Around the Edges
Over the past two months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about jiu jitsu, talking about jiu jitsu, and maybe even doing some actual jiu jitsu. From the outside it can look that things are happy but often times there is a lot of turmoil. As I’ve gotten more in touch with my feelings, I’ve started to notice the places were I feel unhappy, and instead of repressing them, to allow myself to feel while finding ways to make me feel better. This type of self-soothing and emotional regulation was something that I’ve never done before, and I’m finding it to be rather enjoyable in terms of learning it as a skill.
It strikes me that while I increasingly to find solutions to problems, there will always be a layer to jiu jitsu, and to life, that is around the edges. This place that I call “the edges” is the very thin, perhaps imperceptible, perhaps imagined, line between knowing and unknowing. I have found through many hours of reflection that my frustration often comes with trying to decide or place myself in one or the other realm. The truth is, both exist, often at the same time, and often in direct conflict with each other.
Take competition for example. I have concluded that my past self was never taught that competition was an essential part of the game. In Karate we never competed, and every time we would try out point-based sparring, I’d end up upset and crying because I didn’t like or understood how to handle losing. In regular rounds I felt more comfortable because while someone could gain the upper hand for a while, I could still tough it out and come back to it during the rest of the round.
The only reason why I wanted to compete was because the school gave priority to the club sports that competed — our Karate school wasn’t even considered a club sport in that regard — and then, at the top, were the athletes that competed against other schools on the regular. I used to hate the athletes, with their uniforms (which were washed and dried by work-study student staff); their charter buses (every Saturday morning there were at least two of them, unless it was a home game); their school-branded gear (purple was my favorite color, and I wanted a bag like them); their rehab facilities (humble by other school standards, but still off-limits to scrubs like me); and their seeming monopoly of the most spacious area of the dining hall (big teams needed big tables, but it was obvious no solo person would sit there).
What I’ve come to realize, as I’ve matured and have myself tried to define if I was an athlete, was that competition is more than just the external appearances of uniforms, buses, gear, ice packs and recovery drinks. I do not think my Karate experience was less challenging simply because I did not compete, but at the end of the day, I could always focus on myself, and not have to worry about the possibility of losing, since we didn’t compete against other teams.
I’ve come to learn that competition is about the internal experience of oneself, prompted by the exogenous force of an opponent doing everything in their power to stop you from your goal. In this sense, I came to realize that competing was about confronting myself and going deeper than one would go in a normal training day.
And yet, I don’t love to compete. I don’t think I will ever like the feeling of the nerves and the stress weeks or hours beforehand. It’s just not in my nature to do so…and yet, I still want to do my best. That is the greatest growth (I hope) that I’ve exhibited so far from all of this thinking and training. The idea that I can, and will, still strive for excellence even though there is no obvious competition to help me prove that I’m doing just fine.
I’m not sure if I’m fully okay with being the person who just trains, who helps others with competition goals fulfill their dreams, or if I rather push myself and go into the arena myself. I don’t know if it makes logical sense to withdraw from smaller tournaments but still go to the big ones.
I don’t know much of it, which is how I know I’m working “around the edges” of knowing and unknowing. Becoming more comfortable with my emotions. Being patient with what arises. Having faith that I don’t need to have it all figured out.