Pull yourself together! Just overcome your fear! It always sounds so corny or easy when people tell you that but it actually can be very difficult.
Last weekend I participated in my first BJJ tournament and I sucked, I lost my two matches and still got away with a bronze medal. But even though I lost, that bronze medal means so much to me – over 20 years ago when I competed in Judo I always dreaded competition day. When I stepped on the mat I was scared and I often blanked. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing so I often did nothing. You remember the colours we always talk about in krav maga? White being oblivious, all the way through yellow, orange and red and the colour we always try to avoid – black. This is where I was, code black, frozen, unable to do anything. I didn’t enjoy competition at all and tried to avoid it like Satan the holy water.
So why would I sign up for a BJJ competition to begin with? We were talking about cross training for Krav Maga and how competition can help you to get better. When rolling mostly with the same people you are getting used to their style and it limits you. When I signed up I was hoping others in my club would follow. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but it doesn’t really matter.
I was incredibly nervous and anxious, like for my orange belt test. It was my first competition in decades; I read the rules over and over again to make sure to understand them and not to do anything that could get me disqualified. When I stepped on the mat for my first match I tried to focus only on my opponent and also to be active. And I somehow managed to not go into black but was able to do something, I faked one way, used my opponent’s reaction to throw her and got her to the ground. I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to submit her and we went into overtime. Each of us had to take the back of the other and we had to try to escape out of the seatbelt grip with the hooks in as fast as possible. My opponent was a bit faster than me.
Editors note: Though we fully understand the ruleset of the competition she was in (a submission only tournament). Petra should be proud as in a points tournament petra would have dominated as control is an important aspect in these styles. We want to give props to her opponent who showed excellent defensive skills.
I was disappointed in myself. I usually tend to be very hard on myself and that’s not always easy to deal with because it is in my head, my inside voice(s). When somebody else is yelling at me or gives me a hard time I can go away, close the door or hang up the phone. That is impossible with my inside voice. After I also lost my second match I was sad, disappointed and then also relieved because it was over. And then I realized that I also had a bit of fun. I have to train more, put in the effort but it also means that next time I’ll be better prepared, I’ll know a bit more about BJJ competition, the rules etc. It won’t be completely new for me. If I had given in to my fear I would not have made that experience and learned something. Every failure is also a learning experience, unless you die, of course. After the matches were over I started to feel excited because I had stayed and seen it through and this is what that bronze medal stands for.
if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.
Fear can be good, it makes us more cautious. I’m an analytical person. When I’m in a difficult situation or have to make tough decisions I analyze everything and try to be as rational as possible. When I’m able to understand what makes me feel scared I can somehow handle it better. It doesn’t take the fear away but it helps not to drive me insane.
I also had a little bit of an epiphany when I was in my early twenties and working as a travel rep in Crete. I got into an argument with a co-worker who lost his cool during that argument and started threatening to kill me. He got fired right away and had to leave Crete. I went to the police but they couldn’t do much. It didn’t take long and that guy came back, he had gotten another job at a car rental place. He started stalking me and one night he slashed two of my tires. My car was parked right in front of my apartment. The knife marks on the tires weren’t pretty and it was a shock for me. At night I kept my windows closed, my door locked. I was incredibly scared! Also because he came back couple nights later to slash my other co-worker’s tires. It took me a long time to get over that fear but it taught me a valuable lesson – if you let fear run your life, you don’t have a life.