Monday, June 4, 2012

Mundials Recap

We are back from the mundials! Overall, it was an awesome experience. From the time we stepped on the plane to Long Beach, we were surrounded by jiu jitsu all the time. (You think metal detectors and security guards help you feel secure in an airport? You should try getting on a plane with a half a dozen jiu jitsu black belts).

One highlight of the trip was the opportunity to spend time with my gal pals:
 with Penny Thomas and Leticia Ribeiro 

Gabrielle Garcia

Ronda Rousey

Of course, by “spend time with,” I mean to pose briefly for pictures. And by “gal pals,” I mean world-class bad asses who didn’t run away from me when I followed them. Either way, it was a surreal feeling to rub noses with the jiu jitsu and judo celebrities that I aspire to be like. 

The other highlight was that two of my teammates brought home medals! Jason Mask and Jeff Shaw both took home bronze metals in the senior 1, white belt division. This was the first time that anyone from North Carolina had medaled at this tournament.  I know it’s something they will remember for a long time. (Jason wants to get a mundials tattoo in case he gets dementia or something, but I am doing my best to veto this idea).

Days before the tournament, I got to work Google-stalking my competition.  It may sound weird and creepy, but rest assured that I did not do this in the dark, in my parents’ basement, or while eating a sandwich. My mind was innocent - I just wanted to know who I was up against. It was a tough field; many competitors had won major tournaments. But I believed that I had as good of a chance as anyone. 

After brackets were posted, I felt my odds start to drop. In my first round, I had the luck to get paired with the defending blue belt world champion. She also had just won the gi Pan Ams in the weight class above mine. This was going to be tough. I knew that I had to treat this match like it was the only one I would have. To give anything less than 100% would mean getting smashed. I had to respect my opponent enough to put everything I had on the mats.

I reported to the bull pen game face on, ready to go…and then I had uniform problems.  First, the patches on my pants didn’t pass inspection, and my teammates had to rip them off with coins and their fingernails. Then the sleeves on my brand new Fenom gi were deemed too short.  (Really the gi fit fine, but I was standing like a hyper-extended  zombie, instead of like a normal jiu jitsu player up for gi inspection).

How normal people stand for sleeve inspection:

Hyper-extended zombie:

They told me that I had to change my gi and that I had 5 minutes to do it. Luckily, I had a spare gi in my bag. Of course, the brand logo on my other pants didn’t meet approval either and this time it was not removable. Jason ran as fast as he could to buy me a gi from one of the vendors. I tried on the third gi and it fit me like a sack. Jason ran to exchange it, and finally this new gi passed inspection. Right in the nick of time!

I pushed the gi drama out of my head and fought my match. Six minutes flew by before the ref could say could say "combate!."  Before I knew it, there were 10 sec left and I was up 4 to 2! All I had to do was not get swept and I would win. My coach was yelling at me to base out on my knees, but I couldn’t hear him. I stayed on my feet in her guard…and sure enough, I got swept. The score was tied 4 to 4, but I was down 1 advantage (for some reason I didn’t get awarded an advantage for my kimura). And so I lost the match.

For an hour or so I was absolutely heartbroken.  I knew that it wasn’t rational to feel the way I did, because I had done really well, against a really good opponent.  But it was hard to come to grasps with the fact that I had put so much into training camp, took time off work, flew across the country, and had nothing to show for it. All that time, money, and work for just 6 minutes. But that’s how it is with major tournaments.  

Sometimes it’s not about how many matches you have or even how you place. There is a certain amount of chance involved. You might get a bye in the first round, you might get an easy opponent, or you might get paired with the defending world champion. I am grateful to have had the chance to see how I stack up against the very best in my division. And I think this experience will make me more confident and better prepared the next time I compete.

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