IBJJF World Masters. Are you Ready?
For those competing in the Word Masters BJJ championships this coming week, the event itself will come as a welcome relief. Few understand the pressures that come with such a journey.
For some, the decision to compete came last year, minutes after stepping off the mats. For 3,000 competitors last year, their first match was their last, and they had the experience and journey to remember for the rest of their lives. For 3,000 others, then 1500, then 750 and then a handful of podium finishers, the days were longer, but for all, as they pushed through multiple matches, injury, fingers that won’t close to fists, that sense of commonality of purpose, physical challenge and teamwork made them want to do it all again.
For others, the decision was made around six months ago. The newly minted blue belts, past the struggle of white belt stripes and knowing the path to the worlds will harden them. For more senior belts, that ever-pressing test of grade, game, and courage, the chance to lay their map out against maps from all over the world.
The decision to compete at the BJJ World Masters is not one taken lightly. It is not well known that BJJ requires competitors to weigh in at the start of each match, with an extra 1.5kg or so of Gi being worn. The first decision, taken in March or April before the August event, is what weight division one will enter; a self-assessment of the ideal weight to strength ratio, and a realisation of the hard work required to cut down to get there.
For some, the weight cut required can be just a few pounds, but for many, the dedication to drop 15-20 pounds is not uncommon.
Training for the worlds has three aspects - increasing strength, decreasing weight and improving one's technical skills. For many, the event will be the culmination of their best shape, lowest weight and greatest strength of their post-35-year-old lives, and the most skilled they have been at that belt level. For those over 40, over 50 and over 60, the sacrifices made are immense.
These are not individual journeys. Partners, children, and friends take them with you. Time spent training is prioritisation of one goal over another, with real costs and sacrifices involved. Early mornings on the mats mean morning routines disrupted. Late nights the same. Preparing multiple meals for a family means double the work as calories are counted and macros met. For some, the training regime means injuries - intercostal ribs, knees, and muscle tears giving choices all along the way. “Can I compete with this injury?” “Can I train through this?”. Constant, nagging and penetrating tests of courage, common sense and discipline.
For those family members bidding their partner farewell as they leave for the event, the feeling can be bittersweet. Budget does not always allow any more than the competitors to attend, meaning family are often robbed of the chance to see the benefits of the sacrifice, not in winning or losing but in the pride as they walk into the mats, and to look into their eyes as they break down the match into time intervals too small for most to understand. Shifts in weight, subtle counters and advances that block a chain of strategy and cause people to almost smile and nod while the match is being fought. Those family members may not be there in support, but they have given their partners the gift of a lifetime through the support to get them there. There are few emotional islands in sport.
This year will be bigger than ever, as 8,000 masters competitors, male and female, from all over the world, converge on the Las Vegas Convention Center this coming Wednesday. All have come to win. All will weigh themselves daily. They will congregate in teams, sharing ambitions and commitment, preparing both mentally and physically for that moment when they are called to the mats, and the last six months comes to its crescendo. At that moment, even with the voices of coaches and friends behind them, they are alone. And in that solitary moment on the mats, they will have beaten every version of themselves that could have given up on the road to Las Vegas. Every version of themselves that wanted to stay in bed, eat more than they should, and allow themselves to be less than they could be. At that moment, the tap, the points, and the win will be the only thing that matters.
8,000 athletes will enter the competition next week. Four days later, some will have medals, and some will have had the experience of their lifetime. Make no mistake, however - there won’t be a single person amongst them who have not already proved themselves simply by getting there.
For us here at Old Man Strength, we will again be there, watching and supporting the OMS community and this event like we do every year. Each year we listen to what our community asks for and we make sure we change our approach to serve our community better. Ranked shirts, more Worlds shirts, and banners. We look forward to seeing everyone again this year and we wish everyone competing and the families that supported them to get to the event the greatest of luck for an amazing and fulfilling event. Stay old man strong.