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Competing In Jiu-Jitsu Was My Life. Here’s Why I Stopped & Started Running Tournaments Instead

Singapore BJJ Open featuring Fakkah Fuzz

To answer this question, I would first have to tell you a story.

It begins with 16 year old me first stepping into a Jiu-Jitsu gym. It was love at first sight.

I loved the technique, I loved how understanding was king. I loved how the success or failure of a given move was wrapped up in the finer details. Minute details. A grip adjusted here, an angle shifted there.

I loved everything about The Gentle Art.

Over the years since, I have fallen in and out of love with a great many things. MMA is one of them. I have also started writing, and find myself enjoying it immensely. And yes, I may even have fallen in love with a girl or two.

But let it be known that Jiu-Jitsu was my first love.

When I was 17, I competed for the first time. It was a little local tournament called “The Cup Of Friendship”.

I lost. Badly.

After that loss, I really became addicted to Jiu-Jitsu. And to competing.

For the better part of two years, I dedicated my time to taking part in as many tournaments as I could.

It got to the point where it became an obsession. I had to chase higher highs — after winning white belt tournaments I had to win at blue belt, after winning at blue belt I wanted to fight MMA.

This is a story for another article, but my self-worth quickly became tied to how well I performed on the mats — I was new to being an athlete and didn’t have the most healthy attitude towards competition.

It all came to a head when I got injured. 

For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t even train. I was bored out of my mind, so I did the next best thing. I volunteered to work as a referee and timekeeper at a great local event named SEA Grappling (now Grapple Asia). And that’s when I began to realise that…

Jiu-Jitsu isn’t solely about winning gold medals or creating World Champion level athletes.

Being injured gave me a chance to take a mental step back and “remove the blinders.”

Instead of being hyper-focused and obsessed about winning (which is absolutely what an athlete, especially one involved in combat sports, should be thinking about) I was now an observer on the other side of the mats.

And what I saw was very special indeed.

On the surface, a grappling tournament seemed like just that: athletes from different gyms and affiliations competing against one another. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, when I looked deeper, I began to see.

I saw how some competitors on the mats became friends off the mats. I saw people from all walks of life, gathering to test their skills against one another. Gathering to support their teammates, and be supported in return. I saw how these tournaments signalled the death knell of the dogma that was “creonte name-calling”. People started to realise that people who trained at other gyms weren’t “The Enemy.” They were people just like them — even more so, as they have the same hobbies and aspirations.

Cross-training became more and more accepted, even encouraged, as it should be.

I saw first-time competitors falling in love with the art.

Their confidence in themselves and their teammates tested and made stronger by the fires of competition.

Most of all, I saw that...

Jiu-Jitsu is a vehicle to empower one another

Jiu-Jitsu is so much more than chokes and joint locks, and getting better at fighting- it is a powerful vehicle to touch people’s lives and transform them for the better.

Like Sam Sheridan so eloquently put in his bestselling book “A Fighter’s Heart” — “on the mats, everyone is equal, and Rio is a land of inequalities.”

Singapore isn’t Rio, but the same concept applies.

One thing has always fascinated me about Jiu-Jitsu: It is one of the rare sports where you can find a lawyer training in the same room with a teenage polytechnic student. Regardless of rank or seniority, we slap hands and roll, trading chokes and sweeps, information and respect with equal measure.

I think that’s beautiful.

Long story short, I created Singapore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open to touch lives.

I saw how I had the opportunity to play a bigger part in the growth of martial arts in Singapore, bigger dare I say, than if I were to become Mundial Champion.

SGBJJO has always been about empowering the community. I would like to be able to give back to the sport which was integral in transforming an insecure 16-year old into the person that I am today.

Not to toot my own horn, but I think in the short 14-months since the company’s inception we have been able to do just that.

And that gives me tremendous joy.

Thanks for reading :)

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