Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rolling with upper belts... Wile E. Coyote vs. the Roadrunner

Recently, I had the opportunity to roll with a black belt with whom I don't regularly get to roll. I asked for some feedback afterward and he said, "It's probably just because you were rolling with me, but you are being hesitant and not committing to anything." And it was true. When rolling with someone whose jiu jitsu is leagues above my own, I just don't know what to do. I'm screwed if I'm offensive and I'm screwed if I sit back and play defensively. If I DO anything at all, I'm screwed. So it is safer to simply do nothing.

This, of course, is no way to be. Remember Cyborg vs. Schaub in Metamoris?

Failure to really engage is no way to  learn. After all, it is better to attack and be counterattacked than to do nothing at all, right?

It is not only black belts who can make us look silly. Anyone who is a few steps ahead can lay jiu jitsu booby traps that get us in trouble. While watching me roll with an upper belt this week, one of my training partners laughed and said, "It's like you're Wile E. Coyote and he's the Roadrunner." And it was true - every time I thought I was setting a tricky trap - boom!- another Acme brand anvil came down and smacked me in the head.

But here's the awesome thing about Wile E. Coyote - he always gets up and keeps fighting. Despite anvils, falling cliffs,  and unfortunate encounters with dynamite, he is able to shake off these traumas and try again. I would like to think that even his concussion-laden brain is capable to learning from each attack.

So given the choice between Brendan Schaub and Wile E. Coyote, I'll chose the coyote any day. It is better to fight and get smashed than to never really fight. You can blame the repetitive TBIs, but Coyote keeps engaging with Roadrunner despite it never ending well. I have to admire that. Persistence is a virtue.

A funny side chart on our buddy:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mundials gold! What a difference a year can make…

This past weekend, four teammates and I travelled to Long Beach for the World Jiu Jitsu Championships, “the Mundials.”  As I discovered last year, this can be a brutal tournament. Since the brackets are single elimination, it is quite possible to train your ass off during training camp, take time off work, fly across the county, and get eliminated after 1 match. In fact, by definition this happens to 50% of the competitors. Last year, I lost my first match by one teensy advantage and I remember the feeling – heartbreaking.

This year, I had some unfinished business to settle.  I set my goals for the tournament in 3 tiers:

Tier 1: Above all else, I wanted to do better than I did last year. So my first goal was to win my first match
Tier 2: If all went well, I hoped to medal in my weight class and qualify for the open weight class division
Tier 3: If all went really, really well, my pipe dream was to win a gold medal


I had reason to feel confident. My teammates and I had been through a long and well-planned training camp and my jiu jitsu was feeling crisp and sharp. I also had put heavy emphasis on strength and conditioning, both through Crossfit workouts and lots and lots of jiu  jitsu rolling. I wanted to be able to give 100% effort to each match without feeling fatigued for the next.  Often times, I would roll  10 rounds and then do my cardio workout. I needed to train my body so that my strength and conditioning would still be there after intense bouts of jiu jitsu.

Another good signal was that I finally nailed my pre-tournament diet. The trick for me was starting early and not doing anything drastic. By cutting out most junk and eating mostly veggies, protein, and healthy fats, I was able to make weight without cutting water. The morning of the tournament, I ate breakfast, drank some Gatorade, and still weighed in a pound and a half under weight.                       

All that was left was to get my head in the right place. I told myself that there was no one in my division who I couldn’t beat, but at the same time, anyone number of them could beat me. It was anyone’s game. I had as much of a chance as anybody.  I also respected my opponents enough to know that I needed to bring near perfect execution and 100% effort to every single match.    

My instructor is an outstanding tournament coach with a booming voice that tells you what exactly you need to do during a match. By following Seth Shamp’s instructions, I did what I needed to do to win my 4 matches with submissions.  We took gold!  I was excited beyond words and am still doing a happy dance in my head.
There were a few hours to rest up and eat lunch before the open weight class division that evening. I honestly didn’t feel tired – maybe it was the excitement and adrenaline or maybe all that conditioning had really worked. I reported to the bull pen for the second time and tried to flip the same kill switch that I had earlier, but it was now harder. For better or worse, I was feeling a lot more relaxed. I had already accomplished my pipe dream goal of winning a gold medal. Medaling in the open weight class would be icing on the cake.
I got a bye in the first round and then won the 2nd round match by points. I found that I didn’t have the same grip strength that I had earlier in the day and finishing people was becoming more difficult. I won the 3rd  round with an armbar, which guaranteed me at least a bronze medal as I went into the semifinals.
And that was when I got mauled.  I went up against Rodolfo Vieina’s sister, who took me down with a quick double leg and then smashed me with the most crushing top pressure I had ever felt in a tournament. She was absolutely awesome and the feeling of being underneath her was awful.  The minutes on the tournament clock, which usually fly, had all but stopped. My instructor would not let me give up and coached me to keep fighting , while, unbeknownst to me, I was down by around 30 points.  In the end, I survived the match of pain and doom without getting submitted, which is something I am proud of.
Carolina Vieira won the division and got her purple belt on the podium. I was among some pretty bad ass company as I stood beside her to get my bronze medal!