Let's set all team sports aside, and pay attention to individual competition
Let's set all team sports aside, and pay attention to individual competition. Sports like Boxing, Judo, or Jiu Jitsu all have something in common: a man stands alone, facing his opponent with no wing man, no saving throw, and no one to correct a mistake that could not only lose the match for him/her, but has a high potential to humiliate a competitor. In football if you fumble your teammate may recover the ball, in basketball a missed shot usually is silenced by an assist or rebound from another teammate, in hockey you may get in a fight, but it will, sooner or later, be broken up as the two dwindle to exhaustion. In Boxing an inaccurate dodge may result in the formation of birds around the unconscious boxer's head as he hits the canvas. In Judo a insufficient defense could result in an opponent flying the friendly skies with his body crashing to the mat for everyone to hear, especially if the thrower yells his "kiai"(spirit shout) loud enough calling even more attention to the unpleasant situation. In Jiu Jitsu if a body part is left undefended it may result in a broken foot and that will be rough on the trip home, especially the next day at work when everyone asks, "why you are limping and what's with the cast?"
Competing takes dedication, a sense of courage and confidence. A Jiu Jitsu fighter understands the risks because he sees them first hand during training. He also can make that distinction between a controlled situation in the academy and an atmosphere open to the public where mistakes will be recorded on film for everyone to enjoy in consuming laughter over what could be the other guys, "congratulations on humiliating that other Jiu Jitsu guy"party. These factors enter everyone's mind as they step up to the plate and test their skills one on one.
I think the most nervous time for the Jiu Jitsu fighter is when he leaves his crowd of fellow teammates and steps on the mat ready to face his competition. He is alone looking into the eyes of his opponent about to single handedly, with sword drawn, strike down the waiting dragon. The anticipation wears at him. The nervous tension sends adrenaline through his veins. Therefore many fighters need ways of dealing with such angst. Many have their earphones on, listening to music of many sorts, although I would find it hard to concentrate with, "Two trailer park girls go round the outside, round the outside, round the outside,"before a heavy competition. Some have fierce ways of dealing with such levels of excitement. In an attempt of intimidation one guy even banged his head against the wall, thinking his opponent was watching and almost knocked himself out in the process. True story!
I believe the easiest way to deal with the whole competition thing is to relax as if it just another day. I crack jokes in an attempt to make others, along with myself, laugh. I feel that if I am not enjoying myself then what's the point? But I must say that's me. I don't believe there is one universal answer when it comes to nullifying tournament stress and I respect others. Even head banger's intimidation strategy, well, at least its amusing.
The bottom line is that competition is extremely nerve racking and very intimidating to most. But with the guarantee that it gets easier with time, one can rest assure that the hard day and nights of training, the nagging of the girlfriend or boyfriend who becomes jealous of your training, and the arguably beautiful, swollen ears, were not endured in vain! As anyone of advanced levels will tell you, if it wasn't worth it, if the costs outweighed the rewards (concept of Social Exchange Theory of Sociology-mommy I am finally learning), if the pains outweighed the accomplishments, and if the ring worm outweighed the mat burns, wait those are both negative, then I would have quit a long time ago. And I agree, why the heck would I put myself through all of this if it wasn't beneficial to my life. And it has been, in extreme measures. Without Jiu Jitsu I would have never met the incredible friends that I share. And I would have never had access to my students, whom I'm incredibly proud of. The rewards are tremendous and I have finally come to terms with an appreciation that was long over due.
I think Theodore Roosevelt summed it up best when he said,
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, knows in worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
So for those that stand proud on the mat, for those that dedicate parts of their lives to train, for those that sweat blood and tears for their art, for those that share their art to others, and ESPECIALLY to those that walk onto the battlefield ready to give it all you have to your opponent, I hold you close in my spirit and shower you with honor!