I’m no stranger to losing and usually am really good about taking my loss on the chin and moving on. But that doesn’t seem to be the case this weekend and it’s very weird and distressing for me. I competed yesterday in jiu jitsu for the first time since my muay thai fight and taking all that time off to train for it. I didn’t move down a weight class and stayed at my current weight for this one for a few reasons. I’m not sure how healthy it is for me to move to 135 a few times a year and I also just didn’t have the time.
This year feels like it’s been off to a bit of a rough start. I had a sinus infection/cold thing in the beginning of January and have been trying to fight a relapse by washing my sinuses every day. Gross, I know. I also got a dog and we’re still adjusting to each other. Work has also been especially draining and I hate that these all sound like excuses but added up together it has affected my energy level and thus ability to train. Despite all of this, I still wanted to compete and get this year started as far as meeting the goals I’ve set for myself.
That being said, I had one match Saturday and lost on points. The final score was 7-4 and it’s frustrating to me because I felt like I was in control of the match for most of the time. I trapped my opponent in closed guard and caught her with a collar choke, we were pushed out of bounds, and had to reset. Then I caught her with a triangle that she tried to get out of that ended up in a mounted triangle that I was unable to finish. From there I was swept and mounted. For a brief moment while in mount, I almost gave up. I reached that point where the pressure and discomfort is too much and could feel the wilting happening but I fought back this time! I’m proudest of that one tiny improvement. I was able to escape mount, a notoriously bad spot for me, and was able to reverse and mount her and tried to finish an Ezekiel choke from there but time ran out. I have this really bad habit of starting sentences with “I don’t know.” I’m not sure if it’s a nervous thing or lack of confidence or just part of my speaking but patterns but I don’t know, I feel so frustrated with how this match turned out and I hate that I didn’t immediately move right on like usual. I know it’s just a minor speed bump in what is ultimately I lifelong journey but at this moment it’s feels like those tiny specs of glass dust that are nearly impossible to clean up after breaking a water glass and it’s trapped in my palm.
This seems a little disingenuous to say now given the current state of affairs and what what thew news has offered but this was also my response when my stepdad asked me why I decided to take a muay thai fight. He wasn’t too happy with my answer and decided that it was because I was bored. He was not wrong. I think my motivation for the fight was a combination wanting to challenge myself, having nothing to lose, and maybe a little boredom.
When I decided to take the fight, I had been training BJJ almost exclusivity for years and competing and not really making any progress (see previous posts for evidence). The majority of the tournaments I enter, result in me being eliminated during the first round and part of it seems to because of some mental blocks. One teammate even told me, “your problem is, you’re afraid of winning.” I’m not sure how true that is but I have noticed that there was something in me that would give up once I ended up in a bad position, usually side control or mount. I would wilt. Part of me also felt that training for and actually getting to a muay thai fight would help me overcome whatever was getting in my way just because of how rigorous training for muay thai is. I don’t slouch on my bjj preparation but the stakes are much higher in muay thai because no one is punching me in the face or trying to kick me in the head.
Training for this fight was one of the hardest things I’ve done physically and mentally. For a long time, I considered getting my life guard certification to be it. To take the course, you to be able to swim 500 yards and I’m not a swimmer but my stepdad was a triathlete and got me into shape so I could pass the pre-test. I think we spent four weeks getting for that. Getting ready for the fight was 10 weeks! This was 10 weeks of hitting pads with my coaches 3-5 times a week, sparring two nights a week, and running 12-15 miles weekly. As the camp progressed so did the intensity. I remember when one of my coaches texted at the beginning of weeks 7 to say it was time ramp up training, my mind almost exploded. How was that going to be possible? It ended up being longer runs and two extra pad sessions. The whole thing was exhausting. This was good and bad because it didn’t give me much time to really dwell on the fight. I just didn’t have the brain space to really think about it. I could only focus on what as in front of me.
