By Elias Cepeda
For me, it’s simple – there’s only so long I can watch something I find fascinating before needing to try it for myself. I saw the first UFC when I was ten and I began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when I was 15.
Growing up admiring the Gracie family and studying their history, I’d often wished that I didn’t have that five-year gap. More recently, however, I just wished I’d made better use of the time I had.
Less taking off for basketball seasons in high school and more drilling in class. Less time getting old in a chair at work and more reps in the ring.
Saulo Ribeiro, BJ Penn, and Gunnar Nelson all become elite black belt grapplers in just a few years. That isn’t me and no matter how much time I would have spent grappling I wouldn’t have been a BJ Penn.
But I could have been a lot better than I was at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, competed more and learned more about what I can and cannot do. That’s the thing with fighting – you find out what you know and who you are.
Technically, this is true. You may think you’re good in a position or with a move because you hit it on your friends in training, whose games you know and with whom you are comfortable. But wait until you are under duress against a decidedly non-friendly opponent in competition or a fight and see if you execute the same way you did in the gym.
If so, you trained well enough to say you really do know that position, that submission. But if you hesitate, if you freeze or if you’re sloppy because of the added adrenaline that hits you when you fight, then you weren’t exactly as good as you thought you were.
The fight brings that knowledge out about yourself and your technical abilities. It also brings out much more essential things about your being.
Who are you when you’re under attack? Who are you when you’re alone? Who are you when you’re afraid?
In 2010 I fought two amateur MMA fights. The first I took on three days’ notice and the second I had about six weeks to prepare for. I was tired of being an inconsistent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student who, furthermore, had never tested himself in the type of competition that interested me in the martial art to begin with.