Will Over Skill: A personal experience
It’s September of 2014 and there’s no A/C in the basement gymnasium of upper Manhattan’s City College of NY. The air is thick and humid with the pungent smell of sweat and dirty clothes. The venue is playing host to this year’s No Gi Pans, an annual international Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament, with some of the biggest names in the sport competing. Over a thousand competitors are here to prove their worth with winning in mind, but the reality is only a few will go home having stood on the podium, leaving with a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal.
I’m frantically pacing the bullpen, the designated area for competitors who will be up shortly. Like a tiger on display at the local carnival, I’m nervously marching back and forth from one end of the bullpen to the other, a thousand scenarios playing out in my head. I was in the midst of a year-long slump where I just couldn’t find consistency in my performance. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I turn around, it’s one of the best American No Gi Grapplers of the era, Enrico Cocco.
Enrico’s voice sounds like a surfer from the movie Point Blank. Sensing my nervous energy he says, “Mike, ‘Sup? You alright maaaaan?” Feeling dejected I say, “I’ve got the number one seed in the first round- he just won my division last week at the Boston Open.” Enrico looked at me, almost puzzled and said “You’re the number one seed maaaaaan! Will over skill Mikey, will over skill!” In an instant, ALL of my self doubt had evaporated. He was right! I had been lacking belief in myself. Seconds later, I hear the ring coordinator call “Michael Palladino!”. It’s time for my first match. As I begin my walk to the mats, I thank Enrico. In some final words of encouragement, Enrico cheers from behind me, “Let’s go Mikey! Will over skill!”
With the number one seed glaring at me, I step onto the mats. We shake hands and await for the call to begin. “Combate!” says the ref. 30 seconds later, it’s over. I just beat the number one seed with a Helicopter Armbar in 30 seconds. The crowd around the mat erupts! I would go on to have one of my personal best performances in my competitive career in that tournament, submitting my next two opponents and finding myself in the semifinals where I would lose a very tightly contested match, going home with a hard earned Bronze Medal for my efforts.
When I look back at that day, what stands out to me isn’t my performance, but the advice I received which forever changed the way I compete and view competition. I found myself in a long slump because I wasn’t believing in myself; I was judging others for their merits and doubting myself. I’m forever grateful for Enrico’s words before my match. “You’re the number one seed!” Made me realize I have to believe that I’m the number one seed, whether the rankings say it or not. “Will over skill” is a lesson in determination. The will to win can triumph against the skill to win.
Until next time,
Happy 4th of July!
This is a reminder that EGA will be CLOSED for ALL CLASSES on Tuesday, July 4. We’d love to see you for an Adult BJJ Open Mat at 10 AM in Beacon!
Save the Date!
You are invited to join us on Saturday, July 29th, at Memorial Park in Beacon for our annual EGA Picnic! We will be enjoying BBQ and an afternoon of fun and games. Bring chairs, drinks, your people, and a game if you’d like to share. If you will be joining us for lunch, please RSVP to [email protected] by Monday, 7/24. Hope to see you there!
Ofek Kishon, age 5, was born in Brooklyn and moved to Beacon around 4 years ago. Training since January of this year, Ofek has risen to the rank of White/Black Belt. If he’s not at EGA, Ofek is enjoying basketball, music, dancing, singing, and painting (he is hoping to sell enough paintings to fund his own guitar for a rock band!). This young kiddo also understands three different languages as he has family in China, Israel, and here in the States! While in class, Ofek loves being a line leader, participating in warm ups, and showing off his skills playing Sumo and Who Let the Dogs Out. While some things come easily, learning the Hip Bump Sweep (“flip the pancake”) was difficult at first, but with lots of repetition and practice, has become easier. Coach Matt remarks, “Despite being one of our younger and smaller students, Ofek shows great maturity, aptitude for learning, and ability to retain skills and techniques. Often a leader in his groups, Ofek helps by setting an example for both older and younger students alike. Ofek is always a pleasure to have in class and we look forward to seeing him grow and experience many more achievements in jiu jitsu.” Ofek’s parents commented, “Ofek is very helpful, generous, and takes great pride in a job well done.” We see that, too, and are so thankful to have Ofek as part of the Tribe!
