I find it really interesting to listen to stories of how - for example - Braulio Estima's coach was a blue belt when he first started, because they were so far removed from centres of Jiu-Jitsu activity, and how they had to travel for hours to compete. In the latest Fightworks Podcast, Sergio Penha goes on about how back in the day, he only had a mere handful of training partners, and that there were maybe only one or two chances in a year for people to compete.
I think the main reason I find it interesting is this is so far in the past for many, but living in Malaysia (and East Malaysia at that) this is my reality. I am myself a blue belt coach, because if I didn't do it, then there would just be no Jiu-Jitsu here at all. Over in the next state on this island, the (note the singular) BJJ coach is also a blue belt. I remember in Korea, they were shocked to learn there were only 5 (or 6, I'm not sure) Jiu-Jitsu gyms in the whole of Malaysia - which is itself a recent "phenomenon".
There are no competitions in Malaysia. If you want to test yourself, you've got to leave the country. Never mind the anxiety, planning and financial commitment - the time that you have to devote to this is enough to stop many from competing. The closest destination that offers regular (read: once a year) competition is Thailand. For me, that's roughly an 8-hour journey, one way from home to hotel if I do the whole thing in one go.
Rather than this just being a whinge post, I actually quite like it like this. People leave me to my own devices here and I'm free to explore and discover things by myself. Thanks to the internet, I don't have to reinvent the wheel, and at my belt level I feel I'm doing a fairly OK job. I'm at least so-so. Um, yeah.