There comes a time in every athlete’s life where change becomes a necessity.
When Pete Sampras was a Junior’s Tennis Player, he decided he wanted to win Wimbledon. He believed that in order to do so, he needed to reinvent himself. He adopted a “serve and volley” and “chip and charge” style game. And so he abandoned his two handed backhand and endured many losses as he was developing a new stroke and a new game.
In the twilight of his career, he expanded his game from a slicing and half volley style backhand to now include a flat and topspin backhand. Some would attribute a few of his last majors to the inclusion of these shots. Reinvention and expansion helped Sampras to positively adapt to tennis.
As a very amateur athlete, there was time when my game required reinvention. I saw how wrestlers dominated in No Gi, in MMA, and were only slightly diminished by the Gi. I then saw the Gi as a straightjacket for progress and abandoned it in an effort to address and resolve the dilemma that wrestlers pose to the BJJ player.
Over time, I have had to both contract and expand my reportoire in response to this challenge. I stay the course because I believe that principally Jiu-Jitsu, and the purest Martial Arts have an answer to the eldest of Martial Arts. While I need further expansion, I feel no need for reinvention. I don’t think a BJJ player has to become a wrestler to beat a wrestler.
The BJ Penn I saw in Penn Edgar 3 was a reinvention…a reinvention that didn’t work. That’s OK. While I hate watching someone do something that doesn’t work, I hate watching someone repeat something that doesn’t work. I think BJ has been guilty of that in times past.
The mat, the ring, and life offer us the same problem that BJ faced. To remain extant, we will need to reinvent, expand or contract in order to positively adapt. If we can’t, we’ll become extinct. If BJ Penn’s losses and ultimate retirement, he reminded us how to live.