This past Saturday, I went and competed in the Abu Dhabi Pro-Trials in San Antonio, Texas. How did it go? After all the long hours of exercise, the two-a-days, controlling my diet in such a way that I lost twenty pounds, dislocating two of my fingers and still training anyway, how did it go? Uhm, not as well as I hoped.
First, the long and short of it. I won my first match in dominant fashion. This qualified me for the absolute. I lost my second match in the last ~10 seconds. This disheartened me greatly. Then, I lost my first match in the absolute in abysmal fashion – something on the order of 19-4. How did that happen? I have no goddamn clue.
Second. I have all my matches on tape. As soon as I get my hands on the tape, I’m going to post them (of course).
Third. I left it all on the mats. I trained and trained and trained for this goddamn tournament, knowing that the competition was going to be among the best, the best not just in Texas but in the United States. And as much as loss fills me with self-loathing and a hissing, seething, near-psychopathic-fucking anger, I am hard-pressed to imagine – given both my own abilities and the resources available to me – a way in which I could have been more prepared. Of course, I could ALWAYS in principle be more prepared. But in practice, it’s not that simple. I trained HARD for this tournament. For my first two matches, I fought HARD. Despite all that, my second opponent found a way to beat me. Where the margin between victory and loss was measured in seconds and inches, he found a way to win where I could not. It’s that simple.
Perhaps for the first time in my jiu-jitsu career, the reason I lost was not explicitly due to some deficiency on my end. I did not ‘get tired.’ I did not ‘not know how to escape.’ He didn’t ‘catch me.’ He didn’t ‘muscle me around.’ Nor was I ‘screwed over by the refs.’ The guy just trained harder. The guy trained longer. In that sense, he wanted it more.
Given the facts as I understand them, I now believe this to be true. It’s an interesting proposition, really. The guy beat me at my best, or very nearly so. This loss has put me face-to-face with what could very well be my own limitations in the competition portion of our Gentle Art. Maybe this is as good as I’m going to get. While perilously close to Daniel Dennett’s definition of a ‘deepity,’ I was always deeply unsettled by the fact that 50% of competitors lose their first match.1
“Why him and not me?” I always incessantly wonder.2
In a way, I am reminded of the days when I was a physics major at university. Sitting in quantum mechanics, I used to honestly suspect whether or not I was capable of understanding what was being taught. Not because we as a species evolved on the African savannah and are not wired to understand quantum behavior because it would’ve had zero survival value for my ancestors.3 Although true, I did not mean it in that sense. What I mean is that those lessons genuinely felt beyond my capacity to understand, beyond my ability as a student. I remember sitting in class doing calculations for the orbitals of the hydrogen atom and thinking (a) the conflict between ‘common sense’ and the findings of quantum mechanics was deeply disturbing, and (b) the mathematical formalism feels genuinely beyond my capacity to understand.
By way of analogy, I feel like for the first time ever I might have brushed up against my limits in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This feeling I have marked as ‘tentatively true.’ I need more evidence to better decide. I’m going to the Pan Ams this year – that should provide me with all the evidence I need. I’ll have my matches up for you, my audience, as soon as possible. Thanks for reading.
1. “The term refers to a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has (at least) two meanings; one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false or meaningless and would be “earth-shattering” if true.” –http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Deepity
This is why my eyes want to roll into the back of my skull when I hear someone say “It is what it is.”
3. That much is obviously true; and no human really ‘understands’ quantum behavior intuitively.