That being said, the entire training camp began to blur but having such a strict was super nice except for the part where my five year streak of not crying in the gym was broken. This was a matter of personal pride – not that I don’t cry when training is tough or frustrating, I just try to wait until I’m in the parking lot. It was okay though. My coach emphasized that it was perfectly normal and almost expect because fighting and training for fights is super hard. But he also said, I need to keep my hands up so I don’t get hit so hard again. Even though training was super hard and I had to do things I hate, like running, there was one saving grace. I didn’t have to really cut weight. My fight was set to be at 140lb and I had just come off training for the Vegas Open and moving to 137lb. So I mostly had to maintain my weight and try not to lose too much. I ended up weighing in for the fight at 138lb.
The fight itself was blur in the middle of a day that consisted of lots of waiting. I felt super lucky that I my fight was at the top of the card because I have a tendency towards impatience and just wanted it to be done. It was also nice to be out of the green room and away from all the anxiety coming off all the other fighters anticipating their turn. I did start to get nervous while I was warming and started to worry about getting to tired because my coach/future brother in law kept pushing me. I was also trying not to agitate my left hamstring which I conveniently pulled two days before. When it was finally time to be on deck, I felt ready. My coach gave me one last pep talk and told me that I had done everything I could do to succeed and there was nothing left but to go out there and give it my all.
Time has not really made too much sense for some time now and the fight was the weirdest space of time. It was simultaneously super fast and painfully slow. After the first round, I was dead. The amount of running and padwork and what I thought was a decent level of cardio didn’t matter. It wasn’t a match for the adrenaline dump which was different from the one’s I get from competing at BJJ. I just felt so tired and it took everything I had to keep going. The only good thing about the adrenaline is that getting hit didn’t actually hurt while it was happening. The fight went the distance and I won via split decision. I think the first round could have gone either way, the second was my opponents, and I think I got the third. I haven’t really watched the fight again since the day after but that sounds about right. I just remember Chis telling me before the last round, “It’s just two more minutes, it’s nothing. Two minutes! You can do this!” I think that’s what powered me through the last round. Winning, especially in muay thai, which is a sport that I haven’t dedicated myself to like I have jiu jitsu, was surreal. It felt really good to win and to see all that hardwork pay off.
I hope I can fight again this year and try to better collect my thoughts to talk about how training totally changed my mindset towards a lot of things. One of those things was that I felt an increased sense of gratitude. I felt so grateful for all the opportunities that made up the minutiae of everyday life. I was grateful for my health, my gym, training partners, the fight, my opponenet, my family. I don’t know. I felt super emotional the whole time and wanted to cry because I just loved and appreciated everyone in my life so much more. All of the trivial stuff just melted away and it was freeing.
For now, I’m looking forward to competing next month and continuing to work on the holes in my game and trying to apply the muay thai mindset to jiu jitsu.
My coach asked me that last week, when I showed up the gym. He was was smiling because it is so different and the shock of that has been pretty visible on my face. So what exactly is different? Muay Thai Fight Camp V. BJJ Tournament Camp. OMG. The difference is night and day and the only saving grace of the muay thai camp is that I don’t have to cut weight.
On the surface, it seems like there is way more work involved in prepping for a fight vs a tournament. Again, I don’t know if this stems from the fact that I don’t go to an MMA gym and not a pure jiu jitsu school but I can’t call a jiu jitsu match a fight. BJJ is super hard and complex and my favorite thing in the world but you’re not getting punched in the face and you can tap when things get too dicey. This is probably a naive and unpopular thing to say but fight camp is arduous. I’ve been running 12 miles a week, hitting pads with my coaches four times a week, and going to sparring twice a week. Sparring has gotten easier from when I started and I have noticed some improvements but it’s still taxing. Three rounds of boxing, five of muay thai, two to three knee sparring, and then three rounds of pads just leaves me exhausted.
