I guess in a way this is a misleading blog title as it’s about so much more than medals. It’s about why you compete, your motivations, why you enter certain comps and what’s important to you in terms of your BJJ journey.
So why do I compete? Well it’s for a number of reasons including simply the fact I like to test myself! But ultimately I do it to guide my learning – I may or may not be a world champion one day but I do intend on being the best BJJ practitioner I can be. Competition helps broaden my experience, identify my weakness and focuses my improvements. One way to highlight this I thought would be through my most valued medals and why they’re important to me:
This is a default medal; it’s from my first ever competition (it was over 63Kg) I lost on points to a girl who normally is in the weight category above me. It’s on the list as it reminds me of two things. Firstly, it’s a key milestone but secondly I wasn’t in a great place with my BJJ as I had just lost the ability to work with my private coach (for reasons out of our control). It had really threw me. That comp I learnt the value of my teammates as two of them in particular were superstars and basically got me through it both in emotionally and physically!
Yes this is a judo medal. It was my second judo comp but it’s here for two reasons. Firstly as it reminds me of the benefit of stepping out of my comfort zone but it also reinforced to me how far I had come! I train with some really high level people and sometime I think it makes hard to see progress as I have a bad habit of constantly comparing myself to my opponents rather than my own progress.
My first IBJJF medal. This medal felt like a gold. You never go into a competition totally 100% but this was definitely an under 75% day. I don’t want to go on about my illness and injuries as I don’t want to make excuses and it’s disrespectful to the girls who beat me fair and squarely. But sometime the biggest battle is making it onto the mat. This medal proved to me not just my progress in my mental game and technical work but ultimately that if I put my mind to it I could do what I wanted!
Silver at the British Champs. My last white belt comp. I was gutted it wasn’t gold but I value it for so many reasons. My first British champs lasted about 60 seconds before I tapped to a choke so to come back and get silver just showed my progress.
Linked to that watching the videos I was amazed how little of my “A” game I actually ended up doing (which was a learning point in itself – impose your game!). I won 3 matches because of the depth and experience of my jits (and a dash of heart) not just a polished sequence.
The number of matches is other reason it’s important to me. This comp has the biggest brackets in the British calendar. Frequently only one win means I reaches the podium (due to small brackets) whilst I’ve watched my male peers battle through rounds to achieve the podium. My teammates have always respected my performances and results regardless but I felt a certain pride in being able to celebrate a medal where I demonstrated that I could equal their efforts and string together a tournament result.
Blackpool International Open – the comp that got me thinking about this post. My second competition at blue belt and my first competitive blue belt medals (2 silvers and a bronze). Let’s be honest in a few weeks nobody is going to remember who made the podium at this competition. Whilst it had great female entries (I had 6 fights in all – 2 in each catagory) it’s not that an important competition in the scheme of things. But I did fight a range of ages, experience and weights. I had a new first as all my wins were by submission, plus in contrast to my first blue belt comp I only tapped once! I did spot a lot more learning points today than from last comp but I was really happy with my performance overall. Also today provided that little reassurance against those horrible negative little voices in my mind that and reinforces that blue belt is where I should be! (I know ultimately belts don’t matter your jits does but try telling my negative self talk that!)
Finally I guess the point this make is that its important to remember that being on the podium is great fun and medals are great souvenirs but they are just that – souvenirs. Competitions are a snippet of your journey and provide milestones to remember. It’s easy to make them the be all and end all and the measurement of your BJJ when in reality BJJ is so much more. Your behaviour, learning and ultimately what you go onto do is what will define you as a practitioner and artist.