When I was promoted to black belt, I felt like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. My professor, Megaton Dias, has a reputation for being stringent with his promoting criteria, and only turning out high level guys. I had deep doubts about being worthy. I decided I need to push myself and establish that I deserved the black belt, and so I decided to compete at the next world championships.
Now, you need to understand something. At the IBJJF World Championships, there is only one age division – everyone. So basically, it is the province of the young, elite athletes. I would be 45 at the time of the event (I would turn 46 the next month). What I did not quite realize was that not only were the other competitors much younger, they were also essentially all professional fighters. They either made their living by competing, or they ran their own gyms as a full time occupation. That thought never occurred to me and I was somewhat caught off guard when I saw the names of the other competitors (Super-heavyweight division – 222lbs limit). Not only was I the oldest one (the nearest one in age to me was 12 years younger and the guy I fought in the first round was 19 years younger), I was also the only amateur! I knew it was going to be a long day.
It wasn’t. It actually was really short. I got caught in a flying armbar and tapped in eleven seconds. Yes, I wrote that correctly – eleven seconds. Want to see for yourself? Get a copy of the DVD set form the 2010 Mundials. I am on the section covering the tournament’s best submissions……….
I was humiliated. My daughter still talks about not being able to approach me after the fight because I was so pissed at myself. The next day, my coach took me aside privately and talked to me. He talked me off the ledge and pointed out the uphill battle I had. He told me he was proud I stepped up. After that, I was able to function in society again.
So what is the point of this article? Something he said during our chat really resonated with me. He said “Cecil, you were the 18th best Super-heavy weight black belt in the world for 2010 because NO ONE else had the guts to get on the mat”. That was it exactly. It was not about the win or loss; it was that I went through the fire of the battle, and all the training that preceded it. At that point, I was demonstrably better than any other black belt in my weight class because they were not willing to put it to the test. I was, and I can hold my head up. Even though I lost so badly, it was still more than the person sitting on their couch watching the broadcast on the internet could say.
I bring this up because I have been seeing talk going around recently about people being afraid to do certain events/courses because they were afraid of how they would do. Whether they are unsure about entering a shooting match because they see better shooters entered, or not doing a training course like Craig Douglas’ ECQC (www.shivworks.com) because they think they will “fail”, or not doing a combat sport competition because they are afraid of losing in front of their teammates, it is all irrelevant! What matters is what lessons you take away from the event. Regardless of win or loss, what did YOU learn, and how will it help you be better? If you can answer that in the affirmative, then you win! Because you will get better. And that is all these things are about. Making you a better, more capable and more dangerous person.
So Damn The Torpedoes and get out there and lay it on the line. Ignore what the person who does not lay it on the line says, and be better.