My Competitive Nature
Throughout my life, I have always been competitive. From sports to school to sidewalk sprints, anything where there was a clear winner and loser I have or will get around to it. I had the privilege of being born and raised around my 18 cousins on my father’s side and some on my mother’s side. I am the eldest in my immediate family, middle child of my cousins of 1990, and around the middle of the 18 cousins, so there was always some sort of competition going on between cousins.
I have five main male cousins above me that influenced my competitive nature. I was always stacked up against another male cousin that was two years older. We would wrestle, run, jump, whatever physical activity came to mind. I started lifting weights when my older cousins started. By then I was going into junior high and wanted to be like them and lift and hang out with the older crowd. So when it came to preparing for sports, I looked to them for advice to be the best on my team and out of my cousins.
Lately, I’ve noticed in myself the act of exerting alpha status. I do not intentionally try to size another male up but, I do feel my posture become more erect, my chest out more, my lats flexed, and my stomach tighter when I am in a large crowd. I have been told I come off as cocky and arrogant and I personally cannot drawn the line between that and confidence at times. To me, I have the thought of like me or not, I am who I am.
Team vs Individual
When it comes to competing as a team or individual, it really depends on what I am looking for out of the sport. I enjoy all sports and try to at least be able to play most of them. One sport I have attempted and do not plan on going back to is tennis, there is just no chance on Earth that I was able to return a volley. Aside the point, if atmosphere is what I am looking out of an activity, I turn to a team sport. If I am looking for mental stimulation and all around challenge, I turn to individual sports.
Why I Compete
I compete for the ultimate goal of being one of the best, be it in the neighborhood, gym, city, state, country, and one day the world. Team or individual, competition has been an outlet for me. I have been told that my ego is abnormally large. When it comes to competing, in my opinion, you need to have some sort of an ego because it drives your confidence in yourself that you can lift a certain weight, make a certain play, or do a specific move in competition. I honestly do not know any other reasons to compete other than to gauge your progress against yourself, network with other of the same athletes, and to attempt to take down the best. I compete for the pure joy of adrenaline, the feeling of getting your hand raised, the drive it gives you to become better when you lose, and just to be physically and mentally healthy.
As previously stated, I used to play junior high and high school full-contact football and fell in love with the sport at a young age. Though I was 5’6 and 195 pounds at my heaviest during football season, I earned a starting position at left guard blocking others that were around 6’1 and 300 pounds.
Not being able to play college ball because of an injury that prevented me from playing my senior year of high school and just ultimately being undersized, I turned to intramural flag football in college and an after-work league in Seattle. Playing flag football opened up another view of the game because I was not blocking others and hitting, I had to be quicker than my opponent and actually worry about catching the ball and holding the ball up to not intentionally make contact.
Adjusting my game from running full speed and blocking to running routes and scoring touchdowns, it took a different kind of athleticism. To be honest, who doesn’t want to catch the ball and score points for their team? It drove me to work on my quickness, breakaway speed, hands, feet, eyes, awareness, and overall football skill because there was so much more to worry about being a receiver. As for the defensive side, it was a world that I knew well and enjoyed for the mental games between the coverage and quarterback. The skill of reading the formation of the receivers, movement, eyes of the quarterback, awareness of everyone around you and having your head on a swivel. Playing football not only took mental and physical skill, but experience of the game.
There were consistent teams that we played every season who were made up of some friends, new teams that came on the scene, and veteran teams that had a reputation. We were one of those veteran teams that stuck together for years with the same players so the atmosphere and connection would stay the same. Victorious Secret was our name and we were made up of four of my cousins and number Washington State Cougars and University of Washington Huskies (cross state rivals in the PAC-12).
Our team dynamic was very family oriented in the sense that were weren’t just a team that saw each other once a week, we were friends that went out for ice cream no matter the outcome of the game, went out for beers, and hung out on the weekends with one another. This is what I look for in team sports, it’s the atmosphere, good vibes, and lasting friendship from my teammates.
