Eleven years I have spent on the mat. I’m not sure there are any words that can describe my journey. Everyone who has stepped on the mat has their own stories...if it’s ok, I would like to share mine.
Jiu jitsu found me at the most critical time of my life. I had an executive job, which I loved dearly. What came with it was a huge responsibility to serve the people in the organization.
I was on a plane 2 weeks out of the month, eating and drinking every night on the road. At 42 years old, I weighed 169 lbs on a 5’5 frame. My father died at 64 years old due to heart disease, and my brother passed at 56 to a similar cause. No male in our family gene lived beyond his 70's. I was in denial, and my ego was driving the bus.
At my first intro class I could not finish the warm up, let alone “ shrimping.” Professor Flavio Almeida was my first instructor. He spoke English the best among the three Kekoa that just descended from Barra da Tijuca to spread the Gentle Art in California. Thank God they did! I am forever grateful for Master Carlos Jr🙌 and his three disciples.
My next real class was taught by Marcio Feitosa. I performed just as bad as the first class. Arrogant and being a surfer, I said to myself, "How hard could this be?" I remember at the end of the class, Marcio said something that has stuck with me until today- “If you stick with jiu jitsu, it will change your life forever!” I was still too conceited to surrender to the Gentle Art.
August 22, 2018 I stepped on the mat for the first time to compete in IBJJF Master World - Vegas after 11 years of training. I did a small internal tournament back when I was a white belt. I was horrifying. The moment the ref said “fight,” my entire body abandoned me. I do not remember any techniques or hearing anything from my coach who was screaming on the sideline. I lost by points, and from that moment on, I knew I was not a competitor. I am highly competitive, but I have no interest in competition. I guess you can say that I am more of a soul surfer than a competitor....same in jiu jjitsu. I train so I can eat anything I want. I train to have mental clarity. I train so I can live beyond my 70’s. I train so I can reach that state of enlightenment one day. I train so I can harness the ego. I train so I can continue to grow.
The reason I wanted to compete at this event was due to the stories I heard the previous year from men and women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They shared how they found jiu jitsu late in life, but regardless, it has changed them forever. Some lost their spouses. Some went through divorce after 30+ years of marriage. One lost their son who was battling cancer. The stories are endless, and they are all inspiring and heart felt. No matter what struggle they faced, in the end it was jiu jitsu that helped them through their grieving period. It gave them peace and joy.
5:09 pm was my time to fight. After waiting all day long, I wanted to get it over with. I had no idea who my opponent was, except his last name was An. I was completely calm and relaxed until the ref signaled us to get on the center stage. My feet were sweating so much, I slipped. Man, I was so embarrassed. Five minutes seemed like 90 seconds. An was strong and fast. I made a couple of mistakes, and he took my back. For the last two minutes, I had to fight my way back. Afterward, my heart was beating outside my body, and my forearms felt like Popeye; I thought they were going to burst. I have never felt such intense feelings. I was ALIVE!
What I have learned is this:
To even win one match at these events is a huge accomplishment (let alone to place in the top three).
Losing does not define me.
My 11 years of training is not defined by the last five minutes.
If anything, I have more respect for a Jiujitero that has desire to compete at this caliber, in this ARENA. The sacrifice, the discipline, the mental toughness that one must endure and possess is beyond my comprehension.
The funny thing about losses is that it’s painful, but it is also extremely motivating. Losing says a lot about our character. Just like life, we have victorious moments and we also have downfalls. None of it is permanent, and none of it is lethal. All the joy, pain and suffering from competitions are meant for us to learn more about ourselves. It's supposed to help us reach our best self.
I am unsure if I will try it again, but I have a feeling that I might. Don’t be surprised if you see me again. Next time, I will put more effort in my training and preparation. I am still working on the ego.
To all of you out there who compete, my hat is off to you, and you have my utterly deepest respect and admiration. Roll with aloha!
PS. OMauricio, there are no words that can describe my feelings for you. We cannot thank you enough for your help and your belief in our brand. You are one of the best assets for IBJJF. WITH ALL MY LOVE AND GRATITUDE
I’m leaving you with a quote from one of my mentors in life, Wooden:
“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.”