After about 6 months of not competing due to various obstacles, I finally got back out on the big blue mats at the 2012 Pan Ams this past March. I’m very grateful for this overall tournament experience as I feel I learned a lot about myself, Jiu Jitsu, and where I may fit best in the sport.
I learned how to prepare my way.
In the past I’ve allowed pre-competition nerves to really dictate my frame of mind the days, hours and minutes before I compete. When allowed to, my mind seriously fixates, inevitably causing an absurd buildup of self-expectation. This buildup always ends up affecting my mindset during competition and makes losing feel much more catastrophic than it should.
Not this time.
Although I was well aware that ‘game time’ was drawing near, I kept my mind elsewhere during the few days before I competed. I refused to fixate and induce anxiety as I’ve done in the past. Even the night before I kept a calm mind, forcing myself to focus on relaxing memories and I actually got a goodnight’s rest: a first for me before a tournament. It was not until the hours before I competed that I allowed my mind to focus on the task at hand. A well-timed warm up and a calm transition of thought really helped me go into my matches with a ready body and mind.
I’m sure most people have their ideal way to ready themselves to compete; I’m just so glad I found mine.
I learned I am strong.
I think strength is more than a physical measurement; to me it's also the ability to push yourself further than you ever have before. It takes something special to keep going even when your body says no or the odds against you seem too large. This tournament was the first time that I lost yet I still truly felt I could not have done anything more. I left everything on the mat that day; I even remember telling myself over and over again in my last match ‘everything you got’ as I was all too aware of my very tired body, nearly numb hands, and a clock quickly counting down. It makes me feel very proud and strong to know that my body obeyed my mind and I held up the ‘never quit’ reputation of my very supportive team.
Despite the loss, I know I am strong, and that’s a really good feeling.
I learned, though strong, I am small.
This tournament in particular brought light to the fact that I may just be a bit small for the Feather weight class. I often forget my stature, but when I see photos of myself next to my opponents I'm definitely reminded. Even my coaches noticed and advised to potentially dropping classes. In retrospect, I did feel much closer in size to the Light Feathers in the bullpen and I weighed in almost 5 lbs light (my mistake of course).
Considering these notions, I've decided to stick with the very clean diet I was keeping before the Pans and see where it takes me. I’m interested to see how much smaller my body will allow me to get and how I will do at a new weight. Regardless of weight though, it's just a good choice for my body overall so there’s no downside; well, other than desperately missing sweets. J
Overall, I’m incredibly grateful for this tournament experience. Although I indeed hate to lose, I’m excited to take my experience and use it to learn, progress, and come back stronger (though smaller J). My Jiu Jitsu journey is still young; I’m excited to see where it will take me.