The majority of the articles published on this site, and most of the other sites covering the world of combat sports, focus on the professional level of the sport and larger stages of MMA, kickboxing, BJJ, etc., as they should.
There is a huge industry built up around the high levels of competition, and thus an industry devoted to covering it. However, there is less coverage, at least at the local level of media, on amateur competitions. The reason I’m telling you this is that I have registered for Bay Area Jiu-Jitsu Championships, which will be taking place on Nov. 18. I’ll be competing in the men’s No-Gi, beginner (up to 18 months experience), 155-165lb weight class.
I figured, while I focus on and hone an aspect of my life that I’m talented at and have a passion for in grappling, I can exercise another aspect of my life that I have a talent and passion for in writing. This is especially helpful in that not all of my friends want to hear me freak out about grappling 24/7.
The spark was lit this passed summer. I attended the San Jose Fitness Expo in July where two members of my gym, The Academy of Self Defense in Santa Clara, were competing in an open Jiu-Jitsu competition. I had wrestled throughout high school, so I’ve always had a certain nostalgia for those types of competitions.
After watching a whole day of competition (and meeting Eddie Bravo) my mind had been made up; the next available tournament, I was going to enter and compete. So earlier in the month when I got word of the Bay Area Championships, I jumped on the opportunity. I’ve been actively training BJJ and MMA for about a year, so I feel confident in my skills in the month leading up to the competition. The overriding motivation isn’t to go in there and own fools, but instead to test myself personally, against guys I don’t train with on a regular basis. I now have 6 minutes to prepare for. 6 minutes to fully optimize all of the skills I’ve spent the time learning and honing.
Anybody who trains in MMA or grappling knows that it’s really not something you can train full-on everyday like you can with something like, say, running. In practicing these types of skills, you are way more likely to hurt yourself. More often than not, its three or four days on, one or two days off. While you may not get large injuries requiring massive amounts of recovery time that often, your body will get tweaked. A muscle will get strained, a tendon inflamed, which may require a couple more days to heal, and always requires heightened awareness.
For me it’s always been my left elbow and my lower back. Constant roller coasters of strain, usually nothing ice wont fix, but always in the back of my mind. For the past week however, I’ve been dealing with a new strain. For training I’ve been doing gauntlets at my gym. That’s where I stay on the mat, while new people rotate in every 30 seconds to one minute. I get tired, they stay fresh, and we start in varying, disadvantageous positions for me. During one of these session my friend Kalyn, a big, 220lb, ex-Marine comes in. He promptly secures under-hooks, sweeps my leg, and his entire 220lb body falls on my extended ribs. Thankfully no broken bones, but bruises and muscle spasms for sure.
Another thing that is in the back of my mind, because I have less than a month to get my cardio and technique in peak condition which, I don’t know if you’ve tried, are more difficult with bruised ribs. People have asked, “Why are you training with bigger guys?” 1) Those are the people I have at my disposal, and 2) If I can hang with them, I can succeed at my weight class.
-Weight and Diet-
Thankfully for me, I’m walking around at 164.5 right now so my weight cut will be very minimal if at all. I feel that this is much more advantageous as I will maintain my endurance. Also because the weigh-ins are right before the matches. I’ve bought a scale for my cubical and I weigh-in everyday – morning and afternoon. I also kind of enjoy the looks I get from some of my co-workers as I take notes and continually check myself. Along with the weight is making sure I’m taking in the optimal fuel for my body. I’ve actually learned a lot about nutrition, which is not only helpful for this tournament, by my general health moving forward. I’ve developed a whole new appreciation to Whole Foods as I’ve incorporated lots of kale, coconut water and oil, probiotic, and various other healthy sources of fats, carbs, and protein into my diet. On the other side, trying to cut out sugars, dairy, and processed foods. People are creatures of habit, so being able to incorporate these things into my routine now is essential.
-Fighting State of Mind-
I’ve become a sponge once again. Opening myself up to flaws in my game, while trying to absorb as much info as I can. I’m currently reading Marcelo Garcia’s “Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques” (the man is a wizard), and will then move onto Saulo Rubeiro’s “Ju-Jitsu University.” Along with this are weekly one-on-one sessions with my coach Ali. Picture a little Persian pitbull and you’ll get Ali. Honestly it’s like rolling with an armadillo, it’s so difficult to penetrate his defenses and his squeeze sucks to get caught it. Now, I’ve been with Ali for a year, so these private sessions serve a dual purpose. While we are tightening up my technique, we’re also vibing about the mindset I have to been in to compete, and the different tips and tricks I’ve developed in my time with him. Because I’ve been educated under his system, any new info he gives me I can adapt way more seamlessly. “You’re a wrestler,” Ali tells me, “so you have an advantage in that 60-70% of these guys are straight Jits guys. You’ll be coming with techniques that not all of them have seen or will be practicing. You need to adapt that wrestling motive for the tournament. SMASH! Be mean, be a killer, if you lock onto something and you have it, don’t patiently tighten it up, crack it. You have 6 minutes dude, you may not get another opportunity.” Ali is also tuned into my bad habits, especially coming from a wrestling background, actively calling them out, while harking on some new habits. “Don’t leave your neck out! You may not be able to always gain a safe position…EXPLODE! IF you get taken down pop right back up, scramble, you only have 6 minutes…grind on him, block his hips, make him carry your weight.”
While I’m not the only one from my gym competing in the tournament, I think I’m most thankful for Ali to be there. As the day moves closer my nerves rise. All I keep telling myself is be offensive, keep the other guy on his heels, impose your game, and shut down his.
More to come in part 2.