So by now you probably know that on Sunday 18th August I (finally) took part in my first Brazilian jiu jitsu competition: the Tuff Grappling Challenge in Kent.
I won the silver medal in the women’s white belt featherweight division – I was lucky to have had two opponents not too dissimilar at all in weight, and so two fights. Often, there are only a few girls in total in a competition, and rarely very close to each other in weight, so this was great for a first experience.
The competition was small and ran quite close to schedule – we were only about an hour off, when some competitions can be several hours behind, which is really off-putting for competitors who don’t know when to eat or when to warm up. I was also lucky than my division was scheduled quite early – 10:40am – so I knew that even though it would be later than this it couldn’t have accumulated hours of lateness at that stage, not to mention that I could get it over and done with before watching my teammates compete.
Excuse the grainy phone photo – I was too shy to ask anyone to use my camera to take photos! But seeing what I look like, maybe grainy is good for today!
Let’s get started straight away with a run-down of the fights:
My first fight was against a taller and very marginally heavier opponent – we’re talking less than a kilo heavier here – so I was in no way worried as I am used to grappling with taller opponents with longer limbs, and also know that I am stronger than most women my weight. We actually ran into each other in the changing rooms before our fight – her friendliness and eagerness to disclose her category told me this was probably her first competition too, and she looked nervous. I know in the past I have had issues with not being aggressive enough, and I also knew that I was well-conditioned to work at a high pace for the duration of the round if necessary, so I resolved to go hard from the word go. My coach asked me my strategy – I surprised myself by answering confidently what my first steps and overall game-plan was – and he gave it his blessing. Everything went according to plan – I stepped in confidently, made my first grip on her collar, my second on her sleeve, and jumped guard. From there I proceeded to lean back and pull on her until she fell to her knees, and as she tried to break my guard I swung my left leg over her head, pulling her right arm close to my chest for the armbar. For what felt like an eternity I squeezed my knees whilst trying to extend my hips, and also putting pressure on her head and back in an attempt to push her over – in sparring by that point I would have moved on to try something else, but she didn’t seem to be creating any gaps for herself so I continued to hold. Finally she fell onto her shoulder, allowing me to roll onto my belly and extend my torso; after a few fairly alarming cracks from her arm she finally tapped, and the victory was mine, in my first competitive Brazilian jiu jitsu match. I couldn’t stop smiling.
For my second fight, I was encouraged to use the same strategy, and I was happy to follow this advice. Unfortunately, my opponent, already a little shorter than me, crouched down low making it impossible for me to jump guard. She attempted a double-leg takedown which I quite effectively sprawled on – but I lingered in that position which gave her time to swing onto her back and pull me into her guard. From there she tried hard to control me, and I feel like I gave her a fair bit of a hard time. At this point I could barely hear my corner, but I could hear her coach and proceeded to counteract all the instructions he was giving her. As she opened her legs to – I suppose – swing around for an armbar, I managed to back out of her guard, only to find her feet on my hips and her hands still pulling on my sleeves. Knowing that my best line of defence here would be to stand up, I did so, but not before she clamped her legs onto one arm. She was going for an armbar but I knew that she wouldn’t finish it as my arm had already partly escaped. Unfortunately, at that point we had rolled out of the mat boundaries and got reset in the centre by the referee. We were instructed to get into the same position, but I will admit that beyond knowing that I was leaning into her, on my knees, with her holding one arm, I wasn’t entirely sure what our position was. She arranged herself and I agreed to continue from there – but before I knew it she had switched submissions and was going for a triangle choke. It was tight, and I instantly had to start working fast before my air ran out. I got my knee into the back of her hips to try and pull out from in between her legs, and moved myself around to her side in the hope of putting a hand on her throat to distract her – I even briefly got my knee there somehow, but it wasn’t enough, and she was able to shift her hips that tiny little bit more, shutting off my last bit of air and forcing me to tap before I had a chance to think about anything else.
And so the gold medal faded away from me, but I was rewarded for my efforts with a silver medal. At least I wasn’t last, and at least I feel I did myself justice. My teammates seem to wholeheartedly believe that had we not been reset in a slightly different position, I could have won – I am inclined to agree and have to say regardless of the position, the interruption messed with my “flow” – but this is nobody’s fault but my own, and I will be better prepared for this eventuality next time.
Although I am disappointed not to have taken home the gold for our team, I feel I worked hard for my silver medal, and I think my teammates were proud. Now I have a real sense of purpose to my training, and I feel like a part of the team.
In my next post, I will give you a description of how I prepared the day before the competition, the food I ate, what I drank, and how I warmed up – hopefully it will come of use to somebody out there preparing their first competition!