Archive for the ‘Competition’ Category

Off to the World’s I go!

Posted: August 20, 2019 by Jonathan Fader in Competition, Mental Health
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No, I am not talking about competitive Krav Maga. An idea by the way I generally do not support. I am however talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This year will be the first year I compete at the World Master IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. BJJ is being more and more incorporated into the Krav Maga/Kapap world as we recognized that we must improve ourselves in all aspects of hand to hand combat skills. Training in some grappling outside of Krav is a requirement to be ranked at the upper levels of the UTKM system. Yes, it is that important.

I have written before about why I compete. For me, it keeps me motivated to train. Also, I can learn what I need to work on and grow through competitions.

Leading up to the worlds I have done a few other IBJJF and other competitions. One thing I learned is that I have not been performing at the level I know I can while I am competing. When I freeroll with my training partners I perform much better than when I compete. Over the last few months, I have been trying out different things in hopes of figuring this out. I got in the best shape of my life and trained more than I normally do by far and yet something still wasn’t right. After much thinking, I realized the problem was not physical. While in the past it might have been, that is not the issue now. No, my problem, like many others, is much more complicated.

The problem, you see, has been my mental state all along.

Knowing-is-half.jpg.jpgThe good news is, now that I have identified the main problem I have something to work with. However, knowing is half the battle.

The issue seems to be that when I am rolling with people for fun I am just trying to do the best Jiujitsu I can. I take risks, play around and I have fun. I am free

In competitions, however, I am trying so hard not to screw up. I overthink it and I end up not doing what I know I can do. After losses and wins, I always reflect deeply about my performance. I started to realize that while I certainly lose sometimes to opponents who are clearly more skilled than me, a lot of my losses are because I screw up on something that I shouldn’t have. Only to be thinking, why on earth did I do that.

Then, I realized that for some messed up reason whenever I am clearly winning I managed to lose. I must at some level self-sabotage. This is quite a sobering realization. Not only that I am failing to turn on the warrior mind I know I have but it is also quite possible that I am purposely screwing it up.

The funny thing is I know (FACT) in life or death situations I do just fine because body and mind go into automatic mode and I do what I need to do. In competition, however, as I know it to be a relatively safe environment, I have yet to learn to turn that part of my brain on and not overthink both consciously and subconsciously and end up losing not just the match but to my own worst enemy, myself.

Some solutions to this problem are:

  1. Train more – This is the obvious answer which is true for any style. Train so much that you no longer need to think your body just does. While I will never not train, the level I can train is usually dependent on many factors. On a slow week, I’ll get in 3-4 hours of training. On a crazy week, I will get closer to 10 hours of just BJJ. People often ask me how do I stay motivated. The truth is, I still struggle. Sometimes I train a lot, sometimes I dont. And I don’t feel good or bad about it either way. This then, I suppose, is a work in progress.
  2. Change my mindset – When I compete I should fight to do the best I can rather than worry about points. I know, it’s cliche, but as always cliches are often right no matter how annoying or unoriginal they are. While points do matter, trying to just not lose is nowhere near the same as trying to do the best you can. This is possibly the reason that many competitions now take a submission only approach. Rather than just trying to get points they encourage you to try for the submission no matter the risk. I often enjoy these tournaments, because I tend to do better. Hmm, I wonder why.
  3. Try to turn on my animal instinct – This one is both tricky and not. I have always been a slow starter. This means if my body isn’t totally on I am going to think more rather than just act. The solution for me at least is to start warming up well in advance of my start time. This why I am not going in cold. While some people can simply jump in and compete and win (Marcelo Garcia is notorious for waking up from a nap and winning) I do not think I am one of them.

Though my revolution about my problematic mindset may have come a little to close to the World Master, I will be going in knowing what I need to work on most. I even have several days in Vegas before I compete to contemplate and work on this.

If you are reading this and also struggle at competitions, then perhaps you have not figured out what your individual issue is. Do you train enough? Are you in shape? or is there some other deeper issues you are having trouble with. No matter the reason, if you would like to improve your performance in competition, then it is never too late to figure it out. Especially in the master’s divisions.

