Today, I had my first cage fight, at Gods of War‘s Berserker Brawl V – Valhalla Rising!
I also lost my first cage fight…along with my general confidence in my ability to grapple. To be honest, this is probably for the best. If I can’t fight, it’s good to at least know that I can’t fight – rather than be semi-convinced that I am capable of something I am not.
You see, my opponent today was at least two, if not three weight classes lighter than me. As skilful and talented as he was – and he was – I really shouldn’t have lost with that kind of weight advantage. Not if I was any good. However, as annoyed as I am about my own terrible performance, I’m more frustrated by the fact that I never really feel I could have won…
The way I see it, winning is about more than having your hand raised at the end of the fight; it is also about the state of mind you are in when you leave. I have won fights and come away feeling terrible about myself and wondering why I even bother training, and I have lost fights and come away feeling proud of myself and eager to fight again [*see end for details].
If I had the choice, I’d lose every fight if I could leave them all feeling as good as I did after the first time I lost a freestyle wrestling bout. Ten years later, however, I couldn’t feel any further from that elation. Today I feel embarrassed, frustrated and demotivated.
You see, when it comes to grappling, I tend rely on my strength. For my weight, I’m strong; I can throw people my size around, hold them down and wear them out to a point where I have a chance to score points, or make them submit. Apparently, that has been giving me a false impression of how good I actually am…
Against somebody my own weight, fighting this way is acceptable (although not recommended) and something of which I can still be proud. Against somebody 10-15kg lighter than me, fighting this way is called being a bully (in my mind) and is not something I can bring myself to do.
(I should point out that the guy I was fighting would probably have been perfectly happy for me to go all out against him and I didn’t exactly hold back. I simply couldn’t bring myself to be as aggressive as necessary, wrench him around or pick him up and dump him – and so on. If I had, he would probably still have beaten me!)
As strong and skilful as he was, I wasn’t about to slam this guy around the cage today. Instead, I tried and failed to score points against my more proficient opponent and, inevitably, made a mistake, exposed my back and, leaping on the opportunity (literally) he jumped on my back and choked me out.
He beat me fair and square, as he deserved to…but what was my alternative? Muscle my way to victory over somebody who had very generously offered to fight way above their weight so I could join in? Or worse – slam him around the place and still end up losing because he was a better fighter? Was the idea that I should risk injuring somebody for the sake of beating him in a friendly grapple?
No. I would have been proud to beat my opponent today; he was a strong, quick and skilful fighter. I would not, however, have been proud if I achieved this by using my sheer and unfair size advantage to slam him brutishly around the cage, which seemed my only realistic option because, apparently, I can’t grapple! Instead, I fought a half-baked, semi-aggressive fight and ended up losing to somebody much smaller than me, in a public event.
Quite simply, I wasn’t good enough and I lost – despite the fact that everybody watching assumed that I would and should win, being considerably bigger. The end result is that, despite being happy to lose to somebody better than me (who won in every sense of the word), I’m also a little distraught that it happened this way.
Then again, this is combat – where knowledge counts for so much more than people outside of the martial arts world never really understand.
Maybe I should stick to what I’m better at (not good at); pretending to fight for the entertainment of children who, frankly, would equally enjoy a man waving a colourful flag and shouting the word “FLAG!” over and over again. Not to be melodramatic, but I’m wondering if I’m really cut out for combat or whether I should dedicate my time to something I know I can do – rather than something I’d like to be able to do.
*Tedious Further Information
I won my first ever freestyle wrestling match in 3 seconds. We shook hands, I took a shot, grabbed my opponent’s leg and tried to lift and spin. His ankle broke immediately. He didn’t train again for months…and eventually dropped out of wrestling altogether. I still have the trophy…and it still fills me with guilt to look at it.
That very same day, I lost my second ever freestyle wrestling match against a French champion in his weight class. He beat me in a matter of minutes, by getting so far ahead of me on points that the match was brought to an end. I still remember the end of the bout fondly; I sprang to my feet, hugged my opponent, shook hands with both coaches and walked off the mat feeling happy and determined to train harder, to learn to be as good as the French guy.
In my mind, that goes to show that winning – insofar as winning is a good thing – is about more than just besting your opponent – it’s about besting yourself as well.