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.
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.
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!!!
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!
I had blue belt debut last month! It did not go as well I would have hoped but as always it was a good experience. Going in to this tournament I didn’t feel as nervous as I normally do and I wonder if it has to do with my haphazard decision to sign up. I had spent time going back on forth on if I was going to compete. I hadn’t been able to train for this tournament like normal and I kept hearing that The Southwest Classic is one of the tougher tournaments in Arizona. I was also studying for the LSAT and had my trip planned for Montana the weekend before the tournament. All of these factors had kept me on the fence about competing for this tournament. I was also scheduled to compete the following weekend. So I was busy and a little unfocused but ultimately I signed up after one of my teammates convinced me to; he didn’t want to be the only one, and a talk with my coach about “showing up.”
This tournament turned out to be one of my worst performances. This can be chalked up to essentially not being as prepared as I should have been. I had too much on my plate and not enough to devote to training but after signing up I was committed to showing up. It was also one of the strangest divisions I’ve compete in. Even weirder than NAGA back in February. I ended up competing against a 13 year old and a 15 year old. We were probably the only ones in our respective brackets and the other girls must have agreed to be moved up a division/weight class if they were alone in their bracket. I had also marked to move up but it seems that the three of us were able to make a bracket at middle weight. Anyhow, I lost both my matches. The first match kind of broke me mentally. I got hit in the mouth and bled and after that I was distracted and unfocused. I ended up getting caught in side control and maybe eventually mount (I haven’t rewatched the video) and tapped to what felt like an Ezekiel choke. This was also the first time I wanted to cry while still being on the mats. I was upset with myself and frustrated for giving up and losing control.
The second match was similar to the first. I did a little better this time but lost focus again. My opponent had really long hair and it felt like I was eating it at one point and that was gross. Again, I found myself holding back tears! I’m no stranger to crying after competing but I usually try to wait until I get home. I was just falling apart this time and had to go outside for some air and wash my face to feel better. At the end of this I kept thinking of the different reasons why this went so badly. Those reasons started to sound like excused after a while. Ultimately, I think it just boils down to lack of preparation. I didn’t train hard enough for it and my performance showed. I also felt very weak and that may have been due to stress from studying for the LSAT, the actual test, and not resting enough between that, travelling, and the tournament. I also considered that maybe I was in the wrong weight class. I’m still proud of myself for getting that first competition out of that way. My family was misled from the picture I sent them of the medal. My sister congratulated me on my gold medal and it was telling her that it was actually a bronze.
I’m excited to see how I progress with competing as a blue belt. When I first started training, one of the guys told me not to quit after I got my blue belt. I don’t plan on it but I I’ve heard that quitting after blue isn’t uncommon. Given that and the attrition rates for whit belts that don’t make it to blue for whatever reason, the pool of women that compete is going to continue to get smaller.
Currently taking a break from Under the Volcano. I wasn’t getting anywhere with and maybe a break will help refocus my attention.
As usual I’m updating almost a month after my last competition*. In April I competed in the NABJJ Grand Canyon Open for the second time. This was exciting for several reasons: The Grand Canyon Open was my first tournament last year, I got to compete with more of teammates since it was a one day tournament, and it was the first time in a long time where I actually felt really good about my performance and the experience as a whole. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any bumps in the road but it was a complete 180 from my worst performance (s far) at Nationals last October and I had a better bracket than at NAGA in February.
I ended up with second place in a bracket of 4 so that was fun. Especially after I called my dad to let him know I got second that that it wasn’t out of two. I won my first match off of points which is great but also a little frustrating. I feel like I should have been able to get a submission but I tend to have a hard time settling into position before attempting to submit. I need to work on that for future competitions. I think the final score ended up being 26-3. Despite the score that match was exhausting and I felt so shaky and drained afterwards and wanted to cry. This is probably because of the adrenaline from the match and how I was so used to only having one match and losing. Winning was weird! My coaches also missed that match. The tournament was running ahead of schedule (my only complaint as far as organization goes) and that was frustrating but luckily my friend and teammate Stefan was able to coach me and I’m super glad he was there for that. He also drove us home and prevented me from falling asleep at the wheel.
I’m not sure how much I waited before my second match but t felt like an eternity and one of my teammates competed in that time. When it was finally my turn to go again; I was not feeling well. My body was worn out from the adrenaline dump and I felt nauseous. I got caught in my opponents guard and had the hardest time breaking it. I could barely concentrate and felt really hot and dizzy. I think I finally did manage to get out and there was a scramble but I ended trapped in an omoplata and tapping. I was really hoping to win but wasn’t crushed with my loss.
I felt good about my training before and was focused and ready. The best part of this tournament was my family coming to watch. Several of my cousins were able to make it and it was so nice to be surrounded by so much love afterwards and they were proud and impressed which in turn made me very happy and gracious.
There are a couple tournaments coming up this summer and I’m looking forward to competing. Each time I compete I learn something new. Previously, that lesson had been the need to not get caught in mount and learn how to escape. This time, I think my main take away is that I need to be more patient and take my time once I get to a position rather than relying on constantly changing positions.
*At this point it’s been two months since my competition and one month since I first wrote all of this out. Why am I like this?
Where does the time go? I competed in Naga almost two months ago. As usual, I got super busy with training and work and a little scared about posting. Writing here, still makes me feel a little nervous and vulnerable. Anyhow, back to the tournament. For the most part, competing went much better than the last time. I still lost my match and ended up with third place but the overall experience and my head space was much better! I was excited just to be there and wanted to have fun.
