A Tale of Two Tournaments

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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.

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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!

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A Tale of Two Tournaments

Old Pueblo Open

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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! ❤

Old Pueblo Open

Copa Bella 2019

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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!

 

Copa Bella 2019

Palette Cleanser – Fire in the Blood

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After finally deciding to give up on the- book-with-the-bad-writing-that-will-not-be-named I needed something to wash out the disappointment and frustration. I decided to reread one of my favorite books. Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a rereading bend and that’s what I had been up to before starting the bad book. At the end of last year I reread The Shadow of the Wind and Harry Potter 1-3. I plan on going over these eventually.

I know that it can be considered silly to reread books, especially when there are so many books out there that I haven’t read and will probably never read but there is comfort in revisiting a beloved book. It’s like catching up with old friends. I tend to get very attached to my stories. Rereads also offer us an opportunity to see how we’ve grown. It’s possible to read one book when you’re young and come back to it years later and get something totally different out of it. For example, I’m sure if i reread The Awakening today I would feel very different about it than I did when I was 20. I didn’t understand her motivations but with almost ten years and a trail of failed relationships between I could probably understand it a little more.

Anyhow, the book I reread was Irene Nemirovsky’s Fire In The Blood.I first read it when I was 18 and it was fun to see the parts that I underlined and how despite growing so much since then, I still felt the same about those parts. The story takes place in a rural village in France during the interwar years and is told from the perspective of Silvio, a prodigal son of the village just returned after several years away. It consists primarily of his observations of his relatives and his recollections of his life when he was at that age and you and in love. I feel like this story is too hard to talk about without wholly giving it away but in a sense, it is also a reread for Silvio. He looks at his relative, Colette – recently married, and a young widow in the village, Brigitte, and is reminded of his youth and passions. One of the parts that I underlined on my initial read comes after Silvio has an argument with Colette and reflects:

When you’re twenty, love is like a fever, it makes you almost delirious. When it’s over you can hardly remember how it happened . . . Fire in the blood, how quickly it burns itself out. Faced with this blaze of dreams and desires, I felt so old, so cold, so wise. . .

One theme that does come up in the book is the choice between a complacent happiness that leads to material security and choosing that feverish and reckless love. At this point in life, I’m at a midway point between twenty and Silvio’s forty-some years and I can see where he might feel so old faced with that type of love but I also still understand it. As troublesome and dangerous as that type of love can be, I still think it is worth the blaze because to me, being with someone without that spark does not seem worth the time. Even Silvio despite, his weariness agrees, “I’m undoubtedly wrong to generalize; there are people who are sensible at twenty, but i’ll take the recklessness of my youth over their restraint any days.” Me, too Silvio, me too!

I’m starting to ramble and wish I had the time to write about this book as soon I finished it. I just did not have the time. This is the first weekend I’ve had without any other obligations outside of me, to do anything. It has been great. I want to read more of Nemirovsky’s works.  Especially since this one is one my favorites and means so much to me and it’s a miracle that this book even exists. It existed only as a partial text until the rest of the manuscript was found in a suitcase by one of her daughters. Irene Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz in 1942.

BJJ: I’m competing the next two upcoming weekends. As usual I’m nervous and I’m moving down a weight class into what has turned out to be a way more competitive bracket for one tournament. Usually there are 3-4 women in the bracket but next weekend’s has 8! I’m excited for the challenge and to eat afterwards.

Palette Cleanser – Fire in the Blood

Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Back in October I competed for only the second this year. This is way less than in previous years, especially compared to how much I competed as a white belt. But there were also different factors at play. There were three tournaments that I wanted to do but ended up missing because of injury or scheduling conflicts. The fight team was really active this year and a lot of those tournaments coincided with days the guys were fighting so I didn’t have a coach and still get nervous about going to a tournament alone (this is actually a nightmare of mine and I hope it never happens). And the most whiny excuse as to why my competition presence was so low is because I just didn’t feel ready and all the frustrations I was dealing with BJJ in general resulted in my heart not being in it. Also, I sprained my calf at muay thai and that took months to heal.

