m no good. It tells me I can’t do this.  It tells me it’s too hard. It tells me I’m too tired. It tells me no-one cares. It tells me nothing matters.  It tells me I’ll never amount to shit.

I try to push it aside. Try not to think about it. I ignore it. But it always comes back.

There’s no point. It’s too late. I don’t care enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not fit enough. I’m not smart enough.

Sometimes I listen. I drop my guard. It eats into me.

I can’t do anything. I’m useless.  I’m nobody. I’m worthless.

It tells me things I want to hear. It says I don’t need to be doing this.

It tells me I have a choice. It tells me I don’t have to be here. It tells me I could use a rest. I’ve trained so hard already. One session off won’t matter. I could just stay home. I could just stay in bed. I could just stay asleep.

It tells me I’m too old. Too injured. It tells me to tap. It tells me it can all be over. It tells me I can’t breathe. It says my back isn’t strong.  It tells me I’m in pain. I’m exhausted. I’m trapped. I’m beat.

It tells me to stop fighting. It tells me it’s easier. It tells me to acquiesce.

It tells me to. just. give. in.

I listen to it. I obey it. And I hate myself.

There is a voice in my head that I try not to listen to.

But sometimes I do.

 

 

 

 

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BJJ and Venn Diagrams

Um. Just because I could, really. And because Venn Diagrams are awesome…

 

Yes. I’m a geek. I am comfortable with that. I am enlightened.

 

 

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Buying a new Belt – The Jiu Jitsuka’s Nightmare

I had planned to write the definitive article on the annoying subject of buying a Belt but it appears Meerkatsu has beaten me to it. By “beat me to it” what I mean is “I had the idea about 6 months ago and did absolutely fuck all about it and now that sneaky bastard has done it before me… DAMN HIM TO HADES!”. Ah well, you snooze you lose.

I really didn’t think too much about buying my first belt. I just got a Fuji one when I bought my first Gi. All I wanted from a belt back then was one that had a black rank strip so that it was a proper BJJ belt and I was happy to pay for the priviledge. I believe the term my instructor used for me at the time was “sad”. More fool him – considering the amount of time I had those strips on I reckon I more than got my money’s worth from the rank strip. Ha!

Times change though, and when I was awarded my Blue I decided to shop around a bit. The Black Eagle one I’d been given was waaay too long so I had a perfect exacuse. Also, considering you are tying the same piece of cloth around yourself for years I don’t think this is an outrageous thing to do. Unless you spend £200 on a custom one, nooch. Clearly the best belts are the old Atama ones: Good and thick, hard wearing, but still fray wonderfully around the edges. Sadly they don’t make them like that anymore so my quest was on to find something similar.

Buying a belt is a bit like buying new shoes. You spend ages finding the perfect pair, something new and exciting, despite knowing full well that after a while they’ll look and feel just like your old pair and you won’t remember why you bought the blasted things in the first place!*  Of course, knowing all this didn’t stop me from spending hours on the internet trying to find the “perfect” belt and failing utterly: I am the procrastinator general when it comes to making descisions – as anyone who’s ever been to a resturant with me can attest – and the great wealth of choice the internet offers just compounds matters. Whoever thought a free market economy was a good idea obviously didn’t realise the impact it would have on my sanity!

The main thing I’d say about buying belts (as confirmed by Seymour’s chart) is that length can vary A LOT so make sure you check with the company before you end up buying something that will either fit your cat or end up hanging around your knees and tripping you up. Seriously – What on earth is wrong with the idea of standardising what A2, A3 is? It can’t be that hard, surely? And then there is the colour issue: Given that slight variation in shade is the only real difference between most belts, it’s enraging that you look at the same belt on various sites and it looks different on all of them. I originally bought an Ouano belt as it seemed to have a nice navy shade to it in the picture, but when it arrived it was almost exactly the same shade and build as my Black Eagle one. I only wore the blasted thing once, didn’t like it, and was debating either going back to searching online or just shrinking my Black Eagle one in the wash and being done with it. Import Fail.

Luckily before I managed to waste anymore time or money another of the guys I graded with gave me a spare Koral belt as he’d been sent two by mistake. Done and done. Given what I’ve just said previously about shoes this is going to sound silly, but as soon as I put it on I knew I’d found my belt. Just felt, I dunno, mine.

