I apologize to anyone who came around last Friday wondering where I'd disappeared to. I'm about to tell you.
Last weekend (Saturday, to be precise) I competed in my first real tournament. It was in Atlantic City, NJ. I was in a division with black belts from other schools, doing other styles. Unfamiliar with the chaos that is typical of tournaments I felt way out of my element. Not to mention scarred out of my mind...
I was having a panic attack as soon as we got there and the prospect of having to wait until that afternoon to compete was more than I could take so I volunteered to judge to try to keep my mind off of it. Judging can be anxiety provoking in it's own right when you have limited experience with it, but I think I did an ok job and I was really grateful to have the focus off myself. Until my friend came over to inform me that they'd just called my division.
It was in this case that the typical chaos of tournaments actually worked in my favor. After finishing weapons for my age bracket they should have moved onto forms (my division). But instead they moved up to the next age bracket and called them to do weapons... and then forms... and then sparring. I actually ended up with quite a lot of time to prepare.
I knew my form- memorization wasn't the issue. And practicing it a few more times wasn't going to make me balance any better on the unusually cushy mats or help me stick a particular move any better. But listening to my song- that helped.
What's my song, you wonder? Well, I'm not afraid to admit it because it inspires me. It's Katy Perry's Roar. If you're not familiar with it, it goes like this:
I played that and then repeated those lyrics over and over in my head. And then I went out there and did my form. I'm pretty sure it was the best rep I've ever done. I finished and I knew it was good and I felt this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Cause my anxiety didn't get the best of me. Cause all that practice paid off. Cause I actually got up there and did it. Because I roared.
I didn't expect anything else- that was enough for me. However good the other competitors were, whoever took home a trophy- none of it mattered. The only person I was really competing against was me. Or, more accurately, against that voice in my head that says I can't do it (whatever it may be). I beat that voice, and that was everything to me.
I didn't really watch the other competitors too closely, but the bulk of them looked pretty impressive. I didn't think I'd be doing anything other than bowing out at the end. So when they called my name I was genuinely surprised- I won third place.
I've never had an easy time of believing in myself and my list of awards is a short one. Plus this was my very first tournament outside of the comfort of my own gym- going up against really tough competitors from other schools in an environment that was crazy chaotic and intimidating. And that fact that I performed at the level that I did was a big, big deal for me.
Like I said, I really was excited for the right reasons- because I did well, for me. But I'm not gonna lie and say I don't care about being able to say that I took third place. That's something that's instantly recognizable as significant to anyone- even those who don't know about the internal battle I waged just to be able to get up there and do it. But now you all know what's behind that little trophy, and what it means for me to roar.
Happy Friday, all!