But! Eventually my disillusionment subsided and I fell back in love with jiu jitsu. It took some time and me stepping far outside my comfort zone. Jiu jitsu is a long journey and filled with lots of bumps, peaks and valleys, and so on. Most of mine had been limited to my home gym and training partners. I hadn’t gone to an open mat or a seminar that wasn’t at my own gym so once I finally did that, a new world opened up to me. Open mat at another gym exposed me to different styles of rolling that broke up some of that staleness/frustration and I was able to make some new friends! I also attended to seminars. One with The Canutos, Renato and Raquel, and the other with Lucas Lepri. Each of these deserves their own post and I will try to get to that in time. All of these things were super invigorating and made me feel more serious about my training. It became less about going to the gym and being with my friends, even though that it a major reason I go. Training and the gym is my refuge and to an extent it is like a religious experience and I get to spend time with people I enjoy. But this wasn’t enough at the time and to avoid becoming one of those storied people that gets their blue belts and dips out I needed that shift in focus.

So I set my sights on a tournament in the fall. The AZBJJF’s Southwest Classic. It would be my second appearance there and hopefully redemption from my awful performance the year before. I was stronger physically and mentally. I really should not have been competing at the end of 2017. I was broken hearted and so unhealthy. I showed up to that tournament weak and unfocused. I had been trying to do too many things at once so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain I was feeling. I was studying for the LSAT and took that 3 weeks before the tournament, the weekend after that I took a trip to Montana, and then competed following week. In sum I wasn’t training like I wanted to win and didn’t have a plan.

Fast forward to this year and my new mindset. I trained harder and in a more concentrated way. I tried to focus on what my weak points were in the last tournament and that turned out to be getting caught in side control. My teammates and I just worked that and my coach even had a few classes where that was my sole focus. Also, I was attending a women’s only competition class over the summer that was really tough and had lots specific training. All of this really paid off when I finally did step on to the mats.

The tournament itself was a bit a change from previous ones. My coach couldn’t make it because again, the guys were fighting (!), but I was lucky enough that one of our brown belts, Danny, who is also a good friend was competing and able to coach me. We drove up together, also good because it was raining horribly that day. Danny competed first and ended up being moved into a different division and lost on points. My division was a little bit after and there were three of us. For once I had the buy and tried not to focus too much on the match between the other two girls. I ended up with two matches that day and placing second! I won my first match with a cross collar choke from guard. It was tough but I felt good throughout. I don’t remember much though because this was back in October but I pulled guard and I think there was a scramble that ended up with her back in my guard.

The second match was tougher. I had competed against this girl last year and she took first in our division. Overall, my performance was much stronger. I’m not okay with having lost but to see an improvement is important. Last year I got caught in side control and hit in the mouth and started to flounder once I tasted blood. This year it was a better match. I didn’t concede like I did then and was able to escape side control but unfortunately I got caught in mount and ended up giving up my back to tapping to a bow and arrow! It was so frustrating because it felt like I forgot mount escapes. Nonetheless, I’m still proud of myself for the gains, small as they were, and not having given up on jiu jitsu or competing. I’m hoping to compete more next year and hopefully make it to Pans or the Las Vegas Open. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

Books: After finishing Emergency Contact I ended up doing a lot of rereading. I’m planning for future posts on those books because rereads always give a different perspective because hopefully between each reading of a book you’ve grown as a person and are able to take something different away from the book. I’m sure if I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening I’d understand in a totally different way at 28 versus 21. My rereads were: Harry Potter 1-3 and The Shadow of the Wind (one of my all time favorites!). I’m also still working my way through the Labyrinth of Solitude and have added True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx. The latter is a quicker read but still slow and maybe I need a break from nonfiction.

Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Grand Canyon Open 2018

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Trying to maintain my guard despite getting caught with “the spliter”.

I competed in the NABJJF Grand Canyon Open for the third time early last month. This tournament makes me a little nostalgic since it was the first one tournament I ever signed up for and the only one time I’ve signed up for two divisions. Last year I signed up for gi only and came away with a silver medal. This year, my first as a blue belt, I competed in no gi, a weaker area for me, and did not make it to the podium. I’m not upset that I didn’t place. I think it’s great that there were more women in my bracket than usual. Usually, it’s so small that everyone places by default, so this is good for the sport and competition but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I was disappointed in myself and frustrated. I’m still adapting to being at the bottom again and the competition at blue belt is very different compared to what it was as a white belt.