I really like the Koral. It’s nice and chunky, I like the colour better than the darker blues out there, and it’s the correct length for me. I think I’ve worked out all it’s features too:  I’ve located the “smash white belts” button (though it must be faulty as it sometimes doesn’t work), and I’m very happy with the grappling hook, lock picks and thermite dispenser. I believe there is also a way to summon the Batmobile too – but I haven’t fiddled with that too much yet.

So what have I learnt from all this? Probably nothing. I think I’m going to start looking for my Purple Belt now. By the time I’ve earned one in 3 years time I may have found one I like.

* I say this as a male. I am perfectly aware women can recount, at great length, the entire life-history of every pair of shoes they own: Where they bought them, how much they cost, and why they have to buy a new dress to go with them. Ahhhhh, lazy sexist stereotyping. It’s so fun!

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Lessons learned from… Moshing.

I’d apologise for not posting for so long but quite frankly you should all know by now it’s a miracle I get any article out, let alone on anything resembling a regular basis. I’m like Adams or Salinger – but without the talent.

Therefore in a desperate attempt to get something out I hereby present the first in a series of short articles where I talk random cod-shite about my life and then pretend it’s in somehow related to Jiu-Jitsu.

Lesson 1: BJJ prepares you for anything, even mosh pits.

This is something I realised at Reading Festival. That’s where I spent my August bank holiday weekend this year, rocking out and Throwing the horns far more than is strictly appropriate for my age.

Personally I blame the line-up:  If they are going to pick bands from 10 – 15 years ago, then I’m going to channel teenage me to listen to them. Seems fair.

Reading 2010 Line-up

I was slap-bang in the middle of the mosh pit for Limp Bizkit which was, as I understand these things, fairly hardcore. Rollin’ was an interesting full contact stand-up drill  and Break Stuff, well, broke stuff. The thing is though, it really wasn’t that bad. I managed to keep my feet without too much trouble whilst other people around me were tripping over each other left, right and centre. It was like a take-down drill, just with more people. Who said BJJ doesn’t prepare you for multiple attackers? Ha!

All the impact and slamming into people wasn’t a problem either. Sure I had a few bruises but I think if you’ve spent years of training, week in, week out, getting crushed by someone two or three stone heavier than you who’s intent on ripping your head and limbs off – then being slammed into by a bunch of drugged up teenagers for an hour really doesn’t seem that big a deal.* There was a lull between songs where one guy I’d been bouncing off all afternoon turned to me all out of breath and  said  “This is fucking mental!!” and I remember looking at him – all sweating and panting like he’d just been gang fucked by mountain gorillas – and just thinking “Mental? WTF? This is Tuesdays for me!”… Kids today. No stamina.

I’m aware this isn’t a great insight – Doing a full contact martial art prepares you well for other full contact activities – but it serves as an important lesson. Previously to do doing BJJ I’d never really done mosh pits. I’d mosh at clubs, or with mates at parties, but that was it. I remember looking at the circle pit at a One Minute Silence gig when I was a student and just thinking “No fucking way!”…

I’ve only been in three mosh pits since starting BJJ; but in each of those times I’ve felt safe, in control, and not worried for my personal wellbeing  in the slightest. After all (as I said to my friends who refused to come up front with me) what’s the worst that can happen?

So the final point is this: It’s not just that BJJ allows you to not get battered or tripped or squashed in a mosh pit – it’s that anything that can give you the level of self-assurance and confidence where you simply don’t care about 40,000+  people all trying to crush you to death is clearly something of great merit. BJJ I salute you. Like this:  \m/

*in fact – some people would pay good money for a similar experience with slightly less clothes and more oil.

P.S. Actually. Thinking about it, the point might have been: Anyone drinking this amount of beer is impervious to damage.

The Aftermath...

