Training Through Adversity-Part 3

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By: Eugene Tsozik PT, DPT

After my last tournament, three matches, three losses, and to top it all off in front of my teammates, at my own gym, I left to go home with my head down. I wanted to forget about the tournament, the matches, the disappointment, but I couldn’t.

I didn’t even want to wear anything with jiu-jitsu on it. No team shirts, shorts, just plain clothes. Silly to think but my rationale was to distance myself from the disappointment that I went through. What followed was that I was unable to sleep, I kept replaying the matches in my head, and an anger and frustration started to build.

I would clench my fists, start breathing heavy, respond to people with short answers. I wanted to be left alone. I just wanted to erase what had happened. I knew that there were two options. Keep training, deal with the sour taste in my mouth, and hope that these feelings would pass. Option two was to get back out there. I have never competed in back to back weekends in two different tournaments. I had a fire inside of me that I could not extinguish. I had to compete. So I signed up for a tournament in Indianapolis.

I had to do it alone. No excuses, no giving myself a reason out. I had to at least go out there, perform, not break mentally, and just play my game. Give it my all and win or lose, and I would be satisfied with the outcome.

My mindset going into jiu-jitsu class the week before my tournament was more serious, more focused, more deliberate. I wanted to drill my moves, my positions, and most of all, continue to fight until the end and not give in. I was more aggressive, more focused, and overall more effective in my techniques and got the sense of preparation. I had nerves, adrenaline spikes, even felt my emotions fluctuate throughout the training sessions.

I knew this was my opportunity to make things right. Even if there would be no one from my gym to witness it, I had to do it for myself. I made the trek to Indianapolis. Kept myself relaxed, played out the matches in my head, all of them ending with my hand raised.

I kept my routine…breathing, dynamic warm ups, light drilling. Keeping myself away from the intensity and high energy of the gymnasium as I knew my adrenaline would spike everytime I was in that environment. So I went and slept in my car. Warmed up outside in the parking lot, and keep myself at ease. I would only go to the gym to check on my status of when I was up to compete.

The first match came on quickly, but I was ready to go. I wanted the win badly and I was determined to get it. I pulled guard and got a sweep off of a choke attempt which landed me in top guard position. The match was a bit of a stalemate and I ended up winning on points.

I did not get much rest as the second match approached. I fought hard worked for position, and played my game. I held position and worked my sweeps but eventually gave up mount and lost by armbar in the closing seconds. I was proud of this performance. I did not give up. I played my game. I stayed relaxed and did my best which is all I had asked for.

I got called to one more mat as I had 1 match remaining in a different division. My opponent had seen my nearly 14 minutes of battle and I’m sure had a sense that I was fatigued. I was the opposite. I was energized, relaxed, felt in the groove. He pulled guard immediately and I was able to get into top half. Heavy pressure helped with making him uncomfortable and he was able to close full guard. After I fought off a few attacks we transitioned and his ankle came into my reach. Instinctively I grabbed it, went for the toe hold, and I felt the tap. I had won!

The feeling of having my hand raised on that day was so important on many levels. Winning means a lot but is not everything. More important was my mental resolve, my ability to fight, and my mental toughness. I gave it my all, I fought myself and my own demons, and I felt that even though I did not win every match, I won the mental game. I was more confident, had a smile that I couldn’t wipe off, and I felt that I completed my tasks. I faced my doubts and fears and feel that I conquered what I set out to do. The feeling of accomplishment makes it easier to show up to the gym and train as well as be around your coaches and training partners.

Jiu-jitsu has an amazing amount of highs and lows. But its a process. Its a journey just like life. Without the lows there wouldn’t be the highs and I thank my coaches, teammates, and family for my success. It felt good to get back out there. It felt good to prove something to myself. It felt good to train through adversity and come out on top.