Sure, medals are nice, but a focus on simply winning can sometimes end up hurting more than helping.
Black belt Mike Muscemi recently talks about this in an instagram post. It’s kind of a lengthy post, but here’s an edited version of it:
“Something I want to talk about is that I think people put too much emphasis on is winning worlds and a gold medal. This goal is a great as a motivation to work hard and to improve your jiu jitsu, but when it becomes everything to you, you lose a lot more than you gain from winning. When I won my first black belt worlds in 2017 I went into a depression….The next 2 years I would go on to win the black belt worlds again. But now my mindset is completely different. No, I am not competing for a medal, I am competing for myself. The medal is just recognition of the amount of hard work and effort I put into this. An object does not bring you happiness. Just like materialistic people, things don’t bring them happiness. Don’t look for happiness through things!”
Don’t get me wrong, winning a medal in a jiu jitsu tournament is great- it feels immensely gratifying to stand on a podium and be recognized for your hard work, for the time and effort you put into this moment. And that absolutely should be recognized and respected.
But sometimes an obsession with simply winning can lead to unhealthy behaviors on and off the mat. On the mat can lead to a weird mentality of not expanding and trying new things to develop and expand your skills, or during some tournaments it may lead to a lot of stalling and missing opportunities to do some really cool stuff, because at some point an obsession with winning also became a fear of losing- and that fear can really limit you as a jiu jitsu player. Jiu jitsu is about learning, growing, evolving as time goes on. It’s hard to do that if you are stubbornly refusing to allow yourself to be vulnerable and put yourself in places that may not be your “A” game.
Off the mat, there could be a wild imbalance to your life- shirking responsibilities, avoiding relationships that would require you to balance your time off the mat vs on- and while there are no immediate, drastically detrimental consequences (usually) from this behavior, at some point I would think you would look back with at least a small amount of regret at the missed opportunity to develop the other points of your life. Trips that you could have taken, friendships that you let slip away because you were so focused on just training and competing. After some time it all begins to add up.
But, back to the competition bit- also keep in mind that winning a medal more often than not really doesn’t change much. Unless you’re someone that’s depending on a sponsorship, there’s no guarantee that a medal will change much of anything. You won’t suddenly get a new belt, you’ll still have the same responsibilities that you had before the tournament- not too much changes, I’m afraid.
It’s one of the reasons why I don’t typically dwell too long on the performance at a tournament, win or lose. Granted if I win I am excited for that day, and if I lose I try to analyze what went wrong as an opportunity to do better, but I also view tournaments as simply snapshots in my jiu jitsu “adventure”- I appreciate the moment for what it is, and then start looking forward to the next one. I’m not sure if that would work for everyone, but hey, it helps me sleep at night and keeps me on the mat, ready and willing to learn and train more.
So, in short you should absolutely compete: even if you don’t think you’re a competitor you should at least try to step out on the mat and give it a shot at least once (or a few times) before deciding one way or another. But keep in mind there is more to just competing than winning a medal- it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying your best to use your game and skills against someone who is also trying to do the same.
That’s all for now- have a great day everyone!