I had a very short run-in with Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) near the end of summer 2014. I had just finished a very intense 17-week fitness program, and I wanted to take my newfound agility, strength, flexibility, and endurance for a spin. I reasoned that there was no better way to prove my body's capabilities than to sweat and grunt as I tried to kick the ass of someone who was trying to do the same to me. I signed up, bought my gi, and attended class every day. That last part turned out to be a bad idea, especially since I didn't let up on my rigorous gym training. I got hurt, and I haven't gone back to BJJ. Maybe I will some day, but I'm not planning on it. One broken rib was enough for me.
I learned a lot about myself until I got hurt, though. If you're not familiar with BJJ, it's basically a sport where you try to snuggle your opponent to death. Grappling with your partner in BJJ (and, I suspect, any grappling based martial art) is high reflex chess. It is geometry class with teeth and rapidly depleting oxygen. In my class, the instructor demonstrated a technique, a defense against that technique, then set us against each other. It was then, pitted against other beginners who had just been taught a new way to strangle me, that I learned how I respond when I am a.) being choked by someone who can capably defeat me and b.) how I respond when I am trying to choke someone who can capably resist me. Essentially, I become a feral animal.
|Half-guard?! Full-guard?! HOW ABOUT I JUST LOSE MY DAMNED MIND!|
I would start the practice matches using the techniques I had just been taught, but as my opponents' superior defenses thwarted my every effort at strangulation, I would resort to overpowering them. While I am and was a weakling if you compare me to powerlifters or many competitive athletes, I was easily the strongest person in that room of beginners. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't. The newer the person was to BJJ, the more quickly they would tap out when I would invoke my secret technique of pretending I was a bear. That same loss of control is also how I got choked to near unconsciousness by two girls in the same week. Not in a fun way.
Unfortunately, I got hurt before I ever learned to master myself as an opponent was trying to choke the life out of me. But I think often about the red-tinted vision that overtook me last summer whenever I can feel my emotions and anger driving me out of control, especially when I am click-click-clicking on the polygons of Summoner's Rift and losing yet another game of League of Legends.
If you're not familiar with the term, "tilt" comes from the world of poker players. It's when a bad run causes a player to get upset and to make mistakes. I love the word because it helps to distinguish between screwing up when you're bad and screwing up when u mad, bro.
In the real world, I've seen people who can draw on their anger to achieve great results. One of the reasons I don't talk as much trash as I used to is because one of my main Street Fighter adversaries seems to draw from a secret well of skill the angrier he gets. I can be winning 4-0, but if I click the taunt command, he suddenly can't be blocked or stopped until he rights the wrong. He also is a poker whiz. I asked if he had the same reverse tilt effect when he was playing poker, and his answer surprised me:
To me, SF4 and Halo and many sports are mostly about execution. Poker (and probably LoL) are about judgment more than execution. Anger improves my execution, not my judgment.
Heck, I don't know if he's right. I keep thinking about my brief time in a BJJ gi. Anger damned sure didn't seem to help my execution there, but it's hard to gauge since I was facing the equivalent of beginner bots. At some point, maybe my execution would have been flawless enough to be fueled by anger. More likely, I would have been more easily goaded into making a mistake.
Really, self-mastery and self-knowledge seem to be key components to winning any kind of serious competition, whether it's trying to strangle someone in BJJ or whether it's counterganking some stupid Shaco you just saw in your jungle. If you let your opponent get to you, you lose control. If you have lost control, a clever opponent can exploit that and control you. This is how you get baited at tri-bush. No, dude, that Sona wasn't just wandering around bot by herself. She has two friends waiting for you.
Maybe some people play better when they're angry. I'm definitely not one of them, a fact I've been able to revisit because League makes me angry all the freaking time.
Time hasn't made it better, either. For years, I would never lash out at my allies when I played League of Legends. It makes no sense, right? If they're acting like turds, I should just ignore them as inferior beings. If they're playing badly, I should just do my best for myself or, f I type anything at all, encourage their successes. If they're being harsh to me for playing badly (or just blaming me for not playing in a way that offsets their poor playing), I can say nothing or mute them.
When I'm at my best, I do any or all of these. I'm downright trigger happy with the /mute command.
Lately, though, I've let them get to me. I've lit into players, typed shrill replies in all caps, and otherwise, well, tilted. Sometimes it's caused me to lose, and sometimes some quiet badass just carried us all in spite of my bleating outrage. I've managed to end up with a broken rib for letting my anger get the better of me in a game of skill. One of these days you'd think I'd learn.