Competition this weekend in Chicago was really great. The largest NAGA competition on record and probably the most people that has ever been packed into a gym in history. Arrived at the tournament at about 8 AM and didn't leave until about Midnight. 16 Great hours of jiu jitsu and miscellaneous adventures.
I came into this tournament very focused and wanting to win from the beginning. Nothing changed when we got there. Suspecting that I was going to be rolling at about 11 AM, I warmed up and got prepared. Little did I know that the amount of competitors would halt off my competing until about 2:45 PM, Nearly 4 hours later. I had no idea when my bracket was going to be called, so it was a little hard for me to warm up and get food in me at the right times.
With much anticipation, my bracket was called, so I did as much as I really could to warm up quickly. (Pushups, jumping jacks, the normal stuff I guess.) There were two matches before mine, and they looked to be some seriously tough competitors. They were really taking it to each other, and I honestly didn't expect them to even be in my division. My named was finally called, so I took a deep breath and bowed onto the mats. I walked to the square ring, and circled it real quick (something I always do, symbolizing the space within to be mine.) The ref attached the color band for scoring to my belt, and then to my opponent. I stared him down, like I always do, and the fight started.
I danced around a little, kind of feeling my opponent out and waiting for the right time to execute my game plan. About 10 seconds into the match he took it right to me and took me down, aggressively. Scored two points for take down. I worked hard to not let him pass my guard, but he eventually got around it with consistency and aggressiveness. Scored three points for the guard pass. The score was five to zero and some nerves started to kick in. I worked to establish guard back, but ended up in some seriously funky north south guard position. Don't ask how it happened because I really have no idea. I fought to get out and I threw my hips over and landed in a mount position on top, but facing the wrong way. No points awarded obviously. I worked to turn around, slowly, getting the best grips possible but as I turned around he got up and I pulled him into my guard. He passed, again, and now I was seriously down on points eight to zero. I established guard once again after a real battle of grips, strength, and technique. I looked over and there was less than thirty seconds left on the clock so I knew I had to pull off a sub to win this thing. Trapped his arm, threw a leg over and shot my hips up with all my strength. He went down into the arm bar, but he was holding his arm so I could not break it free and submit him. I locked it up as best I could and pulled that thing back with everything in me. It gave, but wouldn't tap. I pulled a little harder, and lifted my hips a little harder. He let out a cry/yell type noise and the ref stopped the fight. He argued he didn't tap, but bottom line was he was caught and wasn't tapping. First match - Win, barely.
My second match was against the silver medal winner. It started out slower than the first, and he eventually pulled guard on me. I was controlling his hips very well and he couldn't scoot out to do anything. I went for a gracie gift pass and nearly had it. Just as I broke his guard open he shot out went into a hook guard. He was speaking in some different language, (I'm assuming Portuguese because he looked Brazilian) but I had no idea what he was saying to me so I just ignored it. He was pushing and pulling, just as I was taught, and I was trying my best to keep a base and keep my grips tight. I eventually was swept, not really knowing how to defend his technique. He swept into my half guard, and I slowly worked to get back full guard. I should have swept though, because I felt that I had a good opportunity to and I didn't. Instead I established full guard and started to work for a flower sweep from there. He swept his other opponent with this move twice, very well. I could tell he had some great techniques. I tried twice, opposite sides, and failed. Almost having it the second time but my grip on his base slipped so he didn't budge. After failing the sweep I decided that I would try and finish the fight from the guard, and worked for the cross collar choke. I had a good grip on the left lapel, but couldn't sink in the grip on the other side. After a minute or so, time ran out and he had taken the match 2-0 with a win by sweep. Disappointed, I shook his hand and thanked the ref and walked back to the side of the mats.
I had missed my chance to seize the moment and I could feel that tenfold. For a second I looked over and saw my teammate YunJae in a match right next to my mat. His division was going on the same time mine was and I only caught his last match, which happened to be finals. I quickly got involved in it, running over to his side and coaching. I yelled out points and the score and the time and just did everything I could to encourage and help YunJae win the gold. Time ran out and He took the match 2-0. It had sort of ignited a small fire inside me and I was happy again. I congratulated him and sat back down. My name was called again for another match, and surprised I walked to the mat and got ready for battle.
I was unaware that I would be competing for third place, but didn't ask questions. After watching my teammate go out there and do his absolute best I was ready to do the dang thing. Ref said go and I went. Felt him out for a few seconds, and took him straight to the ground with a hard take down. Heard the crowed go "Oooo" and that only fueled me. The match was reset in the middle from his guard, and we went at it again. I focused extremely hard on keeping tight and not letting him scoot his hips out to work. He didn't budge for about a minute of the match, and thats when I took the chance to use some of his expended energy against him. There's a move I use sometimes in practice, not quite perfected, but I was confident I could do it against this opponent at that moment. I let him get a easy grip to shoot for a triangle, but at the precise time he shot for the triangle I spun my body around and walked my feet over his chest passing his guard. The move worked flawlessly and scored me three points for the guard pass. He eventually got half guard back, and I escaped seconds later straight to mount. I worked for a Kimura to try and end the fight with about 20 seconds left. He rolled me as I had it locked in and I kept it while he was in my guard. I tried to finish this way (the same way I had finished me first match at arnolds) but he got out of it somehow. With about 10 seconds left in the match I was up on points and held on the rest of the way.
I was happy with my last matches performance, and even more happier that it was against a fairly tough opponent. I executed my plan very strategically and it worked well. Overall I took third place, which I was eventually happy with considering how tough my opponents were and was even more happier after I considered how long I had been training to that point, which was only about 4 months.
I send out huge thank you's to Coach Hyde for the ride in the "trunk" of his car, and also to Stutz, Dano, Tim, A.J and YunJae.
It was a great experience and learned a million things that I plan to work on and implement this weekend in class and during the next few months of training and competing.