There is no comfort in the growth zone and no growth in the comfort zone
A Different environment
So you come in to training, warm up, take the class then roll with your partners. Partners who you’ve been training with for about a month now or maybe even years already. People you’ve grown familiar of, ones you already know if they have been having a bad day or otherwise. Also, you’re a little familiar of their skills and techniques that you know when and where that person is dangerous. The point is, you’ve grown comfortable with the environment. Competing changes that. You don’t get the chance to fight the same person you lost to again the next day. If you’re lucky you get to see that person 3 months from when you lost, in the next tournament, 3 states away from you. In a way, what’s on the line is a little more valuable, you don’t get a lot of chance to fight the same person over and over again. Whenever that happens, I personally remember the things I did wrong and it nags me for weeks on end forcing me to analyze what happened and become better at dealing with it. Joining competitions, either local or national, helps you measure your skill and your mental toughness out of your comfort zone. It puts you in a very competitive state with someone you have not faced before (or maybe have but not too frequently). Exposure to unknown contenders can help you be a better martial artist in terms of understanding the concepts and the skills you need to overcome such challenges. Getting out of that comfort zone every time I see myself in it helps me improve mentally and physically.
A Better Mindset
Before competition we’re always told to “Never set yourself up to lose”. You hear people who compete sometimes say “Oh the guy I’m going up against just won pans in his division so I won’t be surprised if I lose” or “I only trained twice a week for this tournament” or “I just want to get this over with”. And then you get on the mats with someone you have not fought before, you then freeze and in your mind were the words you were just thinking before you got on the mats, and then you lose.
That was me for the first 3 years of competing, but I kept coming back. I didn’t know why I did, but I still registered and still competed and still lost my first match. I finally realized when somebody finally told me to not set myself up to lose. But how do I do that tho? I was told to train, as hard and as frequently as I can, weeks before the competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a small local tournament or the world championships. Train as much as you can if you’re competing so you wouldn’t have to think of an excuse before your first match. Being prepared before going into a situation with extreme pressure helped me come out of it with a better outlook on what just happened and how to improve on it.
Not a loss, but a learning experience
For every loss that happened to me I see more holes in my game. More mistakes and bad habits that I do. Those were hard facts that I had to face and improve on. It taught me not to only be prepared, but to be smart in my preparation and training. Being able to accept that loss as a learning experience and capitalizing on it not only helped me on the mats but also in real life challenges. I don’t see the lack of success of an action as failures anymore, I see them as another check box on my list of things to improve on.
Why I still compete
Competing provides a different path to a BJJ practitioner’s maturity. The experience gives you a more positive mindset in dealing with losses and life in general. It hones your awareness on your game’s weaknesses and strengths that training in a gym with partners you always train with can’t give. Dealing with multiple variables (eg. nerves, proper dieting, hydration, pressure, etc) pushes your mental toughness to a different level.