Tournament Prep – Why

I am two weeks away from my first tournament (apart from the in-house tournament we did back in December.) I’ll be competing at the Sasquatch Open in Bettendorf, IA on March 23rd. I’ve been preparing for this tournament for a little over a month now. I knew I’d be competing at some tournament in March as far back as mid-January, I just didn’t know exactly which one or when until about 4 weeks ago.

As I’ve been preparing for the tournament, I’ve thought on more than one occasion, “Why am I doing this?” And in fact, a forum discussion over on Sherdog asked that same question to the people who compete. I gave a brief answer over there, but was thinking more about it since writing that.  Why am I competing?

You Mean There’s Tournaments?

When I first started jiu jitsu, my motivation was really that I wanted to learn jiu jitsu. I had seen it on display in MMA matches, and thought it might be “fun” to learn jiu jitsu.

I approached it without much more thought than that. I knew I didn’t want to do MMA, and honestly didn’t even think about the fact that there might be BJJ only tournaments. Even after I initially learned there were tournaments, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of me doing them. In fact, posted somewhere at our gym were guidelines for getting stripes. One of them listed was a “competition” stripe. The accompanying paragraph said something along the lines of students are not required, but encouraged, to compete. Reading that sentence was a relief, because I was glad that it wasn’t required.

After that, I didn’t give tournaments much thought. I went to class, learned my technique and tried to get better. For the most part, the tournament season had died down, but there was still a local tournament here in Omaha that a lot of our guys were going to. I went out to just see what it was like, and to support the team. Once I went and watched, I started thinking more about competing. I’m not exactly sure what it was about that tournament that started to change my mind. By December, when we held our in-house tournament, I was ready to go. Despite losing all 5 of my matches, I came home ready for more. I didn’t want to stop, I was enjoying myself too much.

Since that time, I’ve realized that there are two main reasons I want to compete at tournaments. The first is to test or prove myself. The second is to test or prove the gym.

Prove Myself

I got the name of this blog from ripping off the “Couch Potato to 5k” idea. The idea that you can start as a couch potato and move into something, hence CouchJitsu — moving from the couch to being a jiu jitsu practitioner.  It wasn’t that I was completely sedentary, but I was more-or-less so. The last time I participated in any kind of organized sports was almost 20 years ago when I was a freshman in high school. I spent one year on the JV soccer bench. The rest of my time in high school was spent in debate.  After high school, I would play the occasional basketball game with friends, or a round of golf every once in a while, but that was about it. Since 2000 I’ve had various streaks of trying to lift weights, swim, jog and just normal “go to the gym” type activities. However, I don’t think any of these really lasted more than a few months at a time, and it would be back to my normal self.

So now I’m learning jiu jitsu, after years of essentially sitting around. I want to test myself to see what I can do physically  It’s a part of my life that has never really been tested. I’ve never seen if I can execute a physical game-plan for an entire round. I’ve never tried to force my body to ignore its aches and pains and push on. I’ve done that with my mind for academics and work, but I’ve never done it with my body for anything.

Prove The Gym

The other reason I want to compete is to prove the gym I’m at. Truth be told, they don’t need me as a representative. When you walk in the front door, you can see belts, and medals and trophies up on the wall and in display cases. We’ve got pictures of guys inside the Octagon and several other cages. Mid-America has made a name for themselves long before I came along, and if I were to quit today, it would not tarnish their name at all.

So I don’t mean, that I am going to try and show the merit of Mid-America’s ways, as if people will watch me and say “I was on the fence about that gym, but seeing Nate really convinces me.”

Instead, what I mean is that we have quite a few guys that travel to tournaments and compete. In fact, the same weekend that I’ll be competing at the Sasquatch Open, we’ll also have guys at the Pan-Am Championship and NAGA St Louis. We’ve already sent people to the Houston Open and we have a decent number competing in Chicago this weekend.  A lot of these guys come back with medals. Some even come back with medals not only for their own weight class, but also for the absolute, or open (all weight) class.

So what I want to see, and prove to myself about our gym, is that even guys like me with no real athletic background can go out and compete with other people from other gyms.

It’s not really about the medals for me. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win gold. I’ll want to win gold every time I compete. But I won’t measure success and failure based purely on if I medal or not. There are a lot of factors at play in my mind. I want to see first hand, how I stack up compared to other practitioners.