This last weekend, I competed at the North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu(NABJJ) 8th annual Gi tournament in Carson, Ca at Cal State Dominguez Hills. I know this facility since I had competed at the Samurai JJ event the week before. I have to admit through this whole process the event was probably ran the best out of any I have went to, and the divisions actually started on time, if not earlier than anticipated. That did not stop, however, the ability for many things to fall apart for my day. I have a bad knee that was injured last year from takedowns, and every now and then the knee pops in and out. My knee actually popped on thursday of that week. Also, I had gotten sick from the weather in California which nasty. Going from air conditioning at the gym, home, or work had messed with my sinuses to the hot air outside had effectively given me a cold. Nonetheless, I arrived at the tournament, and I was ready to compete, injuries and all.
My bracket was called up to do weigh-ins and a GI check. I had made weight easily, but there was a problem with my Gi. i guess, rules stipulate that you cannot have a pocket on the inside of your Gi, and instead of trying to cut it out at the med station, I tried to rip it out. That did not work and it caused a huge tear in the lapel of my Gi. I thought I would not be able to compete. Luckily, another member from my gym had come, and he let me borrow his Gi. I had to fit in an A2 when I normally wear an A3. Fortunately, after measuring my arm about five times I was able to compete in a Gi that fit just a bit too snugly.
My first match came, and the normal jitters had set in. I had made up the decision to pull guard the whole tournament to not test my knee. I pulled guard effectively, and caught an armbar in the first 30 seconds. The armbar was in deep, but it was too good to be true. My opponent was able to slip out, and we went back to guard. For the next two minutes it was all about trying to go for sweeps, submission, and do anything to win points. Nothing would work. Eventually, I tried to go for a triangle which I had hoped would allow a sweep or a finish to happen. I did not plan on my legs being so tired. I was adrenaline dumping. It was happening fast. My opponent escaped the lazy submission and moved into my half guard. I did not have anyone cornering me, but he did. They kept saying for him to put his hips down, and realizing that I had the space I went for broke getting a sweep. I hooked his leg with my right arm and used an umpa to roll over. It worked and I was on top but in danger of a triangle. Sprawling out I circled until i was safely into his half guard. For the last minute I tried to escape but with no success. The match ended with me winning on points 2-0.
After the match, I was throughly exhausted. I laid in the bullpen for about two minutes just trying too catch my breath while drinking a bit of water. In the bullpen, I realized someone next to was from a sister school of mine. To take my mind off the tournament and to forget about my depleted energy, I started up a conversation. This is something I would never do, but I was desperate. Fate would have it I had found a key to getting rid of my jitters. Talking took my mind off the task at hand, and made me realize everyone else competing is a beginner as well. From then on, I would talk to anyone and everyone. It could be my opponent, an official, or just another competitor waiting for a match. This took away the jitters and helped my rolling immensely.
My second match was up, and I pulled guard yet again. This time though there was a problem. I was having trouble using any of my usual moves, and without the points from the takedown I had to hold on to not give up points. My opponent was shorter than me, but his base was phenomenal. I couldn’t sweep, trick, or submit him. At one point, he had opened my guard and was attempting to pass. He had cleared my legs, moving to put his weight on me, and I was panicking. I sat out to my side and hooked the back of his knee with my foot. Using that leverage, I was able to spin around back into my butterfly guard, and I tried for the sweep. Unfortunately, it never came and the time ran out. This is where things got tough, because we went to sudden death and the first person to score points wins the match. I was hesitant when I shot for a single leg takedown. My opponent was able to push me off him, I fell to my butt, and he hesitated to jump on me. I latched onto the leg once more, worked to my feet, and hooked his leg with my own. Dragging him to the ground, I secured top position and the match was over. I was on my way to the finals.
Before the finals I had talked to my opponent, and learned because of disqualifications he had only fought once. I was quite tired after two matches that lasted the full length. To put it simply, I knew I had to finish this fight as I did not think I could last another five minute match. When we locked up, I tried to position myself so that I would be able to pull guard, but as I pulled guard he shot for a takedown. Stuck in open guard, I tried to pull him in with my feet. As he went to pass he allowed enough room for me to switch my hips over and get to my knees. Moving up to my feet, I spun my arms around his waist and took his back. The initial attempt to pull him to the ground failed, and I had to reset my arms in the seatbelt position. Securing my leg in the hooked position I took him to the ground and put in my other leg to secure the back control. From their I worked my choke, finagling my arm under his neck, grabbing the color, and latching my hand onto my own wrist to force his neck into the choke. He tapped. The bout was over. I had won.
The feeling of being on the podium at the top was unlike any I had felt before. It is a feeling I know I want to feel again. I went on to compete in the absolute division for white belts, but I would only win my first two matches. The third I went into over confident and got caught, but already having won a medal it was okay. I always thought that getting a gold medal would quench my thirst for competition, but it has only made it stronger. Best of the West 2012 cannot come soon enough. Hopefully, I will compete at least two more times this year, and hopefully you will continue to read. If all goes well maybe the column can be called A BJJ Tournament From A Blue Belt Perspective by next year.