The night before the competition it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it would have been a good idea to practice my shots (take down entrances) seeing as that’s my preferred method get to the “jiu-jitsu” part of the fight. There are some people that spend a good portion of their fights holding on to each other’s gis and staring longingly into each other’s eyes as they vie vainly for takedowns or throws but I’m not about that life. My game plan is always to get to the ground as quickly as possible whether it be pulling guard or shooting in for the takedown.
Things not to practice before (or after)
So since I haven't competed in awhile, it occurred to me that I should have probably drilled a little bit more before my next competitions (which is this Saturday in Virginia beach).
Pre-competition training didn’t end up at all like I planned. I’ve recently taken a job teaching at a night school, which leaves me free to spend my morning's training, writing, and subbing at two different GED programs in the city. I unexpectedly ended up working all day week, so I missed out on a considerable amount of training and countless hours of drilling. A couple of years ago I might have been concerned about the lack of preparation since these damn competitions are so expensive and I’m out of glutamine, the money I got from working was more than welcome.
They say jiu jitsu is about technique over power, but it’s actually the philosophy that has saved my tiny ass on multiple occasions. This being one of them.
When I went to interview Vedha Toscano, Erin Herle, and Dominyka Obelentye in New York about dealing with the pressures of competition. There was one thing they said that made sense. “Don’t worry you do this every day”
So anytime I worried about anything leading up to the competition I just thought about that. Even though I wasn’t able to train during the week and had to work late the night of the tournament, I didn't need to worry. I do this every day, I've done these everyday for a lot of years now. Their advice has turned into a kind of calming mantra for me any time I worry about whether I should be training enough or not. A few days off wasn’t going to make me any less lethal (plus I was doing a lot of pushups at 5 a.m. before work).
When we showed up to the fight I discovered two things. The first being that there were a ton of other people there from Beta competing which was dope because its always better to have people from your team to support you. The second was that I would have several more fights that I had expected adding up to a grand sum of 10 fights (6 in a gi and 4 nogi). I’ve never fought so many times in one day but again, I just have to revert back to the first mantra. I do this every day!
When you have 10 fights with only a couple of minutes in between fights there is no time to worry.
I try to get all my worrying out of the way a day or two before the tournament. Seriously, I try to visualize and feel just how nervous I’m going to be. The feeling of looking around a room at every person that is your size and wondering if you going to fight them, the nervousness of not know how to get to the ground, worrying about my grips or my sweeps. I think of any and everything that might potentially go wrong beforehand so that, on competition day I can be confident, worry about warming up, and just go with the flow instead of stressing about the “what ifs”.
Through competing and training you find your weaknesses (if your paying attention) and I’ve become familiar and started working on each one of mine. I know where I like to be and I know where I don’t like to be. I know where I can sweep from and I know where I can pass from. I know where I can finish from and I know where I’m going to just be fucked and fumbling around… like with the stupid collar choke that everyone learns day 1 of jiu-jitsu. I try it every competition and it never works (except to tire out my fingers and forearms). So real talk, if I’m trying to collar choke you, I’m just stalling for time.
When we finished taking pictures and realized we
had no medals!
Stalling for time is somewhat an important strategy I use as well.
It’s VERY HARD to fight 10, 5-minute rounds. That like almost an hour of fighting. But chilling… anyone can chill for an hour, so it’s important to learn to chill during rolls. Your ability to chill during a roll is generally contingent on your willingness to sacrifice chill time during the week and actually take your ass to the gym and train… better yet, DRILL!
I’ve spent what has to be at the very minimum 5 hours drilling passes from half guard thanks to Isaak. There was a point where my face was rubbed so raw from having someone’s kimono grinding across my face as they pressured down with their shoulder on across the bottom of my chin and forcing me to look away and then we'd start the next class and he would teach THE SAME DAMN PASS.I got sick of it, I wanted to cry in a corner, or better yet, chuck something at Isaaks's bearded head because apparently the extra layer of hair was protecting his face from the same torture that I was being subjected to.
Couldn't find Isaak for a pic but I did score
one with Master Nak. I have gotten
substantially better since I started training with these guys!
In the end, it was worth it. Ain’t nobody bout to keep me in half guard. No way no how. And if they try, well, instead of fighting, I’m just chilling, applying the right pressure, and focusing on getting my breathing back to normal and my nerves calm while waiting for the right opening.
Tthe time I spend in top half guard I consider to be chill time. It’s the best time to feel your opponent out… literally… because generally they are trying to wiggle out and will wiggle open the perfect attack, BUT if you’re going bat shit crazy trying to rip your foot out of half guard you miss the perfect kill and end up in a sloppy scramble.
Rules are Meant to be Broken (by athletes not refs)
No matter how well you prepare. A bad ref will make or break you!
Apparently, if you’re not fighting IBJJF people give zero fucks about the rules... They vary substantial depending on who you ask, to say the least. There were several discrepancies between athletes, coaches, and refs when it came to scoring. Luckily part of “Favela Jiu Jitu” means making sure that you don’t get robbed, so I definitely have the habit of getting my points, securing the positions, and then waiting for the ref to make the call. When your mid fight and you have the time to look a mofo dead in the eyes, for 3 seconds until he holds your points up, they generally get the message that you’re not fucking around and are quick to start giving you the rest of your points in a more timely fashion.
This tournament was so bad that I had to stop and actually talk to the ref. I got my pass he didn’t give me the points so I looked up and asked about it. No points for passing half guard?!?!?! Ok but what about knee on belly I said (literally I was having this conversation with him during the fight) nope not that either! WTF! Had I not been paying attention to the score and time I would have thought I was up by a lot when I was winning by a lot more than I actually was.
In another match, due to the ref’s randomness, I was down on points in the last 10 seconds attempting to push the girl from turtle to side control. I heard a combination of things from my coaches which caused me to look up and see the score and the time. When I saw I was down with barely anytime I stopped pushing and jumped for her back and won the fight.
Make friends don’t break them
I won all my fights except one in NoGi. I lost to a girl from MD who was running through her gi division submitting everyone. I knew she was going to be strong so I went in quick and hit her with some kind of twisted nogi freak variation (safadinho variation/ one of Terere’s takedowns). From there she was able to get guard (I believe) and ended up twerking my arm from a triangle.
It was a good fight. It was actually a fight. The other 9 fights were me meticulously working through what I wanted to do. There is a point with each opponent where I established control and kept it, even when my opponent was able to get to a more advantageous position I was able to protect myself, and mentally work my way out without feeling too threatened.
With Johanna, it was just a whirlwind. We went at it and there was no mental calculations, just pure intuition. The ref said we had one of the best fights of the day (she ran through her opponents just like I did expect she was finishing them and I was winning on points) and most definitely the best bracket.
Several people came up to me and told me my takedowns were beautifully terrifying! My wrestling ability is based solely on some highly ridiculous but super productive privates that I took with at Torryn and his wifey at Connection Rio almost 2 years ago.
There is probably a pretty way to end this blog. But i'm currently on a bus on my way to Virginia Beach to compete again tomorrow so....