I wrote those two paragraphs on October 29. It’s now November 19 and my fight is 4 days away. I’ve spent 10 weeks training for this fight and it has been the most rewarding and transformative experience. I think I’ve grown as a person and have become kinder and more empathetic in some ways but also ingrained in my beliefs about certain things. One thing that this camp has taught me is to not takes personally and be in a little more control of my emotions. Sparring is so hard; physically and mentally. Essentially, it’s getting beat up by your teammates and having to compartmentalize the friendship that you may have in order to give each other a decent round and also not get upset over the beating that you’re taking and giving. As much as I dread sparring, there are parts of it that I’ve come to truly appreciate. Each session is like a mini mental reset of what competing in BJJ offers me. Even on the nights where I felt like I was going to break and left the gym bone tired and in tears, I felt better over all.
For me, sparing feels like constantly being broken down and put back together but the parts are never put back together in the way. Sometimes, some parts that were originally don’t even make it into the rebuild and new ones are added. One thing that’s I truly do enjoy about sparring, is that in order to do well, you have to be totally in the moment. Nothing else matters – especially the petty dramas and anxieties that constantly plague me. It’s freeing. I’m not sure what to expect from my fight but I think it might be building on this feeling. At this moment, I don’t feel nervous about the fight. I’ve done everything I can do to prepare and need to trust in my training.
I went into 2019 with those goals: compete at the Las Vegas Open and make my Muay Thai Debut. The first was crossed off my list at the end of August. I ended up only have one match but overall felt really good going into the tournament and during the match until everything went south. I have a fatal flaw when I roll and that is my horrible habit of throwing myself on bottom after having gained a top position. Every single match I’ve lost via submission is rooted in this one, reoccurring mistake. It’s a source of frustration for my coach and teammates and has plagued my for the past four years. It usually leads to me being mounted or having my back taken and this is what happened in Vegas.
Despite the loss, this match ended up being one my better ones. I was able to control the match and maintain top pressure for 3 minutes until we got pushed out of bounds and I went for a bad arm attempt. I should have just stood up and gotten reset. The failed attempted led to a back take and then a bow and arrow. The loss didn’t sting as the ones earlier this year and I think that had to do with the level of preparation I had put in. I know I said that about the Copa Bella but I added to that framework. I gave myself more time to lose the weight, ran more, and trained harder over all. We also had a new coach join the team and he has been super helpful in improving and changing my game. Training ended up being a lot of fun and reward in and of it self.
Fast forward to today! I competed again. This time at my home gym in our in-house tournament designed to give people just starting out more competition experience. Obviously, it wasn’t the same atmosphere as an IBJJF tournament but it was good practice and I think I need to continue working on getting comfortable with competing and how unpredictable it is. There was no one in my bracket so I was moved a weight class and my opponent and I did best 2 out of 3. I followed the game plan designed by my coaches and was able to finish both matches with a submission – arm bar in the first and bow and arrow in the second. It felt good to win a match after only having one other, last year, at blue belt. This is probably my last tournament for the year. I am set to make my muay thai debut at the end of November so that’s very exciting!
As for books I’m currently working on a few. I read Legends of the Fall before starting the other ones and will hopefully carve out some time to write about it. It was so beautiful!
For the first time, in a very long time, I inhaled a set of novels. The last time I did this was right after graduation in 2012 when I read Game of Thrones. Within three weeks I was done with the entire series and anxiously awaiting Spring 2013, one of the first dates I remember as a supposed release of The Winds of Winter. This never transpired and I’ve given up hope of that book every becoming a reality. That aside, I was late to the game in getting around to reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, and OMG. They were amazing. I would finish one book and then head over to Bookman’s for the next one. I ended up having to order The Story of a New Name because I couldn’t find it where it should have been. It ended up being part of their summer beach reads display at the front of the store and went home that day with a copy of Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall.
I was just so happy I didn’t have to wait for the next book in the series! They are basically the ultimate bildungsroman and it was amazing to follow the lives of Lenu and Line from grade school to old age. The books meant so much to me and really resonated with me. Elena struggling to keep up with her studies and her relationships with her friends in the neighborhood, contrasted with the people she meets at school reminded me of the difficulties of being a first generation college student. Essentially, you have no idea what you’re doing and there isn’t really anyone to go to for advice. I just really loved Lenu so much. She tried so hard to be good and do her best and not be undone by the feelings of inadequacy that Lina would impose on her. Her climb out of the neighborhood to published author was reminiscent of the “American Dream” that centered on education being a means of social mobility, which doesn’t seem to really exist anymore (yay! student loans!). So much of that also depended on luck and Lenu having someone in her life to guide her.
