I have decided I will compete. My instructor bullied me into it. Here was our conversation:

The "Do you wanna improve" comment was made while looking at the 4 stripes on my blue belt.

The “Do you wanna improve” comment was made while looking at the 4 stripes on my blue belt.

Jiu Jiu’s note: I showed Diego the picture to make sure he was okay with me posting it. He responded by saying: The point is not that competition just makes you improve; it’s that it makes you improve fast. It makes you have better technique, be more aggressive, and you make sure things are working better, and you are doing the technique right. People who compete improve faster than people who don’t. But it’s not a rule.

So I will be doing NAGA in Hampton, VA on July 1, 2017. I agreed to this on a Sunday. Monday night I sat down with my brown belt coach and had a heart to heart.

I’ve been doing jiu jitsu for 6.5 years. I resigned myself to be terrible, and I learned to be happy about jiu jitsu in most situations, regardless of how I was doing. This was an important coping mechanism for me because I started fat, unathletic, uncoordinated, and mid-30s. Literally stepping into the gym was a win for me. Actual improvement was mind-blowing for me because it was unexpected.

Signing up to compete, and actually TRYING to win opened up a door in my brain and heart that was hiding more insecurities than I was proud to admit.

When the door is closed, everything looks perfect.

When the door is closed, everything looks perfect.

There was some messy emotional stuff packed into my closet because I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. I now share it with you.


When I signed up, my thought was “I’m not good and all this is going to do is prove how shitty I am.” I felt like I was going to just confirm my worst suspicions. This is NOT an attitude I share with people. This is NOT an attitude I share with my coaches. It’s the small voice that I shove in the closet that this opened up.

Surprisingly, when I shared this fear with my brown belt coach, he complimented me, and not in a “naw, I’m trying to make you feel better” way. He shared some specific points that I couldn’t or didn’t want to see, or that I had dismissed.

Sharing this helped me realize concretely that I my FEELINGS are NOT the best judge of my abilities. They are subjective and emotional and I need to trust my coaches.


I came to make friends, to exercise, to not be a crazy cat-lady, to just move my body, to have a community, but my goals didn’t include winning. This meant that when I was rolling, I was in the “learning mindset.” I never pushed to win. That wasn’t me. Practically speaking, this meant that in a battle of wills, I lost. If you and I are scrambling, you’ll win.

As an analogy, if you taking away my better position is akin to stealing my money from my wallet, I had the wallet open and was handing you the money. You want full mount? Okay, here it is. Diego keeps saying to me: SAY NO. DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM. SAY NO. They want to pass your guard? NO! They want to get the mount? NO!

This realization helped me recognize that I need to push for what’s important to me.

I was like this except I came to chew bubblegum and make friends.

I was like this except I came to chew bubblegum and make friends.


I am an expert game player. I can engage in all the shit-talk you want. I love it. I absolutely can aggressively win and NOT feel like a shithead (well, against most people). In life, I know how to set boundaries without being a jerk. When it comes to jiu jitsu, however, I don’t know how to be aggressive without feeling like I’m being an asshole or being a bully.

This also is related to the “I’m her to chew gum and make friends” above, and PROBABLY also related to me being a nerd and not a very physical person when I was younger. Someone physically dominating you doesn’t feel like you’re losing a game, it feels more like you’re being bullied. It is something that feels very fundamental to who I am. It is HARD for me to be aggressive in jiu jitsu. I’m very much used to the lazy, coffee-shop style rolls. Being aggressive feels like I’m screaming at people with my body. I came to this realization a long time ago, but it was more intellectual, and now I’m actually trying to work on it.

I have started working on this by “warning” some partners ahead of time that I am training for a competition and will be trying to WIN. HOPEFULLY that feeling-bad will stop at some point. 🙁 Hmmm. Note to self: What if I instead just asked them to help me train for the competition by asking THEM to up the intensity.


This one made me feel saddest on the inside. Every tournament I’ve gone to, in no way did I actually believe I could win. I would hope for the best, or I would just do my best, but I never honestly expected to win. I didn’t realize that until this month when Diego said to me “You CAN win. You CAN win. Say it!” Have you ever been grateful that you were so sweaty that people couldn’t tell you were crying? Yeah. That was me. It’s even possible that I squeaked out “No I can’t.” That suuuuucks to admit. It sucks to be convinced you can’t when you’re surrounded by winners. 🙁

I need to convince myself that I can win. I need to do those daily thoughts and aspirations.

A big thanks to http://casadewhimsy.com for this!

A big thanks to http://casadewhimsy.com for this!




Jiu Jiu’s Question: What has been hiding in your emotional closet that you decided to address? How did you address them? What recommendation would you give to someone struggling with those same negative feelings?