I had the fortune to attend a Jiu-Jitsu tournament the other day which spanned a wide age group, from young children to adults. Having been a competitive athlete for at least half of my Life, I was taken by the alarming amount of tears I was seeing! Certainly Jiu-Jitsu is a rough and tumble sport – we aim for submissions, which involve putting our opponents in less-than-comfortable positions. The goal isn’t to break arms, but you walk such a line by default much of the time.
I didn’t feel like the majority of the tears were from pain (THANKFULLY!) With the little kids I was worried about that – I know my Italian mother would never have permitted Martial Arts competition for me early on, lest she hop on the mat and defend her child! (It’s one of those “she doesn’t know Jiu-Jitsu, but she doesn’t need it” kind of things…) 😉
There were some “I’m-ehausted-is-this-over-yet” tears… There were overwhelmed tears from children trying to hear the impassioned shouts and directions from the sidelines while grappling. But it felt to me that much of the emotion centered around NOT winning. It wasn’t even losing so much as NOT winning.
There is always a level of disappointment when we don’t come out on top. We train hard and we hope we have the edge…but there is always someone out there to give us a challenge. I feel like the longer fights were at least more satisfying, where a competitor can internalize how long they lasted. But the tears came all the same.
What impressed me the most was that amidst an emotionally-charged atmosphere, the kids would respectfully shake hands, trade fist bumps, or hug.
Seeing young children respect one another and offer support despite the personal disappointments rocked. It wasn’t about just doing the right thing – neither was it feigned nor forced. I saw some go up to the other afterwards and congratulate them. They’d fight back those tears and smile and acknowledge the second place. I was so impressed (and hoped all the adults took notice, as it reminds us how we need to be!)
Sportsmanship is something that should be instilled early – we aren’t always going to win. We take it hard because we want to do the best every singe time, we want to dominate, we want to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we are unbeatable…but it won’t happen that way. Respecting our opponents, appreciating the experience, and taking away the positives and learning is HUGE – when we learn those things at a young age, they stay with us.
The other side of the coin was that the winners weren’t making a fuss at ALL – each one was humble and reserved. There may have been smiles, but what I saw more of was making sure the other competitor was acknowledged and that there was no display of victory – equally as impressive in my mind. ❤
I like to remind competitors that they are THERE – they are putting themselves out there for the challenge, and working hard. That alone deserves respect and I, for one, think everyone out there should feel proud whether they are wearing a gold, a silver, or nothing at all – it’s winning or learning and BOTH are positive.