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?
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.
I meant to write an entry about my feelings leading up to my first tournament. “I meant” seems to be a common theme here and I had planned to post several updates in real time so that training would have also been included. To an extent, I think fear keeps me from posting as regularly as I plan to. That and time constraints. There are only so many hours during the day and between working full time, training as much as body can handle, and applying to school, sometimes I just want to watch TV and zone out. But the fear. I have always been afraid about opening myself up to criticism and generally tend to be shy and quiet but fear is important and has definitely played a role in my jiu-jitsu and my decision to compete.
This past April I competed in the Grand Canyon Open hosted by the NABJJF. I entered two divisions: women’s white belt at lightweight for gi and no-gi. I decided to sign up in December of last year when my gym first announced the tournament and my coach suggested I sign up and do gi and nogi so I would have more matches and experience. I didn’t really have a plan for my training besides showing up to as many classes as possible and hoping to retain the information I learned.My approach to the tournament was kind of like how I went into the first few months of jiu-jitsu: try to survive. Haha. I didn’t even really have an idea of what to expect once the tournament came around because it was my first time I had ever competed individually. Not knowing what the expect may have been the thing for me even though I was dying of nerves when I finally stepped on the mats and the pictures show me looking like I was about to throw up.
I don’t remember much from that tournament after the first match. Details are foggy but I mostly remember how I feel. I won my first match via submission. I think it was with a simple choke. After the match while waiting for the next one to start I was doing my best not to panic, cry, and throw up. It was my first adrenaline dumb I had never felt anything like it and it was just horrible. I had also jammed my thumb but that wasn’t immediately obvious until after my second match. I lost that match to an arm bar or trianlge, I don’t remember anything except the other girl was super strong. I placed 2nd in gi.
There was time for a brief break after gi before the n-gi division started. I was so happy to see that so many of my friends and some of my family were there.It amplified me wanting to cry even more. I don’t know, I guess the adrenaline just had me feeling super emotional. Also exhausted. I remember trying to get outside as fast as possible and tearing off my gi and using the jack as a blanket to lay on outside. I was just a mess. Again, the adrenaline was too much. Luckily, we had enough time to get some food before the next match. My coaches recommended I eat but unfortunately, we went to a burger place. I only had a bite or two because I was still feeling weird and the pain from my jammed though was becoming noticeable.
I got my finger taped and was ready to go for the no-gi rounds. Or at least i thought. I think by that point my body was just giving up. My opponent during the first match was really tough and she ended winning 1st place. I remember trying my hardest to do well but the right side of my body started to cramp up and I just wanted it to end. Eventually it did end. I don’t remember how I lost and I still haven’t looked at the video from that match. I think I ended up with five matches that day and got 3rd in no -gi. I was so relieved when it was over and felt so proud of myself for having gone through with it.
Anyhow, none of this matters right now because I’m competing again on Saturday and am feeling super anxious about it. I’m not even sure why. It’s not my first tournament and I’m only signed up for gi but I can’t help but feel nervous and almost sick. I guess this is normal. I can’t wait until it’s over. I’ll update after that results and more thoughts on competing. I also finally finished Far From the Madding Crowd and will have something up on that eventually.