I competed six times as a white belt, and by the end of that tournament run, I had won a gold medal and attained my blue belt. Then the injuries started to pile on. A strained shoulder, pinched nerves in my neck, numbness in my hand, and knee problems kept me away from the competition mats and ballooned me up from 190 pounds to 220. The goal for the second half of my first year as a blue belt was to make it back on the competition mats in early 2014. I had dieted, worked out, and ran my way down to around 201 and was ready to compete at the 207.5 weight class, but then tragedy struck two weeks out in the form of the flu.
Exactly two weeks before I was supposed to hit the mats for the All Americans tournament, I was stricken with a 100 degree temperature from Saturday to Tuesday and could not make it back on the mat until the Friday of that week. In the three times I have rolled since then, I have taken my licks from White belts and up. People I normally dominate are thrashing me because my energy level has dropped too low. The mind is willing to keep fighting, but the body is unable to escape submission, take the back, or fight for the sweep. Now, a week out from my first tournament in a year and my stress and anxiety level is through the roof.
I lay in bed some nights and can shoot my heart rate through the roof by just contemplating what will happen in the tournament. The weird thing is everyone I roll with is confident that I will do great, because as they say, “I am one of the best at our school,” but in my head I think they are just saying that to be nice. You never want to tell anyone that they are bad. This weekend I head into battle not even against opponents, but against my own fears of losing, getting injured again, or just flat out being bullied without giving any opposition.
The fears start to grow, I start to doubt my skills, and wonder why I do this. The answer is simple though. It is a test. No one does anything in this life without testing themselves. Do you play a video game to not finish the final boss? Do you write a novel to not submit it for publication? Would you ever compete in a sport to not see how you match up against people at the same level? That is what a BJJ competition is all about. So while the nerves, butterflies, and fears can hold me back, I have to make it onto that mat. The weekend of the 25th is an important weekend, because I head onto the mats for the first time in a year and face myself and my opponents.
As of right now the field is filled with three other people and myself. That means if I win one match, I am in the final for second or first place. It also means if I lose my first match I have the chance to roll again. No matter what, I get two matches to prove to myself, and myself alone, that I can face my fears. Who wants to live scared and not test themselves? I for one don’t and that is why I am put myself through this personal hell, because the reward of confidence is worth any other medal win or lose.