Win or Learn

This week I competed in my first jiu jitsu tournament, Grappling X in Fresno.  There’s not really any delicate way to put it, I got wrecked.  I had more nerves than I realized, and I got choked silly twice.  One of my best friends reminded me that in jiu jitsu you either win or you learn.  And boy did I learn.

Until the day of the competition I never knew anything about sport jiu jitsu in the traditional sense.  I love to watch submission-only events like Metamoris and the Eddie Bravo Invitational.  Keeping track of points for passing, sweeping, mounting, taking the back, and so forth never really interested in me.  The joke I used to tell is that I only got into jiu jitsu so that I wouldn’t be that guy on World Star Hip-Hop waking up after being brutally attacked for accidentally stepping on somebody’s sneaker at a liquor store.  During my first match I heard the other guy’s coach tell him “you’re up nine points!”  Nine points!  That’s like almost eighteen-trillion points to my uneducated ears; this guy must be obliterating me.  Throughout the day, however, I watched dozens of matches and basically taught myself sports jiu jitsu scoring.  Homeboy got two points for taking me down, three for passing my guard, and four for mounting me.  That happens every day training at the gym, so I wouldn’t think anything of it, but with the tiniest bit of competition experience, I understand why some cats at the gym fight you off like they’re lives depend on it– they don’t want to give up those points.

I’ll briefly touch on the other big takeaways from my first competition, since this isn’t really a jiu jitsu blog:

  • My cardio could be better.  In training I like to relax and wait for openings to counter, especially when a bigger opponent is going full blast trying to murder me.  In competition, you’ve gotta move, there’s no time to relax if you want to score points or submit somebody.
  • My movement could be faster.  I was struggling in vain to bow-and-arrow sweep my first opponent when I realized I was not in position for that sweep.  When I realized the error I went to swing into position but he’d already shut me down.
  • Technique doesn’t matter the way you think it does.  In training if somebody is trying desperately to finish me with poor technique, my ego (which is not my amigo, according to a shirt I saw once) keeps me from visibly sweating it. In competition it doesn’t matter if their technique is all that great; you can’t assume somebody is going to abandon a choke because they’re not doing it right, they’re going to put all of their muscle into finishing it.  Proper or not, inefficiency can still be effective.
  • Losing more weight would be a good idea.  Since December I’ve lost around 30 or 40 lbs, and I weighed in for the competition at 212 lbs.  This placed me in the 220 lb weight class, where 220 lb dudes charged at me and my sexy 212 lb body like Bobby Boucher.  I should get myself down to at least 190 lbs so I can cut a little weight before a weigh-in and compete at 185.

The idea that you win or learn is something I learned from jiu jitsu.  It doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day in training, because every roll is a learning experience.  It doesn’t matter if you feel embarrassed about your first competition performance, because you learned something.  This mindset that I’ve embraced thanks to jiu jitsu is completely transferable to other things in my life.  If I’m having trouble at work, in a relationship, or financially, I know better than to let it bring me down.  Case in point– today’s featured image is of my jiu jitsu coach, Tom Knox, and Muay Thai coach, Doug Marshall.

I took this photo a few months ago with a camera I’ve only recently dusted off and starting using, and was positive it would come out great.  While it came out sharp and properly exposed, I also managed to mess the film up when I was developing it.  Looking at the entire roll once it was dry, it was pretty obvious I kinked the film when I loaded it.  This led to these weird blotches running through the center of about eight of the twelve photos on the roll.  I was so eager to develop this film in my shiny new tank, with my shiny new reel, I ended up loading the film improperly in my haste.  It’s very possible I was distracted by the guy’s finger nails in the tutorial on YouTube, but mostly I didn’t take the time to familiarize myself with my equipment beforehand.

A few weeks later, I developed two rolls of film from two different 35mm cameras.  I was excited about one roll because it was my first roll with a 28mm lens, but I was excited about the other because it was a nicer (more expensive) brand of film, Kodak Portra 400. The cheap film came out perfectly, but the entire roll of Portra was unexposed!  I’d literally been shooting film with a camera that had a dead battery for months.  I mean, I knew the “check battery” light wasn’t lighting up, but the shutter speeds all sounded fine, and the flash was still triggered when shooting. In complete naivety I chalked it up to the “check battery” light being dead.  I felt like a moron when I finished developing that film, but it did drive home the concept of double checking your camera before starting a roll.

You either win or you learn.  Over a year ago I knew I wanted to start a blog.  This exact blog.  For a year I put it off because I wanted to read a dozen books about writing, blogging, social media, etc.  I wanted to obsess over, and be intimidated by, extremely impressive photography blogs or Instagram feeds.  I felt like I needed the world’s dopest cameras.  And more than anything I didn’t want to put any garbage out into the world.  I didn’t want to look bad.  But with the win-or-learn mentality, I started writing, and I don’t regret it. Flim Visalia might not be much to look at right now, but I look forward to the opportunity to learn something new running it.

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