Elisabeth Clay: Is it Better to Be Alone and Excel or to Have Companionship?

I have two awesome families: my jits family and my incredibly supportive blood family. This has made me realize that my love of jiu jitsu means more to me than having a connection with someone else.

When I was 14, I asked Michelle Nicolini about her relationships. I remember her telling me that when the guys she dated asked her to choose between spending more time with them or jits, she chose jits. She also told me about one of her training partners who would go out and do other things while Michelle would go train. I appreciate what she shared with me that day as it has had an impact on how I approach my dedication to jits.

The Turning Point

At that moment, I reaffirmed in my mind that I would make similar choices to those made by Michelle. I love jiu jitsu. I live it. I breathe it. It is my life. I used to hide my relationships from my coaches at previous academies and the public, not because I didn’t want them out in the open but because of the perception of others or for one reason or another. It’s crazy how jealous people can be.

Other careers are similar when you get to a high level. There is, however, one glaring difference: in jiu jitsu you are in each others crotches spilling blood, sweat and tears. There is a closeness that you have with your training partners and it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect a significant other to be okay with. Even if they are in the sport with you, and they understand what it involves, the emotional toll it takes on a partner is monumental. If you are gearing up for a critical tournament, the energy and time it takes to keep your partner secure and comfortable is too much. I, personally, cannot do both. I don’t have the emotional energy at the end of the day to jump through those hoops.

Making Choices

Life is about making choices. Choosing a jits career over love comes at a steep price. The few who do so understand this, and it’s definitely not for most people. I get messages all the time about people wanting to have a relationship. I also have people hit on me often, but they have no idea what they are getting into. They think being with an overly dedicated person will be awesome. They think it will be great to be by my side as I win. What they soon find out is they have to compete with training for my time and attention. Simple things like skipping training to go to the movies or to help your partner with something become impossible.

Although I would love to, I quite literally have no time for it. I barely have time for myself, and it leaves them feeling unimportant or insecure. It is totally unfair, but in order to stack the cards in my favor, it is critical to spend most of my time training.

When they see me roll with my regular training partners, who are mostly men, they become jealous because of the tight bond we share. Yes, we are comfortable touching abs and butts and whatever. I have to have that playfulness with these guys because we are so rough and mean, especially when training hard for big tourneys. These same guys take me through weight cutting and totally keep me together. But there is nothing there other than a love for a friend’s welfare, but we are not in love.

Did I mention that this is unfair to your significant other? It is totally unfair for them! For that, I am so sorry.

Maybe in the Future?

Maybe at some point, there will be someone secure enough with themselves and willing to sacrifice for my career enough to make a relationship work. Although, I am fully prepared to be single because I cannot ask someone to be copacetic with this life. I love myself and jiu jitsu enough to be content with being alone.

At this point, I have given up time with my siblings, nieces and nephews. I have given up all of the normal activities a person does while growing up like eating the foods I love, hanging out with others, going to school or parties, and just about anything other than jiu jitsu. My parents have given up time with each other, vacations, money, living where my Dad wants to and living how they wanted to, all so me and my siblings could follow our passions. My Mom lives with the regret of not following her dreams. She willingly sacrifices for us to be able to do whatever it is that fulfills us. I am grateful for the understanding of my parents.

Can You Make the Choice?

If you choose to follow this path, understand what you trading. For me it is the most fulfilling path, and may you find what fulfills you. In doing so, may you become your lion or lioness. Keep following my trail to the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship!

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