Thursday, February 13, 2014

A week of firsts...reffing my first tournament and cornering my first MMA fight

I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret. Now, this may come as a huge surprise to many of you, but here it goes. Every now and then, I can be just a little bit of a dork.

Not in the sense that I want to eat my own boogers or anything like that. But sometimes, I can be overly enthusiastic - especially about the small roles that I play in cool events.

Like when I got to ref my first grappling tournament. I use "ref" in a very loose sense, since the tournament was submission only, which dumbed down the job by at least 80%. Since there were no points to score, my only jobs were to make sure no one did anything illegal, to keep competitors in bounds, and to call for medics when necessary. But that didn't stop me from being super excited about it. I did my best but made a few mistakes (twice I stopped matches when competitors only looked like they were about to tap, because ohmygod the arm is just not supposed to bend that way).

Reffin' ain't easy

I learned a few things in the process. Being a ref is a lot of work and not nearly as exciting as it looks.
  • Reffing requires constant attention for hours at a time. If you look away for even a couple of seconds, you might miss something and make a mistake. 
  • Refs have no friends. No one remembers the 50 good calls that you make in a day. It's the 1 mistake that stands out. The affected grapplers will think you are the worst ref in the world and won't be afraid to grumble about it.
  • White belts are like the sun - you don't want to stare directly at them while they are rolling, especially when they are defending a submission. Otherwise, you might be tempted to tap for them, which is where I messed up.
This brings me to the other highlight of my week - cornering my friend Jojo in his MMA fight. Again, I use "cornering" loosely because my responsibilities were once again limited.  The other 2 cornerers were Jojo's jiu jitsu and MMA coaches, who would do the entirety of the actual coaching. My job was to help with warmups and to carry the bucket. It was a small job, but I vowed to carry the shit out of that bucket. I even practiced my swagger walk. (Later, I got promoted to banner carrier, which was equally exciting).

Joseph Poteat at the Bull City Brawl

Besides carrying the banner and supporting my teammate, I was there to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on at an MMA fight. Familiarizing myself with the routines and environment would reduce some of the novelty if I decide to fight (and thereby reduce my anxiety).

I learned a few things from watching Jojo:
  • There's a ton of preparation that goes into a fight, both in the weeks beforehand and the day of
  • Fighting is tough and scary, but it is no worse than what a fighter goes through during training camp
  • MMA refs are every bit as human as grappling refs

In short, this week has taught me that what I lack in experience, I'm not afraid to make up for with dorky over-enthusiasm. But I am grateful for the learning experiences of both reffing and cornering. As a result, I am more sympathetic toward refs and more respectful of all the preparation that goes into fighting.