Weight lifting, Bodybuilding, Physique, Powerlifting
Currently I stand at a staggering 5’6 and weigh 217 lbs. Being this short and stocky, I was gifted with natural strength and leverage with a low center of gravity. Football and wrestling helped me figure out how to use my body against much larger opponents by introducing me to the weight room. Lifting light with my cousins and having my own weight set at home, I was able to fine tune my form in order to lift as much weight as possible.
Bodybuilding into Physique
Thirsty for knowledge, I looked to article of Muscular Developement and Musclemag for answers and inspiration with the behemoth men on the covers. My favorite bodybuilders growing up were Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, Johnnie Jackson, Branch Warren, Lou Ferrigno, with the addition of today’s Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, and of course Arnold. There are honestly too many legends to name but, this is what I originally wanted to compete in after high school and college. Unfortunately, it was a journey that I fell off because of school and other excuses.
Graduating college I was 207 lbs and around 22% body fat, needless to say I was fat. I didn’t realize it until I started to drop weight after months of working at a commercial gym, working out twice a day without rest, eating correctly, not drinking or smoking cigarettes, and just focusing on my personal health. In reality, it was my way of coping with a bad break up. Now from May of 2013 when I was 207 lbs and 22%, by February of 2015 I dropped to 185 lbs and 14%. I was cut but not nearly as big as I wanted to be and switched my focus to trying to compete in physique, but attending The Emerald Cup in Bellevue, WA as a spectator pushed me away. I saw what the athletes went through to get show ready with the dieting, tanning, carb-loading, timing, and all that jazz and was honestly too afraid at the time to step into that world of fitness knowing that I was going to need to drop another 10% of body fat. I have tons of respect for fitness athletes of any sport and at the time, it just was not for me.
As I left my job at the commercial gym and traded it for a lesser paying, less hour, less stressful, more career oriented job, I began to gain my weight back. This is where I walked up to the door of Powerlifting. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Powerlifting? A bunch of fat guys putting up a ton of weight right? Well they’re still around today in the heavier divisions, but some of the non-geared powerlifters of today are actually in great walking around shape. They may be block-like in stature, but they’re not lugging around a huge belly and waddling from lift to lift.
What really got me into Powerlifting was the mental stimulation, math calculations, and strategy that went into competing. It was a way for me to still compete in a sport that didn’t require me to lose weight or look aesthetically appealing. A Powerlifting competition consists of three main lifts: squat, bench and deadlift. Each athlete has three attempts at each lift at a weight of their choice and the goal is to complete 9 out of 9 lifts and win the competition. More importantly, the small meets are used as warm-ups and gauges for bigger, well-known competitions. The sport introduced me to another community of athletes that competed against each other, but nonetheless we were all there to support each other.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
BJJ, my latest obsession. BJJ has brought life back into my competitive nature in an individual, but team-oriented sport. Your BJJ family is there to support your days and weeks before and after the competition. Even if some of your mates are not competing, they’re there to cheer you on along with the other mates from your academy.
This sport has brought back memories of wrestling and football in the sense that nothing else matters at the moment you’re on the mats, nothing. Personally, I get tunnel vision and selective hearing the moment I bow onto the mat. I get in a state of kill or be killed, submit or be submitted, win or lose.
Time stands still, I become slightly deaf until I hear, “Combate” meaning “Fight” in Portuguese. This is the moment all my senses and adrenaline hit me like a freight train. My heart races and my vision comes in and out of the tunnel until I can focus again. I know my professor and coach’s voices along with my teammates. I get accustomed to my opponent’s coach’s voice to anticipate what they are planning next. What seems like one minute turned out to be the four minute match. A bow and two handed shake are exchanged as a sign of respect. We face the score table as the referee holds our wrists. The tv says 0-0. My hand stays down because my opponent attempted to escape my guard and scored an advantage point. I’m 0-1.
My first tournament I went 1-1 in the gi and 1-1 in no-gi. For my first competition and doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) in a sauna suit for three hours the night before and two hours that morning, eating two packs of granola bars, and minimal water to make weight, the outcome wasn’t too bad. I could have definitely done better, but I don’t like to dwell on what I could have done. I would rather take those experiences and work on the weaknesses. BJJ isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. A marathon with family members that come and go and come back. It’s a life long journey that only ends if you let it.