Jiu Jitsu Adventures at Bull and Tiger Grappling: Evolving Beyond My Comfort Zone

On Wednesday night , I did something out-of-character and registered at the last-minute for a BJJ competition that I literally found out about mid-roll that day. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to pre-comp and pre-fight preparation and routine. Although there are many people who take a relatively casual attitude towards BJJ competition preparation, I usually treat mine like a fight-camp and make it the sole focus of my training.

At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore
At Bull and Tiger Grappling Comp, Singapore

But ever since I first put on a gi in 2011 and started thinking about MMA, I have wanted to fight in Singapore. A last-minute BJJ comp is hardly a fight, but it seemed serendipitous – as if the Universe was posing me a question that I needed to answer.

So I registered for it, after having flown out here to Singapore and had one gi session at Evolve MMA. The last few months have been riddled with injuries for me, and my training has been focused much more on MMA than on gi jiu jitsu, but I had been missing competition and all that comes with it so was happy to have the opportunity to test myself again before the end of the year.

The team of competitors from Evolve MMA took good care of me – I’ve always loved that combat sports allow you to form good connections with people quite quickly. The event organisers and officials also seemed quite happy that someone had come from as far away as Australia to compete. It was strange for me being there without my usual team and coaches (although they did stand by on Skype to debrief and advise between matches), but it was a very good thing for me to be out of my comfort zone. Confidence has many different sources, and a major source of confidence for me is the quality and type of coaching I receive. So it was highly beneficial for me to get the opportunity to perform in a situation where I had to rely on myself alone, and to strengthen my own skills and strategy as a source of confidence.

I got five matches – all spread out across the day, as they inevitably are in competition – all against the same two women. In my worst match I got submitted in the gi in the first minute, and in my best I lost by an advantage to the same woman in the no-gi. I had nothing tangible to lose in this competition, although it was admittedly frustrating to lose five matches in a row. As usual, I performed markedly better without the gi, which is a direct reflection of where I invest my effort and focus in training. Training for MMA means that I will always be spending more time with no-gi and wrestling, and unfortunately it does mean that my performance in the gi is very compromised.

My opponents receiving their purple belts from their coach after our last matches!
My opponents receiving their purple belts from their coach after our last matches!

I learned a lot about jiu jitsu and about myself: I got good advice from friendly practitioners at the competition; was reminded of how good combat sports and especially jiu jitsu can be at mobilising people to help one another; I had my weaknesses highlighted; I learned more about the factors that affect my performance; I experienced the importance of being willing to take risks and expand one’s comfort zone.

I feel that a strange cameraderie develops between opponents in small divisions where you compete against one another multiple times during the day.
I feel that a strange cameraderie develops between opponents in small divisions where you compete against one another multiple times during the day.

Most importantly, I answered the question that the Universe posed me with a resounding YES. Whether I was found wanting or not was beyond my control, but I took advantage of what was a meaningful opportunity for my personal growth.

Right now I’m managing the inevitable adrenaline-crash which I always experience after fights and especially after competitions, which involve keeping one’s adrenaline “up” at a certain level over the course of a whole day.

I’m going to do some form of recovery, have a re-feed, and look forward to being back in the gym working on my game tomorrow!

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