I’d apologise for not posting for so long but quite frankly you should all know by now it’s a miracle I get any article out, let alone on anything resembling a regular basis. I’m like Adams or Sallinger – but without the talent. Therefore in a desperate attempt to get something out I hereby present the first in a series of short articles where I talk random cod-shite about my life and then pretend it’s in somehow related to Jiu-Jitsu. Lesson 1: BJJ prepares you for anything, even mosh pits. This is something I realised at Reading Festival. That’s where I spent my August bank holiday weekend this year, rocking out and throwing the horns far more than is strictly appropriate for my age. Personally I blame the line-up:  If they are going to pick bands from 10 – 15 years ago, then I’m going to channel teenage me to listen to them. Seems fair. I was slap-bang in the middle of the mosh pit for Limp Bizkit which was, as I understand these things, fairly hardcore. Rollin’ was an interesting full contact stand-up drill  and Break Stuff, well, broke stuff. The thing is though, it really wasn’t that bad. I managed to keep my feet without too much trouble whilst other people around me were tripping over each other left, right and centre. It was like a take down drill, just with more people. Who said BJJ doesn’t prepare you for multiple attackers. Ha! All the impact and slamming into people wasn’t a problem either. I think if you’ve spent years of training, week in, week out, getting crushed by someone two or three stone heavier than you who’s intent on ripping your head and limbs off – then being slammed into by a bunch of drugged up teenagers for an hour really doesn’t seem that big a deal.* There was a lull between songs where one guy I’d been bouncing off all afternnon turned to me all out of breath and  said  “This is fucking mental!!” and I remember looking at him – all sweating and panting like he’d just been gang fucked by mountain gorillas – and just thinking “Mental? WTF? This is Tuesdays for me!”… Kids today. No stamina. I’m aware this isn’t a great insight – Doing a full contact martial art prepares you well for other full contact activities – but it serves as an important lesson. Previously I’d never really done mosh pits. I’d mosh at clubs, or with mates at parties, but that was it. I remember looking at the circle pit at a One Minute Silence gig when I was a student and just thinking “No fucking way!” Now I’ve only been in three mosh pits since starting BJJ: Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, and Guns & Roses** but in each of those times I’ve felt safe, in control, and not worried in the slightest. In fact I seem to remember being rather blase about it to my friends (who refused to fight to the front with me): “Meh, what’s the worst that can happen?”… And anything that can give you the level of self assurance where you don’t care about 40,000+  people all trying to crush you to death is clearly a *in fact – some people would pay good money for a similar experience with slightly less clothes and more oil. ** Well, Axl and his Guns N’ Roses cover band. More on this to come…
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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Sucks!

I’ve had an epiphany. For ages there was this niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right, and couldn’t quite work out what it was.  At first I thought it might just be because my back’s been playing up again recently and I haven’t been as committed as I like to training. But then I read  Meerkatsu’s old post about other people’s views on BJJ and suddenly everything became clear:

BJJ is shit, isn’t it?

I can’t believe I’ve wasted all this time with it.  I’m really angry with myself.  That’s 2.5 years (roughly) of my life I’m never getting back.

I’ve been a fool and I have no-one to blame but myself.  I became  so solipsistic about BJJ that I literally forgot there was anything else out there.I just I became fell in love with the BJJ community and lifestyle that I lost sight of the big picture. If I’d have just looked outside of BJJ for five minutes and done some basic net research and I’d have quickly realised how badly it sucks. Thankfully for me (and you) there are some awesome videos on that site of the effective street techniques that we sport players are missing out on. You can check them out here. I am really pleased he covers a safe way to disarm a knife, something that BJJ has failed to address despite me being a Blue Belt.

Maybe I’m just bitter. After all, Lau Gar taught me these highly effective knife defenses:

And I stupidly gave it all up to pursue BJJ.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but they also say you need to make mistakes to realise what really is important in life. Or perhaps – you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone – So perhaps this epiphany is a good thing? I’ve learnt from my mistakes and I’ve realised that I’ll be much happier doing a traditional martial art that teaches me real-life self defense techniques.

Will I bollocks.

Ugh. I feel dirty even joking about it. Looking back I can’t believe I used to do this. And not only did I do it – I genuinely thought it was useful. Just click the link… What the fuck was I thinking? It’s not fighting, it doesn’t even LOOK like fighting. It’s fucking dancing is what it is. FUCK!

Now maybe I’m doing a disservice to the guy I linked to above – perhaps he does practise all those techniques he shows against resisting opponents and trains in what we would consider a “realistic” or alive manner*  – but it was an excellent way to illustrate my point. I am constantly amazed that in 2010 there are still people in the traditional martial arts community that think BJJ is nothing but a sport where everyone jumps guard no matter what the circumstances. That BJJ players are incapable of avoiding the ground even if it’s strewn with broken glass, lava, and used hypodermic syringes. That the early UFCs proved nothing as it “wasn’t a real fight”. And so on, and so on, and so on. Then you take a look at whatever their deadly ancient art is, and it’s always something like this… the horror.