Having been training just three months, Ella Ward, age 12, is one of our newer White Belts (with one stripe!). Being drawn to art and music (she plays the trombone!), jiu jitsu is a great sport in which to participate as it draws on not just your physical side, but mental/creative sides, as well! Ella says, “My favorite part about coming to class is learning new things.” We asked what her favorite move is and she said the Hip Throw! Similarly, Ella said that takedowns were initially hard to get the hang of, but they’re becoming easier. From Coach Mike, “Ella is a recent acquisition of the EGA Tribe! Her performance over the month of June really stood out to me. I learned that outside of the gym she was recently in the school play, which I thought was really cool. On the mats, she recently earned her first stripe in the teens program after having a string of great classes where she showed understanding, development, and application of what she’s been learning. I look forward to Ella’s continued development on the mats!” Keep up the hard work, Ella!
Sean Crawford, age 10, has been training and competing BJJ for about 4 years. Currently a Orange/Black Belt with 3 stripes, Sean is a great example of what consistency and super hard work can produce. If he’s not at EGA, you will find Sean playing basketball, football, boxing, or working on striking fundamentals. Sean says, “My favorite part about coming to class is seeing all my Jiu-Jitsu friends (and making new ones). My favorite moves and positions are the Body Triangle and Rear Naked Choke.” Sean also says that the Triangle has started to become easier over time. From Coach Mike, “Sean is a genuine student of the Martial Arts. Sean is a talented grappler, boxer and football player – an all around athlete. One of the many things that stand out to me about Sean is how dedicated he is in the classroom; when he’s there he is determined to improve. He’s always laser focused on learning and respectful to his coaches and peers. Sean is a natural leader and leads by example, be it by never goofing around, or when he’s paired with a beginner, he takes the role of helper very seriously. I’m very happy to pick Sean for this month’s “Student Spotlight”.”
Ashley D’Aversa: “I’ve been training jiu jitsu for 6 years and at EGA for 5 of those years. Prior to that the only other sport I participated in was the Rutgers Equestrian Team in college. What I love (and sometimes hate) about jiu jitsu is that there is no such thing as perfection, and will constantly be working on my skills. In my time at EGA I’ve competed all over the country, including some high level IBJJF tournaments. With Mike’s coaching I achieved gold at the 2021 World No-Gi Championship at Masters 1. I still have many future goals to reach in competition, and am so thankful we have a lot of women to train with at our gym. It is also great that my whole family trains together, and my fiance is a black belt also under Mike, where I can bounce ideas off of and try new techniques.” ** Hop over to this Feature Friday entitled Competition Prep where Ashley shares what her life is like as she prepares to compete. **
Coach Rocky was excited to spotlight Dominic Sceppaquercia this month saying, “Dominic works hard and pushes himself every class. He’s progressed so much, opened up a bit, and has more confidence in himself.” Here’s a bit from Dom, “Hi! I have been training Muay Thai for a little over seven months at EGA! During the earlier years of my life I would watch UFC fights with my friends and family at my Uncle’s house. Every time the fights ended I felt that I wanted to train. Finally, on December 17th, I started to train as hard as possible. Every time I train at EGA I leave with a clear mind, a happy heart, a tired body, and even a little bit more confidence in myself! Outside of the gym I enjoy riding my bike, ATVs, casual soccer matches, and photography. Thank you to my coaches, Rocky and Joey, for being the best Muay Thai coaches I could ever ask for!”
Jonathan Montoya: “I’ve been training at EGA since September 2022, although admittedly, have had issues with consistency. More recently I have made an effort to come in far more often and focus on improving my game where I can. I have a lot of fun practicing and find satisfaction in every little bit. I’m progressing but know there’s still much to work on. Outside of the gym when I’m not watching and rewinding BJJ matches, I’m with friends, playing video games, or both. One thing I love is meeting different people and personalities through BJJ. In my picture I am with a competitor in my division I had just faced and he was super happy to compete and get a picture with me. He showed great sportsmanship and I’m happy to have competed with someone as respectful as him.”
On August 12-13 IBJJF will be hosting an International Open in New Haven, CT. If you have yet to register with IBJJF, speak to your coach. GO HERE to find more information about the Open and to register.
These are just a few options for competitions! Never hesitate to reach out to see what else may be out there or to get help from your coaches in making a plan to compete!
We hope all the kids and families that joined us at Spins had as much fun as we did! Having the chance to let loose with your buddies is fun at every age! We’ve enjoyed giving our kids the opportunity to get to know each a bit better other off the mats and are looking forward to several more events this year. We’re open to ideas, so don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] with yours!
We hope you’re loving your new swag! If you’ve yet to grab a shirt, we have a few left. Quantities are limited and we’re out of a few sizes/designs. Send a note to [email protected] with your request and we’ll let you know what we have in stock!