I know I’ve taken a week or so off from posting to this wonderful blog, but it was done with the best of intentions. I was resting up for Pans, gameplanning, getting some extra rest and putting in some extra time in the gym – then I was competing, recovering from competing and figuring out how to explain my experience at North America’s largest Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament.
It was…. awesome. I lost my one and only match to a very good player, but the opportunity to compete and the actual time on the mats was pretty wonderful. Here are the top 10 things I learned:
1. Find a way to warm up: This was pretty difficult for me and it cost me in my match. I should have done some jogging, found some space to roll around with my training partner, worked up a lather and heart rate before my match. But I didn’t. There just wasn’t a ton of space to be had in the bullpen and I found myself jumping around here and there, doing some swim drills, stretching and restretching; none of this prepared me for the adrenaline dump on the mat. In the future, I need to do a better job of getting warm before my name is called.
2. Bring an extra gi: Remember how I was crazy excited about my new Origin gi? Well, the pants ended up being illegal due to the embroidery on the calf, as it was within 15 cm to the bottom cuff. Luckily, a friend had an extra pair of white gi pants that he wasn’t using, so I changed into those. I ended up calling Pete Roberts, the owner of Origin, and explained what happened at tournament. Part of me thought he’d exchange the pants because this gi was made for competition and Pete does a good job of making himself available to his consumers. He was thankful for the call, upset that I nearly got disqualified, but took no action otherwise. I still love rolling in my Origin gi, but loathed hand-disembroidering the language on that calf. Where it used to read “(logo) ORIGIN” it now just reads “(logo)” so that I can compete in the gi I spent $200 on…. Next time, I’ll be bringing two gis with me to comp.
3. Don’t play mind games with yourself: I failed miserably at this. I saw that the guy I was competing against was from Washington, DC; during the walk to the mat, I found myself wondering if he wanted it more than I did because of the distance traveled. After all, I only drove 40 minutes. This guy flew 6 hours. Here’s what I know now: I want it just as badly as them, but I need to prepare myself better mentally before eyeing my opponent. I’m sure they’re mostly all nice guys – and I can be a nice guy, too – but second-guessing myself before “Combate!” is yelled isn’t how I want to go out.
4. Work your stand-up more – and do it left-handed: At one point during my match, I had belt control and should have hip-thrown – but I didn’t hear my coach and didn’t see the throw. I was defending one of his movements and didn’t think to counter. We worked in the clinch a lot and I could have done a better job of stripping his grips in order to shoot; I told myself, however, that I wasn’t going to pull guard or shoot a double-leg. Both not done, so both successes. I did not go for my single-leg though, or finish the outside leg sweep that I wanted. Emilio, the instructor that is coaching me most often, has us practice throwing with both sides; I’ve decided to make it a priority to become just as good on my left side as I am on my right. Pulling guard just isn’t an option for me, even if I’m deathly afraid during the actual competition.
5. You probably won’t be able to hear your coaches: I couldn’t. The coaches are 10-12 feet away from the mat you’re rolling on (at least at Pans), so it’s very hard to hear them. Instead, I’m going to go over as many scenarios with my coach as possible leading up to tournament, so that I can hear his voice, even if he’s not there. You’re only as good as what you remember, after all.
6. Bring Music: I brought music this time, but didn’t listen to it. I should have. It helps me to focus, especially an hour or so before I’m scheduled to step onto the mats.
7. Don’t let the mats affect your game: At the gym, we use tacky mats that I’m used to from wrestling. The mats at the Pans were Zebra mats, slick, textured – and nothing I was used to. It got in my head when I stepped onto them — How will this affect my game? What if I slip? What if I get the chills because of the weird noise the mats make inside my head (like courdoroy)? — These questions have to take a back seat to the task at hand. Get the take-down and work my game. The mat is NOT part of my game.
8. The Bullpen sucks – deal with it: Pretty much exactly like it sounds. Competitors are packed into a small space and expected to warm up, listen for their names to be called, etc. It’s a mess, but it’s what we have to work with. I need to do a better job of listening for my name without becoming unfocused.
9. Control what you can: Here’s what I can control: my weight, mentality, game, gi, resolve. Things I can’t: the sound of the announcer’s voice, who I compete against, what the mats feel like under my feet, how far behind the tournament is running, traffic, etc. The list goes on and on. I’ll be a better competitor once I learn to control the things I can control and leave all of the other crap alone.
10. Have fun: One of the major reasons I started grapping was for fun. I love jiu jitsu, I thoroughly enjoy myself while doing it and by and large look forward to the training sessions each day. While I looked forward to this past Pan, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I could have. That being said, I plan on having a ton more fun at the next tournament. The jitters are behind me so let’s start winning (or enjoying myself, even if losing)!