Synopsis: In Which The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer Utterly Fails And Has Some Reflections, Not All Of Which Revolve Around A Scorsese Flick.
I lost the first round this past tournament. Let me just say that right here up front. Refusing to make any excuses for myself, I have to confess to you, my audience, this past tournament I was beaten on points, and then submitted my very first match. Writing even this much about it is enough to make my stomach turn. Even the footage of my match is enough to make Angry Birds and Angry Words percolate in my guts, begging me to loose them on somebody.1
I’ve actually sat down to write this blog entry several times over this past week – forget about updating the Wednesday after the tournament – but every single time I would start to write about what I thought and felt after my loss, I would flip out, turn into a raging bull, and then go looking for someone to whom I could be justified in giving the ol’ Jake La Motta treatment. Well that’s not quite right, is it? No, I’m an aspiring writer. What I would really do is put my hands on this keyboard in front of me, then try my hardest to lay into this goddamn Short Story (I’ve been trying to write it for a few weeks now) like I had to break down the restroom door to get at it, only to listen to it tell me it slept “with everybody else on the street, too.”
“Jake, you’re my brother…but that’s really not the same thing at all.”
Don’t push it, Pesci. You were implicated in this matter.
Okay, that very strange joke (which came from nowhere, as they always do for me) aside, what happened? As I said before, I absolutely refuse to make excuses for myself. The reason is abject intellectual honesty. The reason I refuse is because excuses play a crucial role in why some people never get better. And I never want to be one of those guys, some years down the line, who stops improving – even some miniscule fraction of a percent – each day. The reason I refuse is because whatever I might volunteer, valid or not, is irrespective of the fact that, on some level, I should have had a better understanding of precisely what it was that I had gotten myself into.2
“Hopefully my record, since I began competing in the purple belt divisions, will remain unblemished…” now reads stupidly flat, and flatly stupid. Arg. My opponent almost swept me immediately. Then I stood up with a single, took him down, and passed. From side-mount, I tried to mount. He reversed, while I went for an armbar.
He escaped the armbar and immediately passed. Now on bottom in side-mount, I suddenly found myself exhausted. What the hell? He moves to mount and I can hardly muster enough energy to struggle at all.
The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer is lame. Seriously. He’s in mount, grabs my left wrist, and my will to fight utterly wilts. I’m under water now, yet distinctly hear one teammate yell “Come on Justin, you have to get out of that.”3 It infuriated me. “You escape then, if it’s so easy!” I wanted to yell back, but I could hardly breathe with him on top. If I could have stopped the match for five seconds, had a gun (I don’t), and knew how to use one (I don’t), I would have tried to shoot him.4
No no, I’m getting sidetracked. Like I said, right around 4:41, he grabbed my left wrist (you can’t see it because of the angle from which the video is shot), and my will to fight any longer completely wilted. I had nothing left. It was pathetic. My instructor is practically within arm’s reach, giving me encouragement and directions. And what was I able to muster? Not even the slightest iota of an escape. After crushing me for what felt like an eternity from beneath, he got a little overzealous and went for an armbar. I escaped but, after a few mini-battles in transition, caught me in a triangle and finished with a reverse armbar. It’s difficult to make out because the ref, Chris Westfall I should mention incidentally, is standing in front of the camera’s view. 5-11, then subbed. The end.
I wanted to lay down and die right there on the mats. But I didn’t. I got up, Westfall raised the other guy’s hand, and I walked away. Then I sat down and felt the stupendous misery of loss envelope me. That guy was going to go on in the tournament; and I was done. I didn’t even have the cardiovascular endurance for one single match. What the hell is wrong with me? And what the hell was I thinking registering for the absolute as well?
I could go on and on about the “ubiquitous shit-feeling of loss.” But I won’t, partially because I would hate to bore an audience who so unfailing indulges in my various writing whims. However, it is also because I discovered something worse! Then I ended up having conversations with people who knew I had competed, and were expecting typical results…..:
An acquaintance of mine, purple belt: Hey, you were competing today?
AMPB: I guess you just destroyed everybody as usual?
JJW: No, I lost.
AMPB: No…[palpable silence as he swallows gallon after gallon of incredulity]… Really?
God, or the conversations I had with my coworkers were among the worst:
Bouncer A: So I’m guessing you just won this past tournament no problem?
JJW: No, I lost. First round, actually.
BA: Did you lose on points or something?
JJW: No, I was winning at first. Then he began to dominate positionally, and then submitted me.
BA: Well…[same stupid silence]…that’s okay, brother. We were all starting to think you weren’t human, anyway.
Bouncer B: Hey man, how did you do at the tournament?
JJW: I lost.
BB: No…[the goddamn silence]…you’re shitting me, right?
JJW: I’m not, no. I lost.
BB: No…[again]…you didn’t!
[We literally go back and forth on this three more times.]
JJW: I SAID I LOST! I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP! THE GUY WAS BETTER THAN ME!
BB: Well shit man, what the hell happened?
So I had perhaps ten of these types of conversations, each more heartbreaking than the last. The faces. I’ll never forget the damn look on these peoples’ faces. It was like they had just watched someone stomp on a puppy with a jackboot. And listen, my audience, I had written something much more explicit but decided against loosing those verbal slings and arrows on The Internet, where human decency goes to die. It was bad, suffice it to say.
“It was bad, and I was sad.”
Those conversations made me realize that embarrassing myself is a relatively small price to pay. Hell, I probably do that all the time. Don’t get me wrong. Sitting on the sidelines, sweating, exhausted, knowing that the day was over after one single match was absolutely awful. Seeing the guy go on to his next match practically killed me. BUT (and I would put this in 72 pt. font, if I could) what was really, truly, honestly injurious about loss is disappointing your team, the people who expect more from you. The look on peoples’ faces I will never forget, as long as I live.
In the grand scheme of things, I am a nobody in jiu-jitsu. But there are people on my team who look up to me, who expect me to go out and prove that our team is worth its salt on the competition floor. And seeing the strange mix of incredulity, awkwardness, and honest-to-god sadness and “What do you mean Christmas isn’t coming this year?” disappointment in their eyes was something I don’t have the heart to describe here on the page. But I had to mention it, because it’s honest and also is what is on my mind.
I’m going to come back stronger, though. Well, I’m going to try. Thanks for reading.
5. Part of the reason this update was delayed is also because my video editing software completely crapped out on me. So I’ve been navigating the vast sea of free video editing software in search of a replacement. This is completely aside from The Raging Bull Factor.