And after that, I think you need a Renzo Chaser:

*though I can’t see any evidence that he does, so sod him.

peddling this idea that dead forms and dead drills teach you to fight.
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Top 10 phrases to avoid on the mat

Given that I am now a seasoned Blue Belt, I thought it was about time I passed on my years of accumulated wisdom to any beginners out there. Here a few choice phrases I’ve heard over the years (or possibly, made up) that highlight training mistakes or etiquette faux pas that you may want to avoid.

Obviously this is aimed at newbies, which like most things in BJJ means it goes double for all you higher grades out there… Share and enjoy bitches!

What’s the worst that can happen? BRING IT ON!

THIS. By all means train hard but tap early, tap often, and keep yourself safe.

RAAAARRR!! Newbie Smash!! RAAARRRR!!

Woah! Easy tiger. Everyone wants to win, and it’s really easy to force a sub on to begin with, but you’re really not helping anyone. Relax, and you’ll have more gas. Have more gas and you can concentrate on your technique more. concentrate on your technique more and you’ll find your game improving no end. If you want to train a strength only game, try power lifting.

I just learned a new deep half guard inverted gogoplata on submissions101, I’m going to smash everyone!!

Are you? Well well done you.  In the meantime I’m going to listen to my instructor who I’m paying to teach me and learn techniques that way. There is a very good reason privates cost £40 an hour and YouTube is free.

Yeah, well, he only beat me cos…

There is a big difference between a reason and excuse. Finding a reason as to why you lost helps you learn as you improve your game, making excuses  fools no-one apart from yourself.

Phwoooar, Kyra Gracie! I wouldn’t mind being stuck in her guard/ sometimes passing isn’t an option/I’d mount her alright/etc

Well, done, congratulations. You’ve realised Kyra Gracie is a beautiful women. But have some fucking respect – she’s a world-class athlete, and you’re a tool. I bet Renzo never had to put up with this shit.

When am I gonna get my Blue Belt? When am I gonna get my Blue Belt? When am I gonna get my Blue Belt?

At this rate, never. A watched pot never boils, a pestered instructor never grades. Forget about the next belt and concentrate on training.

Man, I love working on my Jitz game.

Listen Snoop Dogg, it’s not “Jitz” or “B-Jizzle” or any of your other cool trendy made up words, It’s Jiu-Jitsu. End of discussion. Everytime you use the term “Jitz” – Rickson murders a panda.

I’m going to buy a lightweight gi to help with my comp game

If you honestly think 600g difference is going to transform your game then a) you’re probably fighting at the wrong weight and b) you’re deluded. Train harder, cut properly, or fight at the next weight.

Can we take it easy? I put my back out last night humping your mother

I actually used this phrase once, and I wouldn’t recommend it… Big mistake. Huge.

Um…  look. I know we all joke about it, but, well… it really is quite gay isn’t it?

Shhh! There are just some things we don’t talk about, ok?

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Blue Belt. And here my troubles began.

On Tuesday 6th of April 2010 at approximately 8.35pm – After 2 years and 2 days (or roughly 240hrs*) of training – I was awarded my Blue Belt by Andy Roberts.

As the astute of you may have noticed – those of you with mastery of esoteric subjects like “The Gregorian Calendar” and “Maths” – that means I’ve now been training as a Blue Belt for 3 months now. A suitable time I think, to look back and reflect on that momentous occasion and address that all too familiar subject what does a blue belt really mean?

I think I’ve said this before, so I hope I’m not just repeating myself endlessly, but the goal is not the reward. The goal is, of course, to get better. The Blue Belt is your reward. I think it’s easy to conflate the two and see your next belt as the ultimate goal. I know when I was a white belt I saw Blue Belts as Gods among men, smashing us mere mortals aside with strange and obscure techniques coming from odd angles and weirder set ups and dreamt (sometimes literally) of having such super powers. And then I got my Blue Belt. And like everyone else before me I realised that, no, they aren’t special. They’ve just trained hard to get where they are. The techniques they use aren’t crazy or secret, they just know how to apply them and possibly have a few favourites they’ve perfected. But they still get subbed, and make mistakes. They are still growing into grappler in their own right and (if you’re me) still feel like they know nothing. In short a Blue Belt is a lot like being a White Belt, they are both different points on the same learning spectrum. Not like those Purple Belts – Wow – They are like Gods among men!

