Competing In Jiu-JitsuWas My Life. Here’s Why I Stopped & Started Running Tournaments Instead
To answer this question, I would first have to tell you a story.
It begins with 16 year old me first stepping into a Jiu-Jitsu gym.
It was love at first sight.
I loved the technique, I loved how understanding was king. I loved how the success or failure of a given move was wrapped up in the finer details. Minute details. A grip adjusted here, an angle shifted there.
I loved everything about The Gentle Art.
Over the years since, I have fallen in and out of love with a great many things. MMA is one of them. I have also started writing, and find myself enjoying it immensely. And yes, I may even have fallen in love with a girl or two.
But let it be known that Jiu-Jitsu was my first love.
When I was 17, I competed for the first time. It was a little local tournament called “The Cup Of Friendship”.
I lost. Badly.
After that loss, I really became addicted to Jiu-Jitsu. And to competing.
For the better part of two years, I dedicated my time to taking part in as many tournaments as I could.
It got to the point where it became an obsession. I had to chase higher highs — after winning white belt tournaments I had to win at blue belt, after winning at blue belt I wanted to fight MMA.
This is a story for another article, but my self-worth quickly became tied to how well I performed on the mats — I was new to being an athlete and didn’t have the most healthy attitude towards competition.
It all came to a head when I got injured.
For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t even train.
I was bored out of my mind, so I did the next best thing. I volunteered to work as a referee and timekeeper at a great local event named SEA Grappling (now Grapple Asia).
And that’s when I began to realise that…
Jiu-Jitsu isn’t solely about winning gold medals or creating World Champion level athletes.
Being injured gave me a chance to take a mental step back and “remove the blinders.”
Instead of being hyper-focused and obsessed about winning (which is absolutely what an athlete, especially one involved in combat sports, should be thinking about) I was now an observer on the other side of the mats.
And what I saw was very special indeed.
On the surface, a grappling tournament seemed like just that: athletes from different gyms and affiliations competing against one another.
Nothing more, nothing less.
However, when I looked deeper, I began to see.
I saw how some competitors on the mats became friends off the mats.
I saw people from all walks of life, gathering to test their skills against one another. Gathering to support their teammates, and be supported in return.
I saw how these tournaments signalled the death knell of the dogma that was “creonte name-calling”.
People started to realise that people who trained at other gyms weren’t “The Enemy.” They were people just like them — even more so, as they have the same hobbies and aspirations.
Cross-training became more and more accepted, even encouraged, as it should be.
I saw first-time competitors falling in love with the art. Their confidence in themselves and their teammates tested and made stronger by the fires of competition.
Most of all, I saw that….
Jiu-Jitsu is a vehicle to empower one another
Jiu-Jitsu is so much more than chokes and joint locks, and getting better at fighting.
It is a powerful vehicle to touch people’s lives and transform them for the better.
Like Sam Sheridan so eloquently put in his bestselling book “A Fighter’s Heart” — “on the mats, everyone is equal, and Rio is a land of inequalities.”
Singapore isn’t Rio, but the same concept applies.
One thing has always fascinated me about Jiu-Jitsu: It is one of the rare sports where you can find a lawyer training in the same room with a teenage polytechnic student.
Regardless of rank or seniority, we slap hands and roll, trading chokes and sweeps, information and respect with equal measure.
I think that’s beautiful.
Long story short, I created Singapore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open to touch lives.
I saw how I had the opportunity to play a bigger part in the growth of martial arts in Singapore, bigger dare I say, than if I were to become Mundial Champion.
SGBJJO has always been about empowering the community. I would like to be able to give back to the sport which was integral in transforming an insecure 16-year old into the person that I am today.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think in the short 14-months since the company’s inception we have been able to do just that.
And that gives me tremendous joy.
Thanks for reading :)