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.