Saturday, March 26, 2011

Febs, Part Three

Febs, part three (a post-mortem so late, that it has reanimated and left the table)

February for me ended on an unspectacular note, at least in the competing sense. I went to the Abu Dhabi Qualifiers in Montreal. It went unaccording (new word) to plan.

I continue to be fortunate that I am with a team that competes. We have a lot of guys that come out and get into the fray on a regular basis. Handy for me, as I have always been without a vehicle when I am doing school.

I managed to secure a ride up to the venue with two pals from Pura. I arranged the hotel. Friday was pretty cool, lots of time spent in the car, shooting the shit and saying stupid things about glory and beards.

I've mentioned before that I don't care for cutting. I seldom see a reason for it to be important, unless it's part of some sort of strategy outside of the actual fights. Worrying about weight is a waste of energy. I'm a strong little man, this is part of the reason I fight well against the big guys. Typically in fact, I find that my style tends to victimize those who are bigger than me. There are bigger things playing on my mind on Tourney Day.

This was a tourney that was apparently supposed to be over by 2pm. Not a shot in hell. I showed up at 10 (like a lot of people) and heard that my division was already running. I changed out as fast as I could and started warming up. Then I stopped. It was really taking a long ass time. This series of events repeated three or four times. I was in the pit for nearly four hours before I fought. This took a toll. In situations like this, you just want to leave out of boredom and anxious tiredness. I've found though, that when it is time to go, I am always ready.

First fight I won against a Montrealer. It was a good scrap. I got the W on points.

My second fight was not as good. I was fighting a guy that I was familiar with. I had seen him prior in tourneys down in the GTA. This is one of these young guys who comes in and cleans up, takes the weight, takes the absolute. Prior to this he had always fought in the division above mine.

I didn't much care about all of this. I'd say that mentally I've just recently come of age with competing. I shut out the concerns, the man is good, but so am I.

The fight went very poorly for me however. I didn't do anything of note, other than be a resilient bugger. He triangled me three times. I escaped twice. Not a good loss on one hand, but it was clearly his game. Jump, Triangle.

How'd I get triangled three times? Fine question, this may perhaps be the only material thing I came away with.

Although I am good with breaking closed guard, at one point the hand that I had on his hip apparently became loose or at too shallow of an angle, and he quickly hipped over it for the triangle. The second time I was executing a “double under pass” but allowed one of my arms to get trapped again. I don't recall the third time, but it may have involved being out of it from triangle escapes.

At any rate, I still had fun that day. I managed to hang out with tons of my Tourney comrades, and the Ronin Crew was there in force. Always excellent to see those guys.

I also talked briefly with Ryan Hall. I'm impressed that he remembered me from our conversation way back in the summer when I was in NY at Marcelos. Very cool and smart guy. Much like the rest of the grappling world, I think it would be great to pick his brain. I'm going to make it a point to train with at his place someday.

I also had a lot of fun with the guys from Pura that I went with. They are cool guys to hang out with, and it made the drive up there go quick.

Some highlights:
-Josh's epic weight cutting.
-We ate at a Hawaiian themed Chinese buffet...?
-We had awesome prime rib at a restaurant that has the worst service I've ever seen. Well done.

I spent the next four days in Kingston with Ash, rolling at her club. This was cool too. I was on reading week so the time off with Ashanator was very tremendous. I also managed to make it into the Queens Weight room, which is glorious.

I'm hoping my next blog post will be more timely. I won't be held to that though.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Febraury d'excellence, Part duex.

I had essentially committed to fighting three times in February quite a while back (Well, I had said I would, and thus felt obliged.) The Jean Jacques Machado Tourney in Windsor was the tournament I had debated the value of. I remember the day before, showing up to Pura for the yoga class and expressing my concerns to PJ. Was I going far afield for little? I am always interested in competing and the lessons I can learn from it, but was this event going to prove to be worth the investment? The divisions were small, it was a 4 hour drive, and required staying overnight. I wasn't so sure.

Also weighing on my mind was the Abu-Dhabi Pro Qualifiers the next weekend.

It certainly didn't help that I was in a sort of mild malaise all Saturday. I had gone out for a few pitchers with some pals Friday night. This didn't affect anything On Sunday, tourney day, but it certainly made Saturday a bit of a bummed out day. Just not that good for the spirits. I get hung quite easily, I will admit. I'm not saying I regret Friday...I don't at all. I had a ridiculous amount of fun with some friends. Since in the near distant future I will be very far from them, these experiences must also be valued now.

Yoga seemed to clear my head though. It always does. We are lucky to have an experienced yogi at Pura (he's also a wicked roll.) I left feeling refreshed and more upbeat than when I came in.

