BJJ Lifestyle vs BJJ Life.

Ever since I was promoted to blue belt a few months ago there’s been a question a few people have been asking me recently, and it’s one that has been playing on my mind for a little while now: when are you competing?

Mike “The Nightmare” Neun

I’ve only ever participated in a competition once, an inter club no less, after training in BJJ for approximately 3 months. Needless to say, I got totally owned. It didn’t help that I was, at the time, heavy enough to be competing in a light heavyweight division – with opponents such as notable MMA competitor Mike “The Nightmare” Neun. Let’s just say it didn’t go my way.

Since then I have grown. Not just on the mats, but as a person, and all thanks to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am not disillusioned about my current position: I have, somehow, managed to become a blue belt, but I still have a long, long way to go.

I do not feel that I am as good as my teammates suggest, but, on that same note, I am perhaps not as bad as I believe myself to be. Either way, there is so much opportunity for personal growth through this sport, and I can’t wait to continue learning as much as I can.

The question then naturally segues to ‘why’? If you don’t intend to compete, why are you training at all? If you don’t want the medals and the accolades, why bother?

It’s simple: I do it because I want to. I do it because I love it, even when I hate it because I feel like I’m stagnating, or that I am no good. I do it because it keeps me fit, keeps me active, allows me to meet interesting people, and has given me a new way to approach life.

Without Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the harsh lessons I have learned on the mats in regards to aggression, patience, conservation of energy, passion, I would not be the person I am now, and if I were not the person that I have become, then Temporary would not be the book that it is. Connect the dots and you can see how you got to be where you are. Once again, thanks for that insight, Steve.

So why do I not compete? I’ve made it all the way to blue belt and still haven’t competed since trying it that fateful day. Am I scared? I would be lying if I said that nerves weren’t a factor, if only because of the high expectations people seem to have for me, and that I have for myself. I don’t want to let them down, and I don’t want to let myself down. Rolling in competition as opposed to in class is obviously going to be different, and I have yet to encounter an intensity level that would surely be waiting for me on the mats, even if it’s my own. So it’s a factor, for sure. I never got the chance to compete at a white belt level, and it only gets harder as that colour around your waist changes.

Ultimately, however, it’s about choice. It’s about choosing what you want out of life. It’s about looking at yourself and assessing what it could really give you.

An ego boost if you win, or perhaps shattered dreams if you lose? Medals? Sponsorship? The accolades that are associated with winning, of being the best?

Nah, I’m cool.

The only reason I can think of to compete is to push yourself on a personal level; to push your BJJ and to see what you truly know. Kind of like why Goku competes within Dragonball Z – it’s about personal growth and development. It would be nice to bring a medal home, but, in my opinion, it can’t be what it’s all about; I believe there is more to the BJJ lifestyle than that.

Honestly, I enjoy rolling hard now and then. Tonight, for example. I was pushed with some heavy rolling, and was challenged in a way that I haven’t been in a long, long time – mostly with my own cardio. It was tiring, it was difficult, it was fast and exhausting, but goddamn it was fun! Highlighting the flaws in my game, the need to work on my cardio and handle my breathing a bit better, all whilst maintaining control of your opponent and looking for opportunities to attack/defend is all about evolving yourself, and that’s what I love about this as a means of becoming healthy. If you dedicate yourself, you will get better over time, and you will learn so much more about yourself because of it.

BJJ has managed to incorporate itself into the choices I make on a daily basis, and I mean it when I say that I try to actively live a BJJ lifestyle. That doesn’t, however, mean that I want BJJ to be my life.

To extrapolate on that, before any purists begin to bay for my blood, allow me to give you a juxtaposition: one of my teammates is a talented BJJ competitor. He competes, he wins. He’s good, and he knows it. That’s cool. He wants to turn a means of staying healthy and having fun, whilst learning to protect yourself, and transition it into his career, his life. That’s awesome, and I will support him every step of the way on his journey. But our paths are not the same, and not all roads within BJJ lead to competition. I have adopted BJJ into my life as a lifestyle: I train, I roll, I learn, I question, and I grow, all whilst I continue to pursue my personal passions and continue to work towards turning writing into a career for myself. Others have done the same, but with the express intention of pursuing true success on the mats, and, as Michael Bisping might say: more power to the motherfuckers.

So, will I compete? Possibly. One day.  But that’s not a problem, because BJJ will always be ingrained in my lifestyle, even if it isn’t my life.


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