I got to watch the kids team compete and it was the first tournament for a several of my drilling parts. Being there for that was exciting and it was fun to watch them roll with strangers and different motivations than rolling at your gym. A couple of days after the tournament one teammate observed that competing requires an entirely different skill set.
Even though this competition was more fun than the last one, it was fun and games. I decided to cut weight for the tournament so that I’d be competing in a smaller weigh class (130-139lb v. 140-159lb). I started dieting about 3 weeks out and weighed 146 and was able to weigh the morning of at 138. Cutting weight was not fun and I didn’t have to lose that much compared to what some of the fighters have to deal with at our gym so hats off to them. I was so grumpy and tired and probably won’t be cutting again. Mostly because there was no in my weight class and I was bumped up to the one I was trying to avoid. One of my teammates was also bumped up to that class and division. We both lost our matches and decided not to fight each other for third. It didn’t feel right and I had started eating chips immediately after my match.
The match itself was tough. Even though I felt better going into that match than the last one; I felt weak and tired from the weight cut. My opponent was also heavier and definitely stronger than me. I felt that I may have been more technical but could not get past her strength advantage. I also learned that I need to work on mount escapes. I do not want to get trapped there again during a match.
I’ll be competing again in two weeks and am looking forward to that. Hopefully it goes well despite training becoming more difficult due to the heat. Spring just started and temperatures are already hitting the low nineties in my city. Living in the desert is fun!
About two months ago, I finished up reading The Girls by Emma Cline. The book serves as a parallel/allegory to the Manson Family and the women that made up his cult. Like, the history of the Manson Family and subsequent murders, The Girls is set in California during the late sixties and is told from Evie’s perspective through a series of flash-forwards and flashbacks. Evie is 14 years and a bit of misfit. She doesn’t have very many friends and has slipped through the cracks of her parents’ divorce, while each parent if focused on new romantic pursuits. The loneliness that is born of this situation makes her vulnerable to the charm of Suzanne and the societal outcasts she lives with on an abandoned ranch.
I don’t really feel the need to delve too much into the plot since the story is so widely known. Suzanne’s character is clearly a parallel for Squeaky Fromme, one of Charle’s Manson’s most devoted followers. The fictional cult leader, Russell that is embittered after being unable to land a record deal, is Charles Manson. The book was a quick and light read and did a good job of capturing the feelings of isolation that begin to settle in during adolescence. I’m not sure if those feelings ever go away but you do become less vulnerable with age.
I think I would have found the material more engaging if I hadn’t listen to Karina Longworth’s summer series on the murders, Charles Manson’s Hollywood. It is part You Must Remember This which is easily my favorite podcast. The podcasts delves into the secrets and forgotten stories of Old Hollywood and is incredibly well done. In Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Longworth immerses the listeners in the various players and intricacies operating around Manson. I would definitely recommend checking out the podcast in addition to the book.
In BJJ news: NAGA is coming up in a few weeks. I still need to register.
Well it happened and it’s over. I have so many mixed feelings about how it all turned. Going into it I didn’t have the same frame of mind that I had with the previous tournaments. A lot of my personal relationships have shifted and I think my feelings about that definitely came into play and distracted me but it wasn’t all bad. My dad was able to watch me compete and that was a delightful surprise. The morning of the tournament he called and told me to cancel my plans with my friends for the ride to Phoenix because he would be taking me. My sister also joined us!
We got to the tournament early and ended up with a lot of free time. My family got to eat and I just got to deal with more anxiety about my match. I just felt so much more nervous this time. As I’ve had time to think about it, I think that nervousness may have come from pressure I had put on myself to do well based of off how the last two tournaments had gone. They went well and honestly, those successes felt like flukes since I’m so used to not doing well athletically. I played basketball and softball as a kid and was never that good but that may be because those weren’t the sports for me. Anyhow, back to the tournament! So all the time I had before the match evaporated once it was time for weigh ins and everything was a whirl wind.
I was where I needed to be with my weight but my gi was too short! Luckily, thanks to the advice of my coach, I packed an extra. As soon as I passed my check, I was up. I hated running late and was still readjusting my belt. Then it was time to get on the mats. The match started off alright. I pulled guard and tried to arm bar my opponent from there. Details are hazy but the first half of the match went well. I wasn’t able to get the arm bar but was in control and managed to take her back. I couldn’t get my grips right to complete the choke we had been working on in class. I lost my position and may have moved into side control and then mount. I need to watch the video again but at some point I decided to move from being on top to bottom and everything went south after that. I was pinned in side control and mentally a switch went off. I just didn’t want to be there. I started to feel like I was going to throw up and cry. I think all the stress and anxiety I had going into the match got the best of me. From what I heard after, it looked like I totally forgot the basics, like how to shrimp! My opponent then got an Ezekiel choke on me. I was able to sweep her and get on top but she still had the choke and I was beginning to cough and gurgle. I tapped and placed second in our division. We were the only competitors.
I still feel weird about the whole thing. I hated disappointing my coach and not having a decent answer for when he asked me, “What were you thinking when you went on bottom?” One of teammates volunteered answer for me and suggested I probably felt more comfortable on bottom. This is true. I still don’t feel very confident in my top game even though that teammate has been helping me with my arm bar from mount. Besides all of that, I think the loss was a necessary experience. I’m still figuring what I’ve learned from it besides confirming my suspicions that I don’t love competing. Even though it’s not my favorite thing, I still plan on competing in the future because I think it’s really important for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and take risks. I hate when I feel like my life has become stagnant and competing helps keep those feelings at bay and gives me a chance to test what I’ve been working in class. At the end of day, I feel so lucky to have found something that I’m passionate. I love how deeply humbling jiu jitsu can be and how that humility feeds my drive to learn more and continue to improve.