This “10 year challenge” had me rubbing my hands at all the glorious memes online, laughing away as people took it both very seriously and very much tongue in cheek. I saw a post that a friend had made and I was in the photo as well, it made me realize that my first grappling event I had ever been in was actually 10 years ago! It also confirmed for me that I was old (and already had a receding hairline back then).
BJJ has come a long way in 10 years, both globally and locally. Now there are a tonne of people doing it and also a lot of the pioneers or people that tagged into it when it first started gaining traction are still there, a bit older, slower and maybe grey-er but they are still there, passing on knowledge and grinding out those mat hours to this day.
I started to look back at a few of the videos that I could find from 2008/2009. I had some from the original All Styles Grappling Competitions (ASGC events) in 2008, some from 2009 but I also saw a few on YouTube. There were the classic grappling match ups with judo players against the jiu jitsu players, the second event we saw a lot of the Olympic wrestlers come into the foray and really fire in some huge take downs and very impressive intensity.
These were the first competitions I had been involved in for grappling, and it really fueled my fire for watching, competing and just training.
The 10 year challenge I think is to really look back at photos, videos or any other media that you choose and just see who is still around from those days and really appreciating anybody who inspired us back in that time to make us who we are today. , All of the coaches I have had the pleasure of meeting and forging a friendship with are all still involved. There is Hayden Wilson, Geoff Aitken, Karl Webber, Dean Brewer, Heydan Bucknell, Roney Da Silva, Marcelo Lopes, Stuart Marks and Graeme Spinks to name only a few. We even had the pleasure of Johnny Gui at the original comps in Christchurch, dazzling us with his extremely fast submission wins by flying armbars! These coaches have all since brought up many people through the training ranks who have opened their own clubs but I would be here all day naming them!
Competition is an important part of jiu jitsu and grappling. This is the time when it is not frowned upon to “roll to win”. I was so pumped up for my first competition, I went hard training, I put in a lot of work on and off the mats so I would the best I could be at under 70kg and it paid off. I won all my fights and took home a gold medal for both gi and nogi. I felt pretty elated at the time. I went back to training and the people who I had competed with and against were all there, back on the mats working on the greater journey. Martial arts is a marathon, not a sprint race. We are all on the same journey but take different paths. These paths cross over at times and these are the times we share. I lost all my fights in my second tournament the following year but we all still went back to training together the next day, nobody is anybody from winning and none of us are nobody from losing.
In every tournament, half of the competitors will be eliminated after their first fight/match/draw or whatever you want to call it. It is just another day and a chance to test your training against others on that day. I beat people I have never beaten before that day and then the next year, I lost to people who I hadn’t yet lost to previously.
What matters is that you learn from mistakes or successes and we all make new friends out there on the mats. Medals fade and new champions get crowned every year but friendships last the test of time and the more we roll together, the stronger the bonds and the more stories we have to share when we next meet!
I have the upmost respect for all those people who compete and win, I also have the same respect for those who compete and do not win. It is hard to walk out on the mats against someone who has defeated you in training many times before, this is the mental battle that grappling teaches us. I wish I was the person out on the mats winning every competition, even the person at the gym who dominates every roll! The reality is that we all have different paths like I said before, I train as often as I can to learn as much as I can to then pass on the knowledge through teaching. I will not be a World Champion in any division but I want to say I was the best I could be and I helped connect many people to jiu jitsu to become the best they can be.
“If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” – Jim Rohn