Yesterday I competed in another tournament. I got 3rd in my no-gi division but pretty much bottomed out in gi and lost both matches by submission. It was frustrating & tiring and nobody likes to lose. I then got in my car and drove 3 hours home. That drive gave me some time to think and reflect on the day, and really the entire tournament experience. I don’t know if this tournament experience is normal or not, but I want to write it down in case someone else goes through it they can realize that at least one other person has been there.
As I thought about this tournament, I thought about how many opportunities I had to quit and just say I was done. To start with, I first found out about this tournament around a month ago, on Facebook. I messaged a coach to ask him if he knew anything about it. He hadn’t heard of it (turns out it was their first time running a tournament.) I could have stopped right then and said “Maybe this isn’t the one for me.”
I talked to some teammates and they sounded as if they might be interested, but they weren’t sure. At that point, I could have dropped the issue and just pretended as if I didn’t bring it up. In fact, I did the opposite. I registered early.
As I wrote in my post before the tournament, I felt extra nervous about this tournament. It started a few days before the tournament in my spare time I’d catch my mind wandering and I’d feel my heart racing. It would have been possible for me to just not drive into town for the tournament. I have plenty of other things to work on, but I had paid money and told people, and so skipping was never really an option.
Once I was at the tournament, the butterflies would come back from time to time. Thankfully, I had a teammate there. We were able to watch matches and chat and keep us both mostly relaxed. But at any point, it would have been easy to just say “No, I can’t stand the pressure. The nerves are getting to me. I’m not going to compete.” However, I didn’t pay money and drive 3 hours one way to stop now.
Once my division was placed at a mat, the nerves picked up again. For me, the absolute worst part of a tournament is the time between my division being called to a mat, and the referee starting the match. Once we slap hands and start grip fighting, I don’t have time for nerves. But the waiting, oh the waiting!
My first match, the guy took me down and I put him in guard. I started trying to work an armbar and keep him from passing my guard. I knew he was up 2-0 so I couldn’t just stay there and hope to win. In the end he was able to take my back, flatten me out and choke me. However, he started working a choke about 1 minute before he tapped me. I was in a turtle position, face on the mat, not doing a good job breathing and my mind said “If you just tap right now, it will all be over. You can stand up, you’ll be able to breathe. It’s ok.” I had to ignore that thought, shove it out of my head and keep moving and fighting. I kept trying to move my hips away and he’d follow, I’d move, he’d follow, until finally one time, my arm came down just enough for him to get his arm in and finish the choke.
There were only 4 men in our bracket so I wasn’t sure if they’d just give two 3rd place medals, or if they’d have us compete. I asked and the guy paused for a minute and said “We’ll have a 3rd place match.” As I told my teammate that, he said “Then you’ve definitely got 3rd.” It was comforting to know the confidence he had in me. Because quite frankly, at that time, I didn’t have the same confidence. I think there were 3 or 4 matches in between my two matches. As I was standing watching, there was a battle going in my mind. My brain was saying “Your legs are tired. You’re out of breath. If you lose to this guy you’ll get to rest. When was the last time you won a match after losing your first one?” I again had to push those thoughts out of my head. I heard my name called and again decided to step on the mat. That match went the full 5 minutes, with a few different position changes. The final 30 seconds found me in my opponents guard. He was trying his best to crush my stomach. I knew I was winning the match. I knew that if I did nothing else, I’d still win. But had I been losing, or had I been unsure, that again was another chance or opportunity for me to quit. Thankfully, this time, my thought was “You think I’m going to tap to that?!”
My gi division was less exciting, for me anyway. I lost by choke to the same guy I lost to in no-gi. Then in the 3rd place match, I quickly lost by kimura as he rolled me with it.
As I thought back on the tournament, I realized there was probably no less than a half-dozen opportunities for me to quit. And quite honestly, the reason there were so many opportunities to quit, was because I didn’t quit at the first opportunity, so more presented themselves. I don’t think I gave any of them any serious consideration, but they were there. It was something I had never thought of before.