Cover Photo Credit: Dave Henthorn Photography
This past weekend I had the opportunity to compete at NAGA. I had been working for months in order to prepare myself for this competition, as it’s the largest that ever visits my little corner of America.
I began lifting weights to supplement my time on the mats. Realizing that wasn’t enough, I started training with a professional strength and conditioning coach four times a week to get my cardio up. During the three months leading up to this competition, I was literally in the gym 9-14 times per week (between weights, conditioning, BJJ, and wrestling). I talked with nutritionists to learn more about what to put into my body.
And of course, the bad news hit. I had a SLAP lesion in my right shoulder, and lifting weights had aggravated it. An MRI revealed that the cartilage in my shoulder was torn to shreds. I continued to train as though nothing had happened.
The Monday on week of the competition, I woke up to the most severe pain I had felt in my shoulder yet. As the week wore on, it continued to worsen. I called up a wrestling buddy of mine and asked him to help me out. We altered my takedown game plan just two days before tournament day. We worked it so that I could protect my shoulder, and still end up on top.
When the day arrived to fight, I showed up and tried my best to pretend that I wasn’t hurt. My matches were painful and difficult, but I survived. In the end, I took first in no gi and second in gi. Some of my friends wanted to tell me how badass this made me after the tournament had ended. But they were wrong.
I am no badass. Instead, I am a person who has a badass community around him. In Urijah Faber’s book Laws of the Ring, he explains how important it is to surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. He explains that your community is what makes you who you are. If you want success, surround yourself with people who also want success. If you’re surrounded by those with no ambitions, you will adopt a life of dull pursuits.
My performance at my competition was not a reflection of myself. It was a reflection of who I am surrounded by. My coaches and my teammates, current and former, have all had a major hand in developing who I am both on and off the mats. Not only can I point to my wrestler friend and credit him with the last minute adaptation, but I can point to numerous others who have given me specific skills, outlooks, and philosophies.
No one is a self-made man. That idea is a myth. Instead, we are built by the communities we immerse ourselves in. My community has given me more than I could have ever attained on my own. I credit my personal communities with my successes. They have built me and made me who I am.
If those you have surrounded yourself with are detrimental to your goals, get out. Create a new community. A community is built actively. If you are passively attempting to build one, it will never come. Take responsibility, and find those who can make your life better. Then, go out and return the favor. Give back what your community has given you.