On a cold, Friday afternoon, I left my home to fight the strongest martial artists in the world inside a giant pyramid. This challenge is called the SJJIF Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World competition, and it is a competition where the strongest fighters come from around the world to fight and defeat opponents on the mat.
I had been training for this competition for almost a year. I spent every free moment of the week I had training my Jiu Jitsu. I had faced people three times my size and I had taken them down. I had tapped countless opponents while sparring on the mat. I practiced my take downs every chance I got because an opponent hitting the mat by my own hand is one of the greatest feelings I have ever felt.
A week before the competition, I was ready. I had lost five pounds in a few weeks from the amount I pushed myself on the mats. I was ready for war.
One morning a week before the Worlds, I woke up sick. I get sick about once a year, but this time I had an ear infection to boot. Knowing I had a week left, I scheduled a doctor's appointment the next day. They prescribed me antibiotics, and they told me I was good to fight. After I took a weekend to recover, I went back to the gym.
At the gym, I felt awful. When I could train for hours a week before, I got tired after twenty minutes of training. I did not have the strength of the week before, and I did not have the endurance. I was getting man handled, and after I got beat, I felt like throwing up from exhaustion.
After three days of mat time, my girlfriend and I left to the World competition in Long Beach. On Saturday, I signed up and watched the other competitors. Their matches were brutal. I was in the presence of world champions. I watched their matches for hours. I could not stop moving around in my seat while knowing it would be me on center stage.
My first match was a drag-out. My opponent was strong, but like myself, he was only a white belt. I had strength enough to keep him where I wanted him and not let him attempt arm lock submissions on me. For five minutes, he and I used all of our strength to try and overpower one another. When the timer was up, we went into overtime.
In overtime, it was sudden death. The first competitor to score a point wins. I was confident in my take down practice, so I shot for his legs. As I grabbed his legs, he grabbed my back, and we both went to the ground with me on top. As soon as we hit the ground, the match was over. Seconds later, the referee raised my hand for victory by take-down.
My second match started ten minutes after my first. I was in a stacked division, and unluckily, I went up against an opponent who had not had a first match. He was fresh, and when we got into the ring, I instantly understood that his strength surpassed mine. Our standing fight lasted seconds before he flung me to the mat. When I was on the ground, it was easy to take position over me. I was exhausted and disappointed in myself. As I struggled, he racked up more and more points on me. I struggled to not be chocked and to scramble to my feet, but my opponent was as skilled as he was strong. I lost by many points.
After shaking hands with him and staying for my teammates who had won their matches, my girlfriend and I went back to our room exhausted. My second competition was the next day, and I needed to make up for my first.
The next morning, my girlfriend and I enjoyed ourselves. My match was not until the afternoon, so we made sure to treat some of our time in Long Beach as a vacation. We got breakfast, walked along the beach, and visited the nice neighborhoods around the city. This time exploring Long Beach made me feel better, and when it was time to leave, I was ready for battle.
I was quickly at The Pyramid and ready for my match. This time I was not wearing my four pound Gi, but instead, I wore a light rash guard and shorts. I warmed up under the bleachers, and I soon I stood across from my opponent on the mat.
He and I fought hard. He was bigger than me, and again, I did not feel the strength that I had when I trained at home. In this match, I shot for take downs and submissions, but I could not catch my opponent. He beat me by points after getting me to the ground and gaining position. After our five minutes was over, I got up, shook his hand, and shortly after that my girlfriend and I headed home.
I thought I was going to medal headed to the SJJIF Worlds. I thought I was doing everything right. I spent long nights after school and work in the gym trying to be my best. What happened at the Worlds was something I was not prepared for. I got sick. I could have been more prepared with training. Some days, I skipped Jiu Jitsu classes to catch up on my coursework. Sometimes I wanted a day off from training to have dinner with my family. At the Worlds, I lost my matches.
However defeated I felt, I have never once felt sad. My competitors were strong, and those I lost to went on to medal as world champions. I also got to compete alongside my amazing teammates. Many of my teammates went undefeated in their brackets and became world champions.
These are the people that I get to train with at the gym and become stronger together with. What I learned at the Worlds Jiu Jitsu championship is that I was not there to earn a medal. It was not my time, and I could not have been ready that weekend in November. However, I learned more than I ever could if I stayed home that weekend. I went out on those mats and I fought my hardest.
And even though I lost, tournaments like the Worlds will be back, and I will be there trained, mean, and ready to compete.