A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away called Bayonne , I competed in my first Bjj tournament.  The funny thing was that I had no intention of competing at all. Me and my friend Pete had decided to ride up  together to just watch some of our friends compete who had been training for the event. Before we had left Pete asked me if we should take our Gi’s.   At that time you could just enter a tournament on site, now most tournaments require you to pre-enter.  I contemplated it for a minute and  said “Ok, not that I’m going to enter, Im out of shape !”   I hadn’t been training steady at that time (which is the story of my life) and was very rusty.

When we got to the tournament  we couldn’t believe how many people were there. Most brackets that day would have you face about  six to eight opponents in five minute matches with the first place match being seven minutes long. We arrived at 9:30 am and didn’t leave until 7:00 pm.

Pete decided that he was going to compete about ten minutes before we arrived, I decided to compete when I found out that it was forty five dollars to watch but only twenty five if you competed. My attitude was that I would do my first match, lose, then sit down and relax to watch my friends compete. At that time I was a blue belt and for some reason, which I could never fathom, they grouped blue belts and purple belts together.  I think because at that time there wasn’t a lot of purple belts around so they had to put them in with the lower belts just so they could compete.

When they called my name for my first match I wasn’t really that nervous, I was just there to watch, so I just strolled up to the mat prepared to lose.  When I saw that my opponent was a purple belt who obviously had been taking steroids, I was really prepared to lose. I had no real game plan, just to pull guard and see what happened.

When the match began, we grabbed gi’s and an event completely unforeseen happened. I pulled guard, swept my opponent , got on top of him with my knee on his belly, and proceeded to collar choke him. My opponent fought violently not to get choked. His girlfriend screamed from the stands to “KILL HIM BABY”, but in the end he tapped. No one was more shocked than me. Not only had I won a match but I had beat a guy of higher rank who was in way better shape than me, albeit chemically.

If that wasn’t enough, I went on to win my next six matches until I finally fought for first place. By that time I was physically and mentally spent, so when I fought for first I had nothing left and my opponent just sat on my head and tapped me out with a kimura.

When I look back on it now I know why I did so well. I had no expectations for myself other than to just compete. Most of the people there had probably been training hard for the last three months getting ready for the tournament.  To them they had a lot on the line. Not only wanting to win for  themselves and  their school, but also wanting to win so all the hard work was worth it.

I had none of that clutter in my mind. Even after I won my first match I was annoyed that I had missed one of my friends big matches. I was still in the mindset that I was going to lose and had just gotten lucky. It wasn’t until my last match that I had gotten nervous because now there was a real chance I could take first place.

There  are scours of books that deal with sports psychology that try to teach athletes to have this kind of relaxed mind, minus the thought of losing. They say this is one of the hardest things to train in any competitive arena. I got lucky to achieve  this state because of self doubt,which isn’t the best way to go about it, but it did pay off.

In the end it comes down to trying to take your mind out of the game long enough so it doesn’t get in your way of winning.

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