On Competition

At the heart of BJJ is the desire to fulfill one fundamental, animalistic urge: the insatiable hunger for competition. Nothing ignites fire in the eyes of a BJJ student as much standing on the precipice of a tough match; that moment stoking the fire in their belly until it spills over into the tumultuous, roiling sea of gi, blood, and sweat as they leave everything on the mat.

But is competition always appropriate? Is it always necessary to reach deep within ourselves to extract our subconscious desire for battle and triumph every day in our sport? It turns out that yes, it is. Unfortunately many students of this great way of life are misdirecting this competitive urge, this natural desire to overcome all obstacles. "But that's the entire purpose of the BJJ journey!" you might say, if you had searched your soul even that far. This is true, but let us mark the distinction between internal competition and external.

How many legendary fights have we seen where two of the world's greatest have stared each other down with such intense fervor and apparent hatred you thought they'd both spontaneously combust? And at the end of the fight, running on fumes and decrepit both mentally and physically, they embrace like age old friends. This is competition at its most pure. When these two competitors were staring each other down, their eyes weren't burning with intense hatred at the other man. All they could see was a shadow of themselves; a composite of all their greatest fears, weaknesses, and base desires. When you compete, you don't destroy another person. You destroy your lesser self. Whether or not a conscious understanding of this principle exists in these heroes is beside the point; they are living examples of one of the greatest truths of sport.

So where did we go wrong in our desire for competition? When we started directing it externally. We went wrong when we separated ourselves from others in our sport based on arbitrary criteria such as where our competition came from our where they train. Sound familiar? Instead of using our inner base desires for competition to challenge ourselves and outgrow our own fears and insecurities, we lash outward at those we view as different than us. We've seen this in all areas of life, not just BJJ, and its effects are derogatory and damaging at best.

Imagine if we took our angst and drive to excel and directed it towards expanding the reach and scope of the sport. Imagine if, instead of entrenching ourselves in petty rivalries between schools that share the same goals, we reached out to the community and the to world, sharing the reality of our passion. If BJJ is truly a way of life, as all schools can agree, then shouldn't this way of life include understanding and harmony, and not pig-headedness and dissonance? Maybe a better way of life would involve a shift in our competitive drive: away from each other and towards a better future for our sport.

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