“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”Thomas Edison
Saturday, August 25th 2018. Competition day. Like the night before the Las Vegas Open a couple of days back, I didn’t manage to sleep well either. Another 3 hours at most maybe. On top of that, my nerves were going on overdrive. It’s not a good combination. Luckily, I still had to sew on the team patches on my Gi… So, in an effort to calm myself down, I started to hand stitch everything with a coffee and croissant breakfast by my side.
After that was done, I thought to myself… well that was quick. Now my mind was back to how my performance was going to be on the mat. Packed again, 2 Gis, one short, one rash guard, spares, belt and my flip-flops into a 45L bag, then I made my way to the Championship venue. CFS Black Belt Steve Payne was again my company for the day. The nerves were going on and off, I always wonder why people get nervous before a competition. Is it a performance issue? Is it because you’re scared of losing? Is it because you don’t want to disappoint yourself or your coach? People tell me, nerves are good, it means you care. For some reason… I was ok up to the night before and then… doubt. The ‘What if…’ questions started going around in my head.
Purple belt up to this point has been a very challenging journey in terms of competition. I have lost more than I have won, and most of them were to a submission. But, I dove straight in again and signed up to the bloody Worlds anyway regardless. I trained for weeks and weeks, I did strength and conditioning, made sure I eat properly, take supplements, and went through a horrible hip flexor injury and a few others in the process to be here at this tournament. In fact, the injury was exactly 2 weeks before my first ever sub only match at Battle Grapple 2 (3 weeks before the Worlds). I couldn’t walk for 4 days, and almost pulled out a week before the match, but I didn’t. The result was disappointing on my part, I made a mistake which cost me the match. The nerves however bad on that day was nothing in comparison to this moment at the Worlds.
I started doing research as to why people have this nervous feeling, and perhaps how to deal with it. Found a video of Firas Zahabi, which explained pretty well some of my own thoughts on this video below. At 2:01 he explained about what scares a fighter is not the fight itself, but the camera, lights, and people’s judgment on you. No one is perfect and you will have a bad day, what if that day is the one people remember and count on record? He’s right. That’s one part of it, now how to deal with it, is still a working progress.
I took a long warm-up that day, tried hard to visualise what I wanted to do and thought about what Jimmy Pedro was talking about yesterday on Saulo & Xande Ribeiro seminar (read here). After the weigh-in and gi check, I went into the bullpen and like always… tried to zone everything out, to just focus. I never listen to music before a match, I don’t have a specific routine to do (other than warm up), over the short years of competing, I simply learn to quieten all the noise around me. The more competition I go to, the better I am at this, too bad the nerves are still there though (one day). Until that moment I was worried, I knew I had a very tough opponent ahead, but I also told myself… all the training won’t be for nothing. She’s tough, but so am I, she’s strong but so am I, she may have more experience than me but no matter… I will fight. All the time I was in the pen, I kept repeating that in my head until they called my name. Steve and Yas Wilson (World Champion, Roger Gracie Black Belt) were on the side mat sat down and were ready to coach. I couldn’t be more thankful for the support 🙂
6 minutes. Was all I had. The match started and straight away my opponent pulled guard, but that was ok. I’m quite comfortable with guard passing, or so I thought… I spent more than 3 minutes trying to pass her guard, 1 minute of that, was me trying to fight out of a triangle. It was exhausting. The triangle was tight, but there was still room to breathe so I kept trying until I escaped (or she let go I’m unsure, it’s tiring to keep a tight triangle for a long time though so who knows).
After that, something happened which I didn’t realise at that time is a major fault when competing. Frustration. I was frustrated that I couldn’t pass her guard, this… clouded my thinking. Rather than calmy think, ok what now try this, feel where the blocks are, what are her legs and arms doing, I began to get… annoyed. Why.. why… why. A terrible mindset. It was a high paced match, both of us were very active, and I was getting more and more tired. Writing this now with a clear mind made me see a lot and this is something I have to make sure will not happen again. Experience is a great teacher, if I didn’t go and compete, I would not be able to see things that can help me improve.
My opponent won the match, at one point I was able to pull off a sweep but she was athletic and had a perfectly timed counter to the sweep. It was very good, but hey, when you’re fighting the Master World Champion, you expect a tough fight and that’s what I had. So I’m grateful even though I lost. After the fight, I ran off the mat and cried. Like… big time cried. It was such an emotional hit. I mean, regular competition when I lose, I immediately will just think ok, so what now. But this was something else. Everyone who came to the World Championship will have trained hard, or even harder than me. They’ll have put in the hours, work through injuries, the emotional ups and downs, the funds and everything into this so… it’s understandable why there were a lot of tears today. Both the silver medalist and the World Champ cried straight after their match as well, for different reasons I’m sure but still… tears. It is an emotional journey, and everyone wants to win.
So the lessons from this were:
- Sleep and rest well (in my case perhaps I need to take some sort of aid like Reishi mushroom or something to help with sleep, or some herbal remedy)
- An extended warm-up is a good thing to work off the nerves
- Work on mental toughness
- Never ever get frustrated
My Coach Martyn Cahill (1st-degree black belt) has prepped me well for this competition, I was physically in the best shape and I felt strong. My cardio was also surprisingly good considering lack of sleep and jetlag. For this, I am forever thankful. He commented on techniques that I need to work on and improve, so now I just need to regroup and train hard again for the next one!