With the Australia Championship Cup just around the corner and our first internal children’s competition a complete success, I wanted to take a moment to look at why we compete and of what value it is to us.
When practitioners first look at completing many reasons not to suddenly arise. Fears, misgivings, negative self-talk, and insecurities, appear. It’s true- Competition is a challenging activity at any level and the proper preparation for competition is an undertaking that best done, must be seriously dedicated to and is not easy.
Most people’s biggest fear in competing is the fear oflosing. It is not the fear of injury, of their opponent, of making weight, or any of the many other possible factors leading up to or during their matches. It is simply thisunknown final outcome that we fear. People fear losing in the eyes of their team mates, their friends, and their families; as if by losing they themselves ARE losers and are defined solely by this result. The truth is that regardless of the outcome of a competition our friends, our families, our jobs, and our belongings will not be negatively affected and will not suddenly disappear as a result!
“The mat’s don’t lie” is a phrase often used in JiuJitsu. It means that whatever your performance ability, both strengths and weaknesses as well as your attitude, it will show itself when put to the test of sparring or competing. Competition is the refinement of what we practice each day. It is the hours we spend on the mat distilled and under pressure, in the safest environment possible, with referees and rules, so that we can engage as fully and realistically as possible in this art. Do our techniques work when we are excited? Nervous? Nauseous with anticipation? On people we are not familiar with? In front of a crowd? What comes out will show you much about yourself and your game that you may not be able to see as clearly otherwise.
It is the experience of competition that is more valuable than medalling ultimately. Though a final outcome of medalling assures you that you did enough things correctly in your match in order to win and can validate the work you and your team have done prior, it does not tell you what you need to learn to improve yourself and your JiuJitsu. It is losing (or in some cases almost loosing) that most clearly shows and can become the biggest motivator for us to excel.
Everyone I have ever spoken with who has competed remembers how they performed in their competitions and more specifically, their mistakes. The clarity that competition provides is priceless. This is why so many coaches and professors urge their students to compete. There is no clearer way to test yourself and give yourself the opportunity to excel- both in competition and at your home school.
For children tournaments can be especially scary. Whatever their personal emotional struggle as they grow thatis what they are so clearly combating in the instance of competition. As with anyone, if they are given support and respect around the processes even the scariest of possible outcomes (loosing) can be transformed into a positive experience. If this is done the benefits to their character can be unmatched as they have a uniquely safe opportunity to test the extent of their individual abilities- athletically, cognitively, emotionally, in support of their team mates, and in sportsmanship to their opponents.
I do not want to give you the impression I am endorsing losing in competitions for the sake of losing. I am endorsing the opportunity and experience of competing to benefit yourself and your JiuJitsu practice. As Michael Jordon said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Obviously we can’t be paralysed by fear into inaction if we wish to progress and succeed.
One last quote before I go, for those thinking of competing for the first time, there is an old Chinese military saying that goes: “Sweat much in preparation, bleed little in battle.” If your training is harder than your matches, you will always be pleasantly surprised by the outcome and will have little to fear.