Should You Compete?

By: Emily Kwok

“Should I compete?”

I am asked this question a lot.

I often respond, I’m not sure if you should, but here’s why I do.

In the beginning it had more to do with curiosity than anything else. There were so few women in jiu jitsu that I just wanted to know how I would fare against someone built more like me.

Training for my first tournament gave me focus and discipline, but most of all, it taught me something about authenticity and truth. Making the decision to put a lot of hard work in and putting yourself under internal and external pressure forces you to confront yourself and everyone around you.

Winning and losing throughout most of my adult life has given me humility, pride and self control. They have helped me be comfortable in my own skin and appreciate who I am as a person.

Will I do what I say I’m going to do? Will I make excuses? Am I willing to expose my weaknesses to build up my skill set?

Competition always served as the biggest truth teller in my sport and in my life. I learned that I desperately wanted the respect of my peers and one of the best ways to gain it would be to face off alongside them. Some of my dearest friends have been those who either stood facing me on the mats, or who stood behind me as I went in and out of battle.

Fighting in a pressurized setting was like riding an escalator to improvement. It fast-tracked my growth as a student of the art because it very clearly showed me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. As much of a sting it is to lose, my failures taught me far greater lessons than what I have learned winning.

Competition is hard.

It feels hard. It is rough, searing and frantic. There is no softness or room for error. The sweep that your training partners let you hit in class because they’re being nice doesn’t work on an opponent who doesn’t want to be swept.

There is no hiding here. Everything is left exposed. And at its worst, competing can create debilitating self-doubt. It can make you question your legitimacy and purpose in the sport. It will make you feel like your worth is found in comparing yourself to others when in reality it is about self-reflection, empowerment and success.Emily Kwok smiles with her gold medal after competition

At its best, it gives you a platform to take yourself on with the support of your peers. Disguised in what appears to be the external pressures you feel are the people who love you and want to help you celebrate each challenge you take on. Fighting teaches you how to trust your gut, be bold, and push past your assumed capabilities. It helps you define and grasp how powerful you really are and that anything you want is within your reach.

Winning and losing throughout most of my adult life has given me humility, pride and self control. They have helped me be comfortable in my own skin and appreciate who I am as a person.

What we see on the mats isn’t always pretty and many people prefer to walk through life without ever having to do it. And what happens on the mats is far less important than how we process our experience. But if you can take on a growth mindset, competition will surely help you unlock and unleash your hidden potential.

Header Photo Credit – Mike Anderson Jiu Jitsu Photography

One Comment

  • Sandra

    Thank you for this post! It’s funny but I was going to write to you to suggest you explore this topic. And now here it is! Great minds,,,,

    I did my first competition last weekend and lost but it’s ok! I loved the competition prep ( challenging myself in class, incorporating more workout into my day , admitting my weaknesses and working on them, being strict with what I eat…). The first class I took after signing up for the tournament was marked with anxiety and self-doubt. I realized on that day one of the things I most needed to work on in order to have a chance at the competition. I still have yet to achieve that skill but I’m grateful signing up for the competition brought it to my awareness.

    Signing up also forced me to search for other women in the bjj community (who are not part of my academy ) to roll with. I felt I had to become comfortable with meeting and rolling with women who I don’t know! As a result, I’ve developed friendships and more opportunities to roll!

    There’s so much more I could share. So much more. And I haven’t even spoken about the match itself!!! I feel like a new part of my identity has emerged. And I’m proud of her.

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