So keep training, and for those of you in Vegas, I hope to see you there.

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Why I compete, even if I don’t win

Posted: February 22, 2018 by Jonathan Fader in Competition
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First off, before anyone freaks out, no I am not competing in Krav Maga. Nor do I support competitions in Krav Maga. The reason for this is history. With all martial art styles, the started for the purpose of self-defence once they start competitions they often quickly become a sport and lose much of the practical application.

As I advise all practising kravists what you need to do is cross train to further develop your skills. If you do, you may find one of the other styles that are more sports-oriented will offer you an outlet to get that competitive bug out of the way. I recommend, MMA, BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, boxing and kickboxing/Muay Thai.

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For me, BJJ is what I like and practice and compete in. So why do I compete considering the following:

  1. I am not nor have I ever been a naturally gifted athlete
  2. I am not by any stretch of the imagination the best in my division
  3. I am not a super competitive person who must win.

Yet, I still compete. I have many students, or have talked to many people who just don’t want to compete because they know they won’t win and to that, I say so what?

I see three general categories of competitors.

  1. Tha Natural Athlete – to these people, winning may be everything, It has either become normal to them because they are simply better physically and it has become their standard, and competition is their outlet to show off their talents
  2. The Committed martial artist – These people may not be the best physically but they still win. They are in the gym almost every day training and honing their skills. To them, it is a lifestyle and a way of being.
  3. The Casual Martial artist – Someone who trains on a casual basis but still compete because it seems like fun.

No matter what group you are in there is something they all have in common when it comes to competition. Win, lose or Draw every one comes out of competitions a little better. For no matter the outcome you will learn something.

Maybe despite winning, you almost lost and found a hole in your game or strategy. Maybe you lost not because of skill but because of your cardio. Maybe you lost because the skill in your division is simply higher than where you are at and you need to train more.

For me personally, I check all of these boxes. Due to a variety of reasons, I haven’t been able to train hard enough, for a long time my cardio was shit and there are definitely lots of holes in my game. The thing is even though at least for now I know I  probably won’t win, I will still compete.

I always come out of competitions learning something new. and I always work towards fixing it. So far every competition I have for the most part, even if I wasn’t happy with the results the reality was each time I was a little better.

Over the last several competitions I have been working my cardio and each time I am a little less tired. So despite not winning gold, I have improved my self.

Over the last several competitions I have been working on my game and each time I am a little closer to implementing it and I have improved myself.

Over the last several competitions I have identified what I am doing wrong both defensively and offensively and I have improved myself.

While I fully Accept that I was and always will be a better coach and instructor than competitor I still plan on competing.

For me, It’s not about the winning, although as I am only human, It would be nice, it’s about being better every day. While I fully Accept that I was and always will be a better coach and instructor than competitor I still plan on competing. On that note, a coach or instructor who encourages their students to compete but has never competed or doesn’t compete may just be a hypocrite. As coaches, we tell them winning doesn’t matter, but then some fear competing cause they know they won’t win. But if winning doesn’t matter then why do you tell your students that and why don’t you compete? Being a hypocrite is the worst and is something I hate passionately.

So I compete, win lose or draw, I always improve and perhaps one day I will start seeing gold, and if not, its no big deal. The goal is improvement and competitions are one of the best ways to push your own personal boundaries and comfort zones and grow a little bit every time. For if you won’t, or refuse to push your comfort zones, you will never grow and be better.

I can only ever encourage everyone to take the same path, but even if you don’t, I will keep training, keep competing and keep getting better.

So get out there, and do not fear to lose. Just compete and have fun.

Refereeing: A commentary

Posted: December 14, 2017 by Warren Chow in Competition
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In addition to training in Krav Maga, I am involved in the judo community. For instance, I am a referee for various judo tournaments that are held in the province each year, and I have refereed for matches ranging from white belts to black belts.  In my competition days as a teenager I always took the referee for granted and didn’t appreciate the value that they brought to the match, other than to award points based on actions that the competitors would successfully execute.  However, as I evolved from being a competitor to an adult recreational practitioner, I became interested in becoming a referee and giving back to the community.  I’m unsure about other martial arts, but being a judo referee is an unpaid, volunteer position and, in fact, often involves being hundreds of dollars out of pocket having to travel to the various tournament locations.  So, “giving back” means more than just donating your time.  However, I enjoy refereeing and consider the expenses a cost of having a hobby.  Whether it is judo, or any other sport that requires referees, the role is vital because it allows the athlete to compete to their utmost degree and being in a safe, controlled environment, while being monitored by an objective 3rd party.

