North Americas

On January 26th, I competed at NABJJF’s “North Americas’ Jiu-Jitsu Tournament.” Leading up to it, I was incredibly nervous as I had just blue belted a month previous and was worried I’d get wrecked by some 4-striper on his way to purple. After my utter destruction at 2012’s Pan Am, I was up late visualizing every possibility. Do I work for the takedown, pull guard, let them decide? Work my pressure game? Get the sweep from half-guard?

Going off of the top ten things I learned at last year’s Pan, I decided that I would control exactly what I could. I decided not to cut weight and competed at Leve (167.5 lbs) with the gi. I brought headphones, had a 2-song playlist ready and worked on my breathing throughout the day, trying to remain calm and not let the nervous energy get the best of me. My wife was incredibly supportive, putting on a brave face leading up to competition, packing snacks for the day of, cheering and taking team pictures and video. Even after I was finished, she was willing to hang out at the venue and support the other 6 guys from our gym. We were there all day and she kept her smile up the entire time.

Getting back to the competition itself, we arrived a bit early to make sure I was good on weight (3 lbs light!); hung out with the guys and got ready mentally. I strapped on my X-Guard Series V Hurricane, weighed in and waited in the bullpen for my match to be made. I have to say this: smaller tournaments are so much better than the IBJJF shit-storms. I was able to stretch in the bullpen, relax, breathe and heard my name called without incident.

There were supposed to be 5 competitors in my bracket, but one guy either didn’t show up or didn’t make weight. Either way, it was one less match for me to get through. My first match, the guy pulled guard, got the sweep then immediately passed, so I immediately had to work from a 5-point deficit. Twice, I thought he was going to tap me due to collar choke (ezekiel and then baseball choke); then I had to work from N/S. Anyway, you can see it for yourself, but here’s what I took away:

1. Listen to your coach. Do what he says!
2. I need more work on getting out of N/S. Why the blazing HELL was I trying to bridge?
3. I also need more work on sliding my hips back when I’m on someone’s back.
4. It is always better to be humble, both in celebration and defeat (more on this in a later post).

Immediately after my match, I got back to the bullpen and tried to cool down. 15 minutes later, I was back on the mat. This time, my opponent got the single leg and I dove for deep half, but failed to get my outside arm underneath his leg. He underhooked, worked the armbar and eventually got it. However, I wasn’t upset at the loss; on the contrary, one of my goals for 2013 was to win one competitive match at blue belt, which I did only a month in! In the end, I got to stand on the podium with a silver medal around my neck, so not bad!

I learned the following from that match:

1. Listen to your coach. Do what he says!
2. Don’t give away the takedown!
3. Get your outside hand under your opponent’s leg from DH.
4. A loss can be a learning experience.

If you can’t tell, I need to do a better job of listening to my coach.

I’d encourage everyone to face their fears in jiu-jitsu, whether that mean to compete; to work more from the bottom without getting smothered; or to try and get out of that snake’s full guard that you find yourself getting swept from on a regular basis. If nothing else, you will continue the hard work of conquering the self.

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