I also really loved Lina even though she scared me. Her need to constantly be moving from one thing to another to as a means of maintaining control preventing the boundaries of her fragile reality from dissolving felt too familiar. Lina’s intensity was so captivating that it’s easy to see why Lenu was drawn to her despite how harrowing the friendship could be. All of these books were so good and I wish I had taken notes while reading them. I’ll probably have to go back and reread theme eventually. They covered so much beyond the tenuous relationship between Lenu, Line, and their environments. They served as a primer for Italian politics, feminism, and cultural legacy and environment. I’m just in awe of what Ferrante was able to accomplish.
My brain and recollections of the books are a little scrambly. I let too much time lapse between reading them and writing them out of fear. Anything I write feels so feeble in comparison but I suppose the key is to not compare myself because that is just ridiculous. I’m also at the tail end of a weight cut and as my coach would say, I have weight cutting brain. I zoned out during class yesterday was I was supposed to be leading our break clap. I’m competing in the Las Vegas Open on Friday and it’s my first IBJJF tournament. I’m excited to try a bigger tournament despite not having the best time competing locally this year but it feels like less pressure because of the anonymity. Usually I’m a nervous wreck at this point before competing but I feel right now. This might be a result of not really having had the time to think about it. I’ve been working so hard to be prepared for this tournament. I started dieting earlier than I did for the Cope Bella and have been smarter about it. I’ve also been running more and we have a new coach who is phenomenal. He’s breathed new life into the program and his game is the opposite of Chris’s but also complimentary. I’ll have updates about the tournament approximately two months from now. JK! I’m hoping to update sooner and also go over Legends of the Fall.
I competed again this past weekend. This time, I was able to stay in Tucson and not drive to Phoenix which was great. I really hate that drive and really only go up there for tournaments. The good thing about staying in town was that I was able to sleep in and just not worry about the drive or monitoring what I ate and drank to make weight. This tournament had weigh ins the night before which was a godsend! The bad thing about competing in Tucson is that the number of women competing is much smaller. I had one other woman in my bracket compared to the 7 total from last weekend and this one is my friend! So competing against her was really weird.
Since there were just two of us, the winner was determined by best 2 out of 3. I lost bought my matches. It was super disheartening but still not as bad as the previous weekend. I’m still trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between how I train and how I compete. Those two facets of my jiu jitsu are still worlds apart. When I’m rolling at the gym I can go several round and be super aggressive and not get tired but when it’s time for a tournament I start to panic and literally choke. My nerves have been subdued the past couple tournaments which is an improvement but my actual performance still leaves a lot to be desired. I hate this about myself but sometimes, about midway through a match, a part of me just dies and doesn’t want to be there anymore. This feeling started to creep up on me this match and I was able to edge it out but I ended up getting caught in mount AGAIN (!!!!). The pressure was unbearable and I felt that I was going to throw up or have a rib crack. It’s wild. That was the first time in a super long time I had felt that closed in and trapped in jiu jitsu. It scared me and I panicked. I need to learn how to redirect that fear into the will to keep pushing.
The second match went a bit better. I was less stuck and able to transition a bit better and not get as stuck. But I still got stuck, in dogfight, maybe. I don’t remember. I just remember having an arm around my neck. I haven’t had the will to watch the videos but I’ll get around to eventually. Competing is still super frustrating but I don’t see myself giving up on it. I truly do want to get better and the only way that’s going to happen is through repetition. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete this weekend. I had originally only signed up for no gi but ended up with a gi match because that bracket only had one competitor so I was offered that one so we’d each be able to compete. Unfortunately, during the gi matches, Reina, my opponent hurt her rib and the no gi bracket was scrapped. I probably won’t compete again until the fall. I need a break and want to focus on just getting better at jiu jitsu and also trying to get ready for a muay thai fight.
