"In Victory, Tighten Your Helmet Cords"

I had finally made it to the gym, after a packed holiday season day full of chores and errands. I felt like crap, hadn’t slept well, and had been busy all day– but I still went. And I’m glad I did. I always am. I sat through almost an hour of traffic to make the evening fundamentals course since I wasn’t able to get to the afternoon all levels class, and as a beginner I always appreciate the slower pace. We worked much the same techniques that that all-levels classes did, but with fewer variations. 

When it came time to roll, I was doing better than I figured I would. I went (sort of) even with a new blue belt, and got a tap from a triangle choke (my first) against a bigger, new guy with a wrestling background. For the final round, I was paired up with someone about my size, and I was doing well again– passing guards, getting mounts, etc. If it were a competition, I would have been way up on points. 

Then it all fell apart.

He was able to escape my side control, take my back, and tap me with a choke/jaw crank. There were ten seconds left on the clock for the roll.

To be clear, I’m not angry that I got tapped. My partner did a great job defending, reversing and persevering through bad positions and situations. I’m angry at myself for letting myself relax mentally and believing that because I had gotten mount, passed guard, had submission attempts, etc– that I had the roll on lockdown. I let my foot off the gas, for just a few seconds, and I paid the price.

The Japanese have a saying: 勝って兜の緒を締めよ (katte kabuto no o o shimeyo): “In Victory, Tighten Your Helmet Cords.” A day removed, I’m thankful for this lesson, because it was a good reminder that nothing is entitled to us that we don’t earn in Jiu-jitsu. This is a lesson I’d much rather learn in the gym than whenever it is I wind up competing. 

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