Also playing to my fortune is my good pal Rob and the rest of the Pura Team. We had a ton of guys going down to fight. Rob has been a good friend of mine almost since the start (I met him when we both trained at my former club.) I was looking forward to getting a ride down with him. He's a hell of a good guy, so I knew he would make the adventure that much easier. Rob decided that Hoteling would be the way to go. It costs a bit more, but driving four hours, then standing around for who knows how long to fight, would be exhausting and not worth the trouble. Windsor has cheap hotels anyways. I guess this is no particular surprise; Windsor's not that nice. I got my room for 60 bones, and also earned myself the title “Captain Economy” from Rob. Ever the comedian. I think this is one of my favorite monikers.

We made it down Saturday night with no issues. Hotel was good. Great even. One of these places that is old enough to have broken even 40 years ago.

The tourney was pretty small, with each division having 3-4 competitors in it. Despite this, it was good to be down there in a big group. Our team was easily the team with the most competitors. Very cool.

I found the draw table unguarded and proceeded to rifle through the brackets. I discovered that it would be Rob, some guy named Dave, and myself in our bracket, cool. The name of the other competitor didn't strike me as familiar. I don't know many (if any) guys my weight and skill from the States. I've never gone down to compete, and they seldom come up.

Rob and I discussed the spectre of us fighting each other in a tourney and discovered that we both found it distasteful. We decided that we'd Rock Paper Scissors for gold, after we knock this other guy out of the brackets.

Then I caught a glimpse of a familiar face in the crowd... A fellow I fought not too long ago, who beat me and went on to get silver in my division and then win the Absolute. His name, of course, is Dave.


I briefly lost my composure. I had been the very face of hubris up until I figured out who the other Dave was. This particular Dave is a fellow I have fought who bested me, handily, at Bravado 2010. I spent some time talking with him afterwards and discovered that he is one of these guys who trains full time. 2-3 times a day, 6 days a week. BJJ as a way of life is no hokey cliche to him.

So I'm worried now. I rather lost my cool. This went from being a push over tourney to being a genuine challenge.

I think this is where the extensive tourney experience comes in. I turned this around in my head. I am excited. An easy tourney? Eff that. I don't come out because this is easy. I am here to be challenged. To do my best and see what that is and where that lies. This was my challenge.

Now I am stoked. I am excited. I can hear Nordic horseman screaming rage in my ear. This will be excellent.

Rob is first to fight him. Rob lost to an armbar in what I think is the most baffling example of referee malpractice I've ever seen. Rob attempted a flying armbar and accidentally kicked Dave in the head. The ref stops the match, but then instantaneously restarts it when Dave says he is ok. The un fortunate thing is that Rob hears only the command to stop, but nothing about starting again, Rob stops and is subsequently arm barred, while not defending.

I will say that at some point, everyone gets burgled by the ref. More often than not, this is a matter of points, and it's neither here nor there. Either you get a decisive win (a sub) or you take your chances that no-one has screwed up.

This case was different. This was clearly a time when the ref didn't call it right. After a stoppage like that, the only thing to do is apologize to the guys fighting, and stand them up. I wouldn't go so far as to completely pass judgement on the Ref though. This guy is here doing a job that no-one envies. He did a fantastic job in the other fights, and worked a thankless chore all the day.

I mostly just felt for Rob. Rob had trained his ass off for this. He'd been doing conditioning classes at 6 in the morning for the last two months in preparation for this. This would have been less aggravating had it happened to me.

Now it is my turn to fight Dave. I have to say that the match we had is easily a favorite of mine. We had a good chess match. One little man against another little man. We swept each other, we worked hard to pass each other, we defended each others attacks. In the end, he swept me once and I swept him twice. The ref hadn't scored my one sweep (see what I mean with point wins and referees? No one is perfect, refs included. A sub is an unmistakable win.) The ref ended up giving me the decision win anyway.

Apparently, Daves team had a talk with the ref, and pointed out his error. The ref came and apologized for the error. Luckily, he chose right anyway. I tip my hat to Dave's crew (MASH out of Warren MI) very classy.

Rob and Dave go again (It was double elim due to the bracket size.) This time Rob gets a good go at Dave. An excellent match, very hard work by both parties. Rob sadly, loses by points. I still think that Rob, despite losing again, had redeemed himself in this fight. It was an excellent performance, it was something to be proud of.

With Rob eliminated, it's now just Dave and I.

We had two more chess matches. These were both fights I enjoyed a hell of a lot. We both played a tight game. I lost them both by narrow margins.