A Blue Belt for me represents you have a good grounding in the art.  To me, saying you’re a Blue Belt means that you have a good understanding of what BJJ is and how to do it. You know your kimuras from your armbars, you don’t just wildly scramble for position – you work towards it, and you know to set up positions before going for subs, you can hold your own whilst rolling against other Blues, and when you do tap out to higher grades you generally know WHY you lost. In short it represents you’ve achieved a solid base to work from. It shows you’ve arrived in the BJJ world. It is the first marker on a much longer journey, one you should be proud of and celebrate, but just a marker none-the-less.

Now on that last point and all I’ve said above about how it doesn’t really change anything: I’d like to pretend I casually accepted my Blue Belt with zen-like calm and didn’t make a big fuss about it,  but we all know I’d be lying.  When it happens it feels like the biggest achievement in the world. It wasn’t until I got in the car on the way home that it hit me. This was it. This is what I’d been pushing for all this time and I’d finally achieved it. WOOOHOO! I may have been listening to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect ya neck” with the windows down and the system up, I may have joyfully punched the roof on more than one occasion, there may have even been a few tears. I refuse to confirm or deny any of these rumours – But I will say I was damned happy to get my Blue! Finally when posed the dreaded “So what belt are you now?” question from non BJJers I no longer had to waffle on about stripes and how “well, BJJ grading system is quite different from other martial arts”. I could hold my head up high, wait for the dramatic music and declare “I, my naive friend, am now a Blue Belt!” and then swish my cloak about my person before disappearing off into the night…

I got a lot of props at the club too, which was nice.  I think being one the last of the old guard to get my Blue helped a lot in that (as I knew basically everyone) and having so many people coming up to me to congratulate me and say how hard i’d worked and how much I deserved it gave me a massive confidence boost at the time**. Like a child I refused to tap to white belts and managed to succeed for over a month until a particularly large white belt leaned on my throat ’til I saw stars and I felt it was probably best to swallow my pride whilst I still capable of swallowing. I also (and I’m sure every new Blue Belt must do this) gratuitously wrist locked everyone I could until I realised that escalation can only every be a bad thing. Still, it was nice to play with my new toys. I think  my favourite moment as a New Blue was walking past two white belts chatting at the end of a class and one of them pointing to me and saying “He’s the one you should roll with him,  he could teach you a thing or two” WTF? Really?! When did that happen? It really made me smile at the time. Especially as, much to my surprise, I was able to teach him a thing or two – Namely “don’t encourage new Blue Belts to prove how good they are”, nooch.

Now it’s  several months in I think it’s all settled down back to normal. I gave up my foolish “thou shalt not tap to white belts” stance ages ago, I still occasionally try a cheeky wrist lock , but other than that it’s pretty much business as usual. I currently feel that I’m (re)discovering the joys of BJJ for the first time. I don’t really think my game’s improving in any massive way, but I am enjoying slowly trying things out. I train, I get smashed, and I try to learn. It’s almost exactly like being a white belt again, except that now I want to concentrate on the basics. An irony, I believe, everyone realises once getting their Blue.

P.S. I realised half way through this that I’ve been automatically capatilising “Blue Belt” like it’s some kind of title. I know I’m probably breaching all kind of grammar rules, but fuck it, I like it. I think we should all adopt caps-lock to show deference to the power the mighty belt. Also, I really want to be able to write: “oh, so you’re a blue belt in TKD are you? That’s cool. I’m a Blue Belt in BJJ…” on message boards.

*When I say “roughly” I mean roughly. The bullshit assumptions and generalisations I have made to get to this number would make mathematicians cry. In fact, I’ve recently submitted the “time spent training” algorithm to the board of BP so that they can use it to aid their accurate reporting of how much oil is pumping into the Gulf of Mexico.

** Of course, the props were all yours too. I really couldn’t have done it without y’all helping. Thanks guys.

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Question: Why do I compete?

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!

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