Thursday, May 19, 2011

September 2005 - January 2011

The point of competing is to win. Whatever other good competition provides to the soul or to the fighting spirit or whatever, there is nothing to be gained by losing sight of the reason why competition exists: to determine a better through fair contest.

In the same way that history is written by the victors, so is the manual on competition. And from an aspirational point of view, that's certainly how it should be. After all, who wants to listen to the Seattle Mariners' plan to win the World Series, or to an American soccer player talking about what it takes to win the World Cup?

But at the same time, what does a victor have to say to the vanquished? From a certain perspective, what does a Marcelo Garcia, the most consummate champion in jiu jitsu in many respects, really have to say to someone like myself, who has been an exceptionally poor competitor for years, on the topic of competition?

I once had a teammate ask me after a recent loss - a teammate who does not compete - if I had the right attitude about the loss. He wasn't there to see the bug-meets-windshield nature of my performance that particular Saturday, and I grant that it was an innocent enough question. But I'll admit that there was a part of me that wanted to say, "I don't know. What's the appropriate attitude to have when you haven't won a competitive match in years?"

I actually found myself chuckling a little bit reading a recent GracieMag about overcoming adversity. To be sure, the suffering of someone like Pablo Papovitch - who lost family in the terrible floods in Brazil this spring and was on the cover of the issue - is of another order of magnitude beyond what any of us ever experiece on the mat. But as the issue went on to relate stories of how widely-recognized jiu jitsu champions dealt with their first loss in nearly three years or a referee's blown call or how - after winning in every tournament since white belt - they suddenly faced their first loss - I didn't exactly feel compelled to bring out the Stradivarius.

I remember watching some History Channel program or something about how hapless the European knights of the Middle Ages were against the faster, more agile Mongols, who invaded much of Eastern Europe in the first half of the 1200s. Nothing describes my jiu jitsu better than that right now. I am slow, defensive and easily overwhelmed by jiu jitsu that has any movement to it whatsoever. I am chain mail and broad sword in a world increasingly populated with composite bows and fast horses.

This is what I've made my priority to fix, what competition, per se, no longer plays much of a role in. From my way of looking at it, I need to bring a real Renaissance to my jiu jitsu, starting as close to scratch as I can get without breaking the skin, in order to become the kind of black belt I want to be if and when that day finally comes.