Athlete Journal: Valerie Worthington, Entry 3 – Competus Interruptus and Second Chances

Here’s a recap of my PanAms experience, and an explanation of “competus interruptus,” as well as what’s in store for me soon in Abu Dhabi!


Welcome to the Athlete Journal of world-class grappler Valerie Worthington. Follow Valerie as she trains and competes in various events over the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition season. Val’s journal will be posted every Thursday.

You can catch up by reading her previous journal entries!

This past Sunday I competed in the PanAms in Irvine, CA. I ended up having only one match, though it was a doozy, against a woman, Hannette Staack, who is one of the most decorated grapplers – male or female – in the world (and, I’m proud to say, my friend). I lost, but I was able to go the distance, keep my composure, implement some small part of my evolving game, and (I hope) be coachable.

I know I have work to do – I did lose, after all – but it was a valuable learning experience and, I daresay, it was FUN. Notwithstanding my nerves, which struck me at different times during the weekend while I anticipated the match (which took place on Sunday afternoon after almost four full days of grappling), I really enjoyed competing and wanted to do more!

And thus I experienced a phenomenon that I have named competus interruptus. I suspect it is a common occurrence, and I’d like to educate the public about it so that those of us who suffer do not have to do so in silence and shame.

Competus interruptus is a state of heightened excitement and anticipation – brought on by preparing oneself to compete – that can find no denouement because the opportunity to compete is withheld or cut short. In other words, it’s a premature ending to or out-and-out pre-emption of competition when one is ready and rarin’ to go.

There are several causes of CI:

First: fewer scheduled matches than originally anticipated. This is what I experienced. I mistakenly thought I was going to be competing on both Saturday and Sunday, but it turned out it was just Sunday. Cause number one can also be the result of a competitor failing to show up for a match, leaving the other competitor to move on to the next round without fighting. Or a competitor can get a bye, which is an automatic advancement to the next round because of the way the brackets are populated. Both of these situations are a good thing, because they give you a better chance of winning your whole division, but if the missing opponent or the bye is unexpected, it can happen on the heels of lots of physical and psychological “psyching up” and entering of that state, celebrated in story and song, and known as the zone.

A second cause of CI is when a competitor convincingly and quickly finishes a match with a submission; a friend of mine who was working at the tournament this past weekend noted that in one match, a competitor submitted his opponent in five seconds. (Count to five. Now think about the fact that the SHORTEST full-length PanAms match is 5 minutes. Big difference, right?) In that case, not only is the match shortened, but also the winning competitor is probably WAY psyched and full of adrenaline, having prepared mentally and physically to go the distance – and at a loss as to how to get rid of it given that the match is over.

And the third, and probably worst, reason is being on the receiving end of a quick finish like the one described above, especially if the tournament is single elimination or the competitor is only in one division. That’s when you’re all revved up with nowhere to go – you are ready and willing, but the horse has left the barn, to mix a metaphor or two.

Fortunately, I have other tournaments coming up to help with my own case of this affliction, and for me, it’s a good thing to have contracted it, because it means I’m excited about competing rather than nervous. In fact, on Sunday, I will be headed to Abu Dhabi (yep, the one in the United Arab Emirates) to compete in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship April 13 and 14. I won my division in a qualifying event in Queens, NY, on March 11 for the opportunity to go. And I just got back from Irvine, CA, where the PanAms were held, on Tuesday morning.

So, while I know I haven’t really written much about my training routine in my Athlete Journal entries so far, it’s because I haven’t really been able to follow one. Between getting sick, traveling, seeing old friends at the tournament, watching and participating in said tournament, and getting home in time to prepare for the next trip, it’s all I can do to get in my training, rest and work.

But I’m not complaining. Far from it. Despite (or maybe because) of the hectic pace and non-stop stimulus, I looked around me multiple times this weekend, as I watched athletes leaving their hearts on the mat, laughed with friends I only get to see at times like this, ate my weight in Brazilian BBQ and acai, and watched the grappling celebrity cavalcade over 4 whirlwind days, and thought to myself, “I am living my right life.”


Next Athlete Journal entry will be coming at you from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates!