Monday, October 3, 2011

You win some, you learn some

This weekend I competed in my first tournament as a blue belt, which, incidentally, was the no gi Pan Am games in New York. Also competing were my instructors Seth Shamp, Jacob Whitfield, and Ryan Hanseler, and my teammate Hameed Sanders. It was a very fun trip!

I survived my terrible, miserable diet and found myself only 1 pound overweight the morning before the tournament. But when I weigh myself at home, I do so first  thing in the morning, without clothes, and before breakfast.  With my fight clothes on and breakfast and coffee in my belly, I found myself 2.5 lbs over. So I jumped rope...

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I'm not a super sweaty person.So I jumped rope for a good 20 min before I dried myself off, put my rashguard back on, and checked my weight again. To my dismay, I was still a half pound over.

I began to fret (which, lamentably, did NOT make me sweat). In the IBJJF rules, the phrase "immediately disqualified" is tossed around a lot. Participants are given 1 chance to officially weigh in, right before their first match. The scales are open all morning, however, so you can weigh in unofficially as much as you want. During your official weigh in, if you are anything over your registered weight class, you get immediately disqualified. Not bumped up a weight class, but IMMEDIATELY DISQUALIFIED! These are strong words, for sure.

So I once again donned my sauna suite and sweats and jumped rope (harder this time) for another 10 min. It wasn't fair! I'm not going to mention names, but there are guys on my team who would only need to look at a sauna suite and think about jumping rope and  they would easily sweat out 5 lbs. My mom looked on with a mixture of concern and amusement. "Your hair is not going to look as nice in pictures as it did in the last tournament," she cautioned me. I agreed that this was indeed the case.

So I once again dried off and put  my uniform back on. My no gi outfit was different than what I usually wear. Athletes who don't meet the strict uniform requirements are, you guessed it, immediately disqualified. I wore a brand new blue belt rash guard along with a very old pair of running tights. I had stopped wearing the tights about a year ago for reasons that I did not remember but dug them out for this tournament. (My regular tights have a tiny zipper in the back that I was afraid would not make it past the scrupulous inspection of officials. Plus, my old tights are really worn out, and thus a little lighter).

I hopped on the scale and yelped for joy when I was a half pound under - more than enough for the 3 Advil and swig of Gatorade I planned to take for my elbow.

While my minor weight cut caused me anxiety, it did not affect my performance. Really, I felt fine afterward. My matches started and I realized very quickly that gone were my days of hulk smashing. My weaknesses were magnified in my new division. I realized that, among other things, I needed to get better at wrestling takedowns and half guard.

But I was super thrilled to win my weight class and bring home a Pan Ams gold medal!

My instructor Seth Shamp won a gold medal in his division as well, further evidence that he might be the wold's most overqualified purple belt. I was almost as happy for Seth's gold as for my own because I watched how hard he trained for this tournament. He couldn't have deserved it more, both because of his skill level and because of the work that he put into training camp.

The top 3 in each weight class would qualify for the "open weight class" or  absolute division. While not everyone who qualifies for the division chooses to compete, we ended up with a nice group of 8 blue belt women. (No one signed up to compete again with Seth, not that I can blame them).

I spent my entire first absolute match stuck in my opponent's guard. I discovered 2 more things that I need to  work on - a) having a more upright, backward posture when trying to open a closed guard and b) more forward pressure when standing to pass a guard. We were at such a stalemate that no points or advantages were scored. I won by referee's decision because, according to my instructor, I was more active.

It was during this match that I remembered why I stopped wearing my old tights. Now, I know you were too focused on the jiu jitsu to notice, but my pants simply did not want to stay up. I tried to ignore it - an ass is an ass afterall...we all have them. I strongly prefer to keep mine covered in public venues, but jiu jitsu takes precedence over modesty. Needles to say, I am now sending these tights back into retirement.

I watched the other girls in their first rounds and quickly picked out the "person to beat." This was a chick with envy-worthy hulk smashing skills. I went against her in the semifinals, where I lost to take bronze.


This was my first time ever getting submitted in a tournament and it left me a little heartbroken. I didn't mind losing so much - I have lost before - but in the past, even if getting crushed by points, I have always been able to fight tooth and nail to stay alive and not tap. But this girl was bigger, and frankly, a lot better than me. (Jake told me that she was stronger, better looking, smelled better, and probably made more money than me as well). She went on to win her next match therefore winning the absolute division.

I congratulated her afterward and found out that she was quite the accomplished grappler. During her 2.5 years as a blue belt, she has been to 3 Pan Ams and 2 world championships. 

After we took our pictures, her coach asked to get a picture with her gi top on "for sponsorship purposes." She looked confused but did what he asked. Then, instead of taking a picture, he handed her a purple belt. I started to feel better about getting tapped!

The Pan Ams were my first IBJJF tournament and overall it was a great experience. If you are wondering how they are different from local tournaments, here are some things I noticed:

US Grappling
Pure jiu jitsu – no gi divisions are based on belt rank
More inclusive to wrestlers – no gi divisions are based on belt rank OR time on the mats
Very strict about weight classes – they will not “bump you up” if you fail to make weight or if there is no one else in your division
Want people to have as many matches as possible. Not so eager to immediately DQ people, even for eating too many cookies
Stricter uniform requirements, including no cups for the guys
Let me wear pink and purple;  let the fellas protect their family jewels
Organizers have sexy Brazilian accents
Organizers may or may not have sexy Brazilian waxes


  1. Alison Tremblay is not an awful opponent to lose to. Good job!! I regret not going but there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.


  2. You did a fantastic job, Kim. We're all really really proud of you. Team Royce Gracie is kicking ass!

  3. Cupcake time? I'll have one anyways!=)