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BJJ Competition – The Draw Of The Rush

My first experience with martial arts competition was in amateur Muay Thai Kickboxing.  The decision to fight was a spur of the moment decision, an impulsive decision made on the spot when my then trainer had someone pull out of a fight for the upcoming weekend and they needed a fill-in.  I had just finished a training session, the adrenalin and endorphins were running, I was feeling good, and surprising even to myself I said yes.  I had never started Muay Thai to compete, in fact I had said many times that I wasn’t interested in competing, I had rather started it to learn how to defend myself as I had been working as a security guard at the time whilst at university.  But when you’re on a training high, and your trainer is asking you to fight, that ‘yes’ response just seemed to slip out unguarded.  When I think about it know however, I had thought about competition prior to this, if only fleetingly, it had crossed my mind on occasion.  I had never been a fighter, I had not even had a school yard fight up to that point.  I didn’t like fighting, I thought it was stupid, and didn’t serve any positive endpoint.  But nevertheless, like all young men, I had a small burn in me to test myself, to see if I could do it, and even furthermore to face my fears and see if I could do it in front of a crowd.  From that first experience onward I was hooked….

For me, and I’m sure many other martial artists out there, there is no rush like martial arts competition.  And whilst many factors influence our decision to compete, that ‘rush’ of competition is an ever alluring factor, much like a drug in its own right.

As you grow older, your life becomes more orderly, many tend to start to take fewer and fewer physical risks.  For me at least as I grow older, there become less moments when I get that ‘adrenalin rush’.  When we are young there are so many new experiences, everything is a first time at that point, we are getting that excitement constantly.  When we are young we also tend to be far more adventurous with our physical pursuits.  We have nothing to lose, and it is all exploration.  Our concept of risk has not properly developed.  Things like, surfing big waves with your mates, bombing a huge hill on your skateboard, clearing a jump on your bike, all these things give you that ‘rush’.  But as we get older we tend to have experienced the majority of these things, or we tend to have done them so many times that they have fallen into the mundane.  Fewer and fewer things come to give you that rush that a new pursuit can.  We also tend to weigh up the pros and cons a lot more.  If I bomb this hill on my skateboard there is a good possibility I’ll fall off…if I fall off I’ll likely get injured…if I get injured I can’t work….if I can’t work….  You all know where this is going.  And this, I guess staleness of everyday life, has been a strong driving factor in my pursuit of martial arts competition over the past several years.  No matter how mundane everything else around you may become the rush of martial arts competition never seems to wane.  And for the most part it takes place in what I believe to be a safe environment, at least with Jiu-Jitsu competition anyhow.  No matter what martial art, when there is another person on the other side of the competition area who has the same intentions of winning, they have trained similarly hard, and they are looking to beat you in a physical man-against-man or woman-against-woman pursuit, that ‘rush’ is always there.  No matter how many times you compete it is always there.  It is that primal ‘fight-or-flight response’, our bodies way of getting us prepared for the ensuing fight.  Our heart rate and blood pressure increase, we sweat and become clammy, our breathing becomes more rapid, our senses heightened, that rush is taking over.

I have surfed for the past 15 years.  I had always told myself that the day I stop surfing is the day I get old.  Well I guess I’m getting old as I am surfing less and less.  Usually once a week on my longboard on the smaller days.  I just don’t get that rush from it anymore, for me it is more a relaxing pursuit now, a form of escapism.  The draw of the ‘rush’ has waned.  I still love surfing, but not for the same reasons.  And this has become the case with many former pursuits of mine.  But as aforementioned, regardless of the number of times I compete in Jiu-Jitsu competition that rush is ever present.  That break from the everyday, that excitement is ever present.

So if you are a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and you have fallen into the patterns of adult life and are finding it harder and harder to get that feeling of ‘being alive’, I strongly advise Jiu-Jitsu competition.  For the most part it is safe, you’ll wake up the next day and go to work, your life will resume as normal; but for those few hours on competition day your body and  mind will awaken, you will truly be in the moment, and that rush of one-on-one competition will take over.

In my opinion, if you practice Jiu-Jitsu you should try competition at least once.  Some people can’t handle that rush, they don’t like the associated anxiety, but for others it can become a strong draw, a constant pull to compete again-and-again.  It can become that big wave you surfed as kid, that jump you did in front of your mates on your bmx, or that hill you stacked it on on your skateboard…it can be that moment of feeling alive again.




Thanks for reading and happy rolling,


Ryann Creary

Co-owner at Flow Martial Arts

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