Silver, in this case will do. I was happy to fight a guy who trains as much and works as hard as Dave does. He's an excellent competitor, and I was very happy to have fought a guy his calibre and come out on top the first time, and to not quite pull it off the next two fights. It's good to know that I can hang with guys like Dave.

This tourney taught me:
  • That I can hang with some solid talent.
  • I'm not mentally weak at competitions anymore. I've graduated.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Busy February: Part1

February has been long and fairly exciting for me. I managed to get in three competitions and still got a good amount of training in, while still studying for my midterms. Decent.

Ascension Open:

This tourney had attendance in my category that was a little under average. For most regional tourneys, blue belt lightweights have around 14 people. Actually, it seems that every tournament has 14 in this division. This one only had 11. I didn't hear a heck of a lot of hype for this one, so I guess it's no big surprise.

As always, The Ascension Open was very well run and quite a bit of fun. These organizers do their best to have a good atmosphere, and it always shows. I was also uber stoked to see my girlfriend compete. More on this later.

First match came around, I fought a guy who was very strong. I'm reasonably strong myself, so it was a bit of a surprise to come across a fellow competitor of similar strength. He may actually have been stronger in fact. Very hard to say. I caught him with an inverted arm bar (aptly called “The dickmove” by my friends at Ronin.)

I've always been a fan of this move, but it's not that good strategically. Quite often people don't realize the danger their limbs are in with inverted armbars. This is because the span of movement between no pain and a broken arm is just a few inches. Often they will go all haywire trying to escape and end up breaking their own arms. Sometimes, because of the fact that the danger isn't immediately apparently, they'll go all haywire and get out...I'm not sure which of these scenarios I prefer. I've learned, through my use of this move that it's a solid attack and will either result in a tap, or result in the opponent moving away from it. This attack from guard is easily followed by any sort of omoplata-type attack should it fail. So it remains valid. It still happens that people go haywire and end up getting out though. Can't win them all.

Second match I fought a fella named Neville. Cool guy, very nice. I see him around frequently. Got him by points.

Then I fought Max again. I rather enjoy doing battle with max. It's always a good fight because we're both experienced guys. Our matches are more like the game of chess people are always talking about. Strategy vs Strategy. Another thing that i find interesting with Max is that I feel our games and our strengths are similar. We're both open guard specialists (admittedly though, our methods of open guard are different.) This is problematic yet amusing. At least once during our match, each of us had a moment where we were in the others open guard, and kind of having a moment of very deep thought and worry.

Max beat me, again. By points, again.

Fortunately, this match was the finals, so I didn't go home empty handed. Silver is pretty good. This was my 18th tournament, and the first time I had placed second. Feels quite good, It's an improvement over third. Even if the outcome of the final isn't the best it could be, it's still cool to be the last of two in the division.

I once again had problems with my forearms. I have excellent grip strength, but I seem to abuse the privilege at tournaments and end up burning my forearms out. It was of annoyance this time especially as I distinctly remember it costing me a sweep. I've since started taking a recovery supplement with BCAAs to help prevent muscular breakdown.

Another lesson I learned is that I can't pass De La Riva well. Or, I should say, I can't pass a well practised DLR very well. This was part of my issue with Max, and it's something I noted once in the past. It's become pertinent now! There are things you can learn at tourneys and elsewhere and all too often forget.

It would be awesome to have people at my home club who play this particular style. I rather lack this at home base. There's not a ton of DLR happening. Likewise, Max and I both expressed the fact that we wish we had training partners with each others games. We bump heads at tourneys often. I'm really looking forward to the evolution of how we fight each other.

It's very cool how every club has some variation of BJJ that they use. Everyone's games are slightly different. This is part of my joy for BJJ. Different games for different people. All to the same end, to choke a friend.

This part of the day was pretty good. I was happy to have competed and done well, and fought a guy that I stood to learn a lot from. However, the big highlight for me was watching Ash fight in her first tourney. She didn't have a lot of competition, but she did amazing none-the-less. She won both her weight division, in a best 2/3 VS another girl, and then took home the absolute.

If you ask Ash, she will tell you that she's not happy with how she fought. She thinks her technique was not as good as it could have been. This is just an extension of her need to do things perfectly. It's fairly ridiculous that she should say these things given the circumstances. She went in there calm, fought well with a remarkably well executed game. There is literally nothing else that a person could ask for from their first tournament experience. Both myself, her coach and her teammates were very impressed with her. Needless to say, I was also tremendously proud.

The lessons:
  • DLR passing requires improvement,
  • Forearms are burning out (now trying out a solution,)
  • Ash is an Animal! Rawr!