This past weekend, I competed at the Master/Senior Worlds held in Long Beach, California. For those of you who don’t know, the Master division begins at age 30 and does not make you as cool as say, a Jedi Master, a Master Mechanic or even a Master Barber. It just means I’m cresting the hill …
Leading up to the tournament, I caught a cold and didn’t get to train as much as I wanted. I knew I was going to compete months in advance, but did not spend nearly enough time either on the mat or in the gym to give myself the best chance possible. Compound that with my cravings for shit food, sweets and a bout of laziness and you’ve got exactly what I ended up with: a first round loss.
I did do a couple of decent things though. A couple of weeks out, I actually began to fix my caloric intake, rested more and dropped a few unnecessary pounds. I also worked very diligently to mentally prepare by using visualization, breathing techniques to help control my heart rate (during bouts of nervousness) and repeatable mnemonics. The latter were just phrases about things I do well, or reminders to myself.
One of my major grumps about IBJJF events is that they don’t post brackets until 2 days out. The same was true this time and I found out that, out of the 31 competitors in my division, I would be facing a friend and former training partner, Wray. It must be said that my buddy Dave told me to write the Federation weeks before brackets were posted to note that Wray and I trained together for almost two years, but I ignored him. In my mind, I could beat anyone they put in front of me – even Wray, who I’ve never tapped up to this writing. We drew the first match of the morning, so I had to get there before doors opened.
The night before, I packed a couple of gis, some water, the essentials. Got my playlist right, double-checked weight (right on with no allowance for overage based on my home scale.) and ran through the ritual of preparation. Rest came surprisingly easy, though I woke up a few times nervously. The next morning, I got in a quick shower and hot shave, swapped cars in the garage and packed some sandwiches.
Scott and I carpooled and I was glad for it. With my wife driving, we were all able to talk story and keep me out of my headspace. I have a tendency to overthink things, which results in my own apprehension and nerves going to hell. This typically only happens with jiu-jitsu; every other part of my life is easier by comparison.
Once at the venue, I met a couple other polynesian guys from Guam by way of Seattle, and an English dude named Hawk, by way of Dallas. We chatted, waiting for the doors to open and it was good to broaden my scope of friends, especially those that also strap on a gi and try to choke the hell out of one another. Hopefully, I’ll get to see more of those blokes in the future.
As soon as we got inside, I had to put on my gi and check my weight, then do warm-ups. Unlike my scale at home, the IBJJF scale showed me being almost 4 lbs under weight (thank god!) I stretched, warmed up, said hello to Wray and prepared myself mentally. I think in comparison to the Pan Ams of 2012, I did a much better job tuning things out, remaining calm, not posturing and altogether being prepared. Our names were called, we lined up and eventually got on the mat.
My friends tell me I had a great match, but the score showed a different story. However, I did learn a lot both about my technique as well as my person as a result of it.
We shake hands and I knew he’d grab my collar. He did, so I immediately looked for a drop seoi nage. He backed up and I end up on my knees, with him too far behind me, about to take my back.
Scramble, I’m back on my feet. His advantage.
We jockey for inside control and he shoots a deep double, which I look to block by going over/under, looking for what we used to call a cow catcher in high school (no idea what it’s called in jiu-jitsu). I hip away, trying to get the 2 for the takedown and end up in side control, but he gets his bottom arm free of my legs, turns toward my head and nearly gets me in the same position, before I grab half-guard. He’s now up 2-0.
His pressure from top-half was something to marvel at. Though he had me in half on my weak side, I don’t think I would have been able to regain guard, even from my strong side. I lay flat on my back, trying to get my arms into the correct position, frame, bump. During all of this, I felt the following submissions and defended them all: Ezekiel, Keylock and Lapel choke. He was close a couple of times, so I believe the score is now 2-0, with him also having 3 advantage points.
I search for the underhook on my right side but can’t seem to find it. Eventually – maybe after a minute or two of being smashed, he manages to get his trapped leg through and goes to full mount. I panic internally and try to remain calm, breathe. It’s a 7 point move – 3 for passing guard and 4 for going to mount. He holds the position for 3 seconds and the score is now 9-nil.
I hip escape, get to half guard and then get an underhook – looking for the back. We scramble and I end up with the sweep in his full guard. 9-2.
I look for posture. He sits up for the kimura and I pull my arm out – wrong move! – and he explodes up again, putting me on my back. 11-2.
I hip escape fast enough that he doesn’t get the mount points and look to sweep. We scramble and end up outside the ring, with me on top in his full-guard, my right arm deep enough on his lapel that I think I can choke him while I’m putting pressure into him on my toes. The ref stops the match.
I hear my coach tell me that I need to be heavy while they reset us in the center… Standing.
Ok time-out. Seriously? Standing?!?! WTF?
I get two for the sweep and it’s now 11-4.
He pulls guard after about 10 seconds of jockeying and I can’t get my hands on his legs fast enough. No takedown points. No matter, I work on my posture; he pulls me down and ends up with a nice sweep because I don’t have my hips heavy enough on his scissored legs. 13-4.
I’m now in full-guard and I hear my friend tell me not to give up; time is short. I open my guard and get to Spider. I try to pendulum to no avail, so I leg lasso instead and I look to invert and come up with the omoplata.
He leans back hard and I come back to closed guard. Time is called. 13-4, Wray (I think).
Wray goes on to win his next match, but loses his third. Not enough for a medal, but a great showing nonetheless.
My understanding is that I was close a lot of times, but it just wasn’t my day. My hat’s off to Wray for coming in and getting the job done. Next time we meet, I hope to be a better, strongeer grappler and will look for happier endings.
More to come on what I learned from this experience in the next post.