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I wrote that paragraph at the beginning of May. Tomorrow is the first of June and my frustration has continued to grow; not just with being a relatively new blue belt but maybe, unfortunately with jiu-jitsu itself. I think I’ve been avoiding coming to terms with that and as a result, writing the original post, because of how much stock I have put into my training. I started martial arts right as I was entering a turbulent time in my life that had lots of change and I’ve jokingly referred  it to as my quarter life crisis. Jiu jitsu was there for me through what amounted to lots of ups and downs and some very low downs. I don’t really wanted to get into the details about that right now because some of these things are still painful to talk about but jiu jitsu was my anchor and as long as I dragged myself to the gym and got some good rounds in, I knew I would be okay, even if it was just until I get back onto the mats.

It’s entirely possible that this wasn’t a healthy way to cope and now I’m paying for it. Lately, I’ve been struggling to be motivated while I’m at class. I feel like I’ve plateaued harder than I ever have over the past three years and I hate it. I hate not being excited to go the gym and work on improving my game. I know some of this comes with the constant change in training partners. My original cohort has dispersed and my personality doesn’t mesh well with some of the newer ones. The whole atmosphere has been different and despite my best efforts to hold fast, I’ve flirted with the idea of quitting all together. It just seems easier to go back to just striking but I think I would also feel weird if I did that. I’m not sure if that weirdness would be the result of shame but I do think I would be very disappointed in myself. Jiu jitsu is the first activity that I’ve picked up and really poured myself into with the intention of being the best I can be and not giving up. To move forward, I’m going to try to keep this sentiment in mind and compete again soon. Hopefully that mental reset will do me some good and pull me out of the funk. I hate being so whiny.

As for the books: I’m currently working on The Labyrinth of Solitude  by Ocatvio Paz. It feels very academic but is still readable and enjoyable. I’m not sure what’s the best way to talk about it, just as I’m not sure how to talk about Vonnegut’s Mother Night, the last book that I read. It was good, like everything else of his that I’ve read, but I don’t have the words to properly describe how it made me feel.

Grand Canyon Open 2018

Rise of the Prospects

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It really does seem like I tend to post things almost two months after the fact. I’m not entirely sure what causes  this but I’m starting to think it might be time and fear. Time because there are only so many hours in a day and fear because of the vulnerability that writing entails. I still haven’t told any of my friends or training partners about this blog. I’ve only alluded to it to maybe one or two people but no one has the address. One day, I’ll announce it.

Back in October I got to be part of something really cool in my city that was hosted by my gym, Rise Combat Sports. The owners, Jen and Chris, put together a promotion called Rise of the Prospects to give local fighters and grapplers a chance to showcase their skills. It’s really cool because Tucson does have a burgeoning MMA scene with plenty of gyms and lots fighters. Jen was telling me that she was advised to overbook the card because fighters tend pull out. This was not the case and instead, she was fielding requests to be added to card non-stop. This first card had Muay Thai and BJJ. The first half of the card was dedicated to Muay Thai with the second half reserved for jiu-jitsu.

This event was was a lot of fun. It was an opportunity to compete without having to pay a tournament fee and I only had one match, so I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of “What if I win and have more matches?” Every fighter also got to choose their own walkout music and the atmosphere was so different from tournaments. Instead of being a hot and sweaty gym, we were this neat venue downtown surrounded by an actual crowd which was really cool. My match ended up being a loss for me. I got caught in a bow and arrow against a very tough competitor. It was disappointing to have lost again so soon. This was the weekend after my disastrous performance at the Southwest Classic. But it’s okay because before my match I got to cheer my sister, Bianca, on her in Muay Thai debut!

Bianca is my little sister and joined Rise about a month after I did. In the beginning she was a little timid and would only take the women’s muay thai class and then, only if she had a guaranteed partner that she was comfortable with. Bit by bit she started to get better and become more confident. Eventually, she just got really good. Bianca has always been really athletic. She played varsity basketball and softball in high school and did really well there too. I remember a write up in the local paper that referred to her as the basketball team’s “tenacious little defender.” So naturally, she would take to this new sport. She spent some time going between wanting to fight and not fight and I’m so glad she finally decided to. She worked so hard in the lead up to the fight and ran actual camp. She was running, eating well, hitting pads, and sparring. It was a huge step out of her comfort zone and it paid off! OMG! It was such a good fight and I’m so proud of her!!!

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After the fight with my dad and other sister, Jennifer.

Rise of the Prospects 2 will be taking place this weekend. I won’t be competing because initially I really wanted to go to No Gi Worlds but I won’t be doing that either. The week after this match, my LSAT scores came in and I have to retake it. I need to improve my score to get into the school I want because I’m not settling for anything less!

Rise of the Prospects