As usual, I learned a lot. One thing that stands out is that maybe competing back to back is not for me. I am so exhausted but also super excited to train. Sometimes, it takes losing to really cause on to refocus. It’s given me something that feels more concrete to chase after and I’m glad for that! ❤
This past weekend, I competed in the AZBJJF’s Copa Bella Tournament, the organization’s only all female event. This was my first time entering this tournament and my first time moving down a weight class. I wanted to attempt to drop a weight class was to get out of the “it’s just jiu jitsu” mentality that I seemed to have developed. It was flippant and very stupid and makes it seems like competing in jiu jitsu is not as serious as competing in stand-up or MMA. Which to an extent, is true because no one is punching you in the face during a jiu jitsu match but shouldn’t preparation be treated in a similar way? I think some of these feelings stem from the fact that I do train at an MMA gymn and there are some people who don’t take it as seriously because it involves less risk but it takes just as much work and sacrifice to get good at. Luckily this attitude isn’t super prevalent and I love my coach, gym, and teammates. My sister has also commented on what she sees as a lack of seriousness on my approach to competing and has even said, “I don’t know why you don’t train for your tournaments they we do for a fight.” She fights muay thai, is very good, and one of those most disciplined people I know and I guess I also wanted to prove to her that I could do it.
In the past, I’ve competed at middle weight (141.5 – 152.5) and end up being on the lighter side of the class and tend to fatigue early in my matches. I’d thought about moving down to lightweight before but hadn’t been able to devote the time to losing the weight in a smart way. My original plan for this year was to try to sign up for Pans and eventually get myself ready for a muay thai fight. Because of this I started taking more muay thai classes and running on the weekends whenever I had the time. The increase in cardio pushed my weight down to around 143 but I still had to drop to about 137 to make up for the gi since weigh ins are same day with the gi to discourage extreme weight cutting. Dropping those last 7 pounds seemed easy enough. Or so I thought. Last Monday I got to 139 and my body seemed like it had decided we were done and it wasn’t going to lose anymore weight. I spent most of the week stressing over the thought of not making weight and getting disqualified and dreaming about the food I was going to eat afterwards. I was also stressed out because my coach wouldn’t be able to be there but I was lucky enough that one of the upper belts was able to coach me since his fiance was also competing, just out of a different academy.
The night before I was able to get my weight were it needed to be by taking a bath. The day off, I ate breakfast and sipped on water. Then took another bath to sweat some more and make sure I was able to maintain. The worst part about this was that I wasn’t set to compete until 5. Waiting was miserable. I was super thirsty and my coach had instructed me to just take sips of water to wet my mouth. Every time I heard this, I’d visualize myself as Munch’s “The Scream.” As always, waiting for my bracket to start is the worst part of the competition. This one had a longer wait than normal. I didn’t weigh in until 4:30 and my match was at 4:45. The match itself was frustrating. I lost via arm bar but there were some good things to come out of it. I made it past the 2.5 minute mark in which I usually get gassed and it wasn’t an immediate tap. The last time I faced this opponent was the second match of my first tournament, ever. She pulled guard, straight into a triangle. This time, I was able to stop the guard pull and manage to stay on top until I started to lose my balance and tried to ankle lock her. That was very dumb of me because I don’t play legs at all and I primarily use it as a threat to create a scramble. I ended up getting caught in side control and then mount and then the arm bar. Very basic positions that I seem to get caught in every single match that I lose. So I need to continue to work on those. Losing this match was so frustrating it made me angry and I ended up crying afterwards. I felt that this was the best that I had prepared for a tournament and to only get one match stung to end. It also felt like all that work and sacrifice was for naught. But that isn’t true at all.
I did learn a lot. I learned that I do have the discipline to diet and run in order to move down a weight class, I didn’t get caught in the same guard pull, and I’m learning to manage my competition nerves. Now I just need to continue to work on those big areas that make up me weak points: getting caught on bottom. I’ll have another chance tomorrow. I signed up for another tournament. I’ll be competing in no gi for this one and luckily weigh ins are tonight. I’m so excited to be done with dieting for now and to go back to eating like a normal person!