On Sunday the main event took place. I successfully completed my first Challenge of the Champions tournament with Tiger Schulmanns. I took second place in Grappling and third place in kickboxing.
The tail end of last week I was extremely stressed about making weight because I had gained weight over the last couple months, most likely from muscle gain. Sunday morning I woke up much earlier than I needed to and felt a weird calm as I got prepared, I had a clear mind and was laser focused. The calm immediately went out the window the minute we pulled into the venue parking lot.
As I was walking into the venue reality sunk in that I was about to fight in my first fighting competition and all my insecurities of not being fully prepared started to fill my mind. I got checked in, immediately weighed in with 3 lbs to spare and started to fuel myself. As everybody asked if I was ready my answer was no. The closer the time was creeping up to 10 am the more anxious I was getting and the more I was starting to pace.
Next thing you know it was time for my event and I was on the mat with Sensei Arce reviewing the rules with us. I was second up so I watched my competition go at it very intensely, as I tried not to outwardly show my nerves. Now it was my turn to get on the mat and compete, while the nerves were still very much present, once I got into position I was able to keep myself very calm and focused. As soon as Sensei Arce said go I was down to business with full determination. That determination was fueled by adrenaline and I immediately swept my opponent and got mount. “WHOA HOO!” Celebrating in my head but still remaining focused on not allowing her to get out. First two minutes is up and I am in the lead, one problem I got so excited I totally forgot we had to switch positions and get right back to it. The rest of the matches were more exhausting because I had depleted so much energy right from the beginning but it all paid off. I left that event feeling proud of myself.
Fast forward a couple hours and now it is time for kickboxing. I thought I’d be a little more calm since I had already completed one event, but sparring is something I have always struggled with both confidence and stamina so I knew this event was going to be much more challenging. Again as I sit all geared up being instructed how the event would go I tried to sit still and not alert anybody with just how terrified I was to get in that ring and fight. However again as soon as it was time to start I managed to focus my energy positively and be fueled by adrenaline. I shocked myself with the different moves I was successful with that I had never pulled off in any classes, even though we worked them regularly. After winning the first fight I find out I have a minimum of two more fights to complete, and my arms are already burning away! I lost the next fight but made a comeback for the final fight.
Competing in this tournament has brought so many emotions throughout the journey. During training I mostly felt frustrated and unprepared, due to training with more advanced students. Even though I knew that about my training it never made it easier mentally because I was constantly losing. On Sunday I experience fear, anxiety, excitement, and pure happiness. All of the hard work and frustrations encountered during training paid off in a big way. I am most proud of the fact that I got out there, facing my fears by pushing myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible. Leaving with two medals felt amazing but the real win was the valuable life lessons I got out of this. It helped bring some of my fighting and tenacious spirit back that years of life struggles had taken away. Served as my reminder that I can be successful at whatever I put my mind to and pushing myself out of my comfort zone can be great. Looking back at my videos, even in the rounds I lost I can see how far I have come in this journey and see how hard I worked and it allows me to still celebrate those “failures”.
Many of you are wondering how do I feel after pushing my body through all of these physical challenges. The truth is my body feels great, I have been stiff and recovering all week, but nothing different from everybody else pushing their body the same way. The more I push the less I notice side effects like tingling and numbness, and I didn’t experience any of those sensations on Sunday. I will continue to push my body in new ways as I continue my journey to getting stronger and pushing myself to be better. The question many have already asked is will I do it again? That is yet to be determined, as I progress in ranking it will become more challenging but I plan to train like that is the plan and will take it one step at a time. One thing I know is this journey isn’t over. I need to focus on is strength training to get stronger to help me be more successful in my training. I am thankful for my Tiger Schulmann’s Princeton family and helping me push through my diagnosis and not letting me give up on my training. Without the support of Sensei, Danielle, Joshu, and my TSMMA brothers and sisters this year could have turned out very different. Thank you for being my inspiration. This was the best possible way to celebrate a year since my diagnosis, which is fast approaching over the next couple of weeks.