When I first started refereeing I was very nervous. Although I was already familiar with the point system and the various calls that the referee would make during the match, and I had taken the two-day seminar that went into much more detail on the duties of the referee before, during, and after the match, I still wasn’t prepared for being out there on the mat trying my best to make the right calls at the right times.  In fact, the first tournament I refereed at was a simple, low stake, “inter-club tournament” for juniors, but I was very nervous and was stalling as long as I could until my daughter threatened to call me out and embarrass me in front of everyone unless I got my butt out there on the mat “right now!”.  I did not have fun that day, but I also knew that it was the first time I refereed matches in real-time, with real winners and losers, and that the experience would (or should) only get better from that day forward.

161203-14.jpgThe referee is responsible for much more than is evident. In judo, the referee ensures that the mat area is clean of debris before the match, the competitors have regulation gis that fit properly, and follow the proper protocols for bowing and being prepared to fight.  During the match the referee controls the flow of the engagement by awarding points or penalties appropriately and pausing the match at the necessary times.  After the fight is over, the proper winner must be announced, and the protocols followed for disengaging from the match.  The top three priorities for a referee are ensuring the match is conducted in a safe manner to prevent injuries, being objective and fair towards both competitors, and keeping the flow of the match moving along.  As with anything with rules, the application of the rules becomes more of an art than a science.

In the referee seminar, one of the points that the instructor stressed was that, in the end, the right person needs to be declared the winner. Anything else is a lower priority.  This may seem obvious, but as the competitors are fighting, time is ticking, and points or penalties are being awarded left and right, and it can be confusing for the scorekeepers to keep up.  Although it is rare, there has been more than one occasion in which a coach on the sidelines is yelling to have the score changed because there was some mix-up, and they are right to be upset.  In the junior matches the stakes are not very high since they are regarded as developmental tournaments and learning opportunities.  However, in the more senior matches it is vital that the correct scoring is applied as the outcome can directly impact and influence the athletes’ candidacy for moving on to higher level tournaments.  Or, in the case of the annual Canadian Judo Nationals, can determine who gets to stand on top of the podium and be declared “The Best in Canada”.  As the instructor constantly repeated, any call can be overruled and corrected before the fight is officially over and the winner is declared.  And with that in mind, it made my learning curve for refereeing much less stressful.

As I’m progressing through my refereeing career it’s becoming easier and easier. With each tournament I attend, I learn a bit more and since I’m less nervous, I can focus more on smoothing out my rough edges and improve on making better judgements.  In the beginning I was stressed because, as the referee, you’re out there on the mat along with both of the competitors, so it’s easy to be self-conscious.  However, as my daughter continued to remind me, “Nobody’s looking at you, they’re watching the athletes.  They don’t care about the ref!”.  The more experience you gain as a referee allows you to progress through the various levels, and you can then be a referee at tournaments in other provinces, or at the national level.  Of course, if one had started refereeing early enough, you can gain enough experience to referee at international competitions in other countries, up to and including the Olympics.  However, for myself I’m content with staying at the provincial level for now, but who knows what will happen in the future.

In most sports there are various roles available in which a person can participate, whether it’s as an athlete, a coach, or a referee. Of course, as one gets older it becomes more difficult to be a competitor so the natural progression from there is to be a coach or a referee, if the sport requires one.  As you progress through your sporting career I hope that you remain involved even after you can no longer compete, since the experience and knowledge that you’ve gained would be invaluable input for the next generation of athletes.  Let them learn from your experience and give back to the community that helped form you to be the person you are today.  Since I find it exciting to watch competitive judo, refereeing gives me the opportunity to stay involved in the matches at an intimate level.  Also, I get the best seat in the house!