Monday, May 08, 2006

My First BJJ Tournament

Part 1: Waking Up

I woke up this morning for the first time in over a week without having to step on a scale because today my exact weight is no longer a concern. Yesterday, my weight was one of the top things on my mind because for the first time in my life, weighing under 170 pounds was actually important. Why was it so important?

Yesterday I competed first grappling tournament; the 170 pound beginner division of the CJA Canadian Nationals in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. I made the decision to compete, not because of the potential glory of placing, but because I wanted to measure my skill against other dedicated students of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from outside my team.

The tournament showing was low. There were only around 9 fighters in my division alone; the most populated division of the day. But each of these nine fighters were dedicated enough to wake up a 6 AM on a Sunday morning and drive over an hour (in some cases 2 hours) to Barrie, just to fight some strangers. Because they showed simply up it implied that they had the potential and the belief to "take it home".

Part 2: The Super Unknown

Nothing could prepare me for what I had to face. I practically starved myself the day before to hit my weight; I had gained a few pounds of muscle over the past few weeks training for the tournament. But starving myself did not make me hungry for food; I wanted to step in the ring and face the unknown.

I found that once I stepped in the ring and faced my first opponent, a great calm came over me. A peaceful quiet. All complications left my mind and I only had to focus on one thing; destroying my opponent. When the clinch happened, it was like fireworks and I swear I heard the bellowing chorus of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in my soul. It was awesome!

I took my opponent down I established series of controlling positions that had been drilled into my head and body over the past 10 or so months racking up points. But I admit I did not do it alone; Professor was playing me like a Nintendo game from the side of the ring. There was only one problem, my opponent was strong and wanted out and after a few minutes he got his wish by pushing up on my trachea. Nice. I was, at this point, not content with winning by points, I wanted a submission so I went for an arm bar. I could hear my entire team shouting to keep control because there were only a few seconds to go. So I took control and won the fight.

And that was the beginning of the end of my chances of moving forward to the medal round that day. Due to an error at the judges table and my ignorance of the form submission process, my opponent was credited with the victory and moved on. The confusing events that followed are not important as the process was tainted and the details boring. But I did defeat myself in my next match. With a bruised trachea from my first match going in, I was magically submitted by guillotine on the ground. Funny how that kind of thing happens.

After the tournament, I do have some lessons learned;

  • You do have to be very prepared physically to compete. Going to class alone will not cut it.
  • Fighting in a tournament is not the same game that you play in class; it is far more serious because there are stakes involved.
  • Injuries will probably occur if you are not careful. And may occur even if you are.
  • There are some really great fighters out there and you will not truly know what a fighter is until you get into ring yourself.
  • The tournament is not as fun as spilling beers and sharing stories at a restaurant with teammates after it is over.
So that's it. I woke up today with a swollen left hand from a no gi fight, bruised trachea, sore muscles, and a desire to do it all over again. Why? Because I see potential in myself to do better the next time. This tournament style Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a different taste and some new tastes, once acquired, taste good.


P.S. Today I played "So What" by Miles Davis for my 15 month old son and he dug it.