Roman Soboliev reflects on his experiences:
I’d like to start this note with three random facts about me: I believe that AC/DC is the greatest rock band of all time. I’m brown belt with four stripes in dad jokes. I don’t enjoy competing all that much.
After reading the above logical question is: “Why only brown belt?” Well, it’s complicated. I’ve been in US for almost 9 years and still catching up on pop culture and humor. The next question you might have is: “If you don’t enjoy competing, how come you did three tournaments in past half a year?”.
This is great question. And pretty loaded too. I’ll try to answer it to the best of my abilities handicapped by poor grammar and Word’s autocorrect, so bear with me. On an unrelated subject I recently found out that “bare with me” is actually an invitation to undress. That explained certain things…
Anyway, back to competition stuff. Before my very first tournament I was told I “need to go out there and have fun”. Well, the whole fun part didn’t happen since I was absolutely terrified. For crying out loud, I’m about to get in front of a dude whose sole purpose for next 5 minutes would be to take my head out. What’s fun about that?
After years of training I was able to build up sufficient level of confidence and trust in my technique to realize not only I can survive out there, but also be a threat. However time spent in a bullpen right before match still sucks. And in poorly organized tournaments you can be stuck there for an hour. The whole event can be lost while waiting for your name to be called even before the first match starts. So again, if these “pre-flight” minutes are so dreadful – why do it at all?
On philosophical level I believe testing technique in “battle” is necessary if practicing martial arts. That’s the only objective way to know if what you do works. And competition provides setting that is as close to real fight as it gets, yet still safe.
On personal level… That’s where it gets a bit dicey. To put it simply I was bullied as kid. To the point I didn’t want to go to school or run choirs for parents in fear to run into certain kids. It’s important for me to know I can confront my fears. To see things through regardless how uncomfortable they make me. To be in control.
Also there is sense of camaraderie you build with teammates. You live through their fights, you cheer till your voice is hoarse and then some. Honestly, I’m much more nervous when my teammates are competing then when I’m on the mat myself. And when I am – it’s remarkable to hear familiar voices, even if words are muffled by the crowd. I can’t describe how awesome it is to catch wild eyed faces of your teammates when stealing a glance at score board. They are there regardless if they just won or lost. Or if they are about to go and probably should be warming up now. Or if they don’t compete themselves, but took time out of their weekend to come and support people they train with.
And then there is sense of deep relaxation after all said and done. Minutes of complete stillness during which months of preparation leading to the event, aggression during the match, joy of victory or sadness of defeat seem surreal and distant.
On my way home I start thinking what I’m going to work on come Monday. What areas of my game exposed by competition I need to improve. I usually have faint smile on my face thinking about next steps in my jiu jitsu journey, as I do right now. All those months of hard training and diet leading to competition, minutes from hell in bullpen – can’t wait to do it all over again.
I’d like to close by saying thank you to each and every one of you. Coaches, Mike and Nate, for providing not only place to train, but build long lasting relationships and sharing the knowledge it took many years to collect and perfect. Training partners because there is no growing without your help. Either it’s practicing techniques, support during competitions or tolerating my sense of humor.