First off, a huge thanks to Big Dean. After a late night, Dean was up and about to meet me at 0830 and accompanied me to the tournament, coaching me all the way, keeping me focused. Dean was at the side coaching me all through my fights and we didn't really get back to his until about 1800 - a long day that he didn't have to give up just for me. So truly mate, thanks...it really is appreciated.
So, onto the day - I arrived to find that there were 5 guys in my category. The atmosphere in the place was good - music pumping into the arena, guys re-acquainting themselves with people they've met through BJJ etc. The Tonbridge guys were there - good to see so many of them there and a big congratulations to all their guys that took medals.
It was about a two hour wait until my first fight so after a quick warm up, and a pep talk from Dean it was down to business. My first fight started off with lots of just gripping up and pulling about. Eventually, bored and frustrated with standing I dropped to try and get guard, but the guy got X-side. I managed to roll him off, surprisingly easily (all that drilling came in handy!), took X-side, tried for knee on stomach, eventually took mount and then submitted him with an Americana arm lock - not the best one I've done, but I figured what the hell? A win's a win. In my second fight I was up against a huge guy from Carlson Gracie Hungary. I knew a little of him from the guys at Tonbridge - he's a big, strong guy - I was giving away around 8kg to him and most of him was muscle! I kind of knew I was in trouble, but hey - you do what you can. He broke down my posture pretty early and rather poorly (and much to Dean's frustration, I'm sure) I went down to take guard. He was quickly on me, took X-side and then submitted me with a good choke. There wasn't an awful lot I could do against his sheer strength. He went on to take Gold. I'm kind of hoping he'll get his Blue Belt soon so that I don't have to meet him again in any future tournaments! My third fight, I knew I was on for a Bronze , so didn't want to lose it. This was a bit of a stale-mate for a long time. Neither of us wanted to do anything too rash, so loads of just standing, looking for a gap to do something with. With Dean's threats of violence ringing in my ears, I wasn't going to go down easily this time. After a bit of probing I got a sweep on the guy which got me points, but I couldn't follow up quickly enough and the guy stood up. So, off we go again...more of the same. Eventually, the ref gets bored and takes a point off me for stalling (Still not sure why I was the one deemed to be stalling when the other guy was doing the same - hey ho). From memory, I went for a double leg takedown but he sprawled. My opponent got my back but I managed to roll him off but couldn't follow up - the same happened again, then he went for a sort of rear naked choke, but it wasn't on at all and he couldn't make anything stick long enough to get points...just as time went. I think I must've won by 1 point.
Sure - I was pleased to take the Bronze, but I'd rather have won easier than I made it and I know I could have done. I think I was so preoccupied with not making mistakes that I wasn't as forthcoming as I could and should have been. At the end of the day though, I'd got a medal from my first tournament.
So, reflections on the experience? Well....
1) Waiting - god, there's so much waiting and when you don't know what's coming that's even worse as the adrenaline just keeps on coming. Even when I'd finished, there was the hanging about to get my medal. Next time I shan't rush to get there so early knowing that I'll have to wait two hours before I get on. I'll also know what's coming so hopefully can stay a bit calmer.
2) Standing work - considering how long this bit of the fight can last, it's really important to understand it and have some sort of a game - in my last fight I wasn't stalling at all - I was just waiting for an obvious route in - I got one, but it's so hard if you're just not sure what you're looking for. Some work to be done.
3) Don't give anything for free - in 2 out of three fights I went down voluntarily...a big no no. In one I was fortunate to work technique out of X-side, the other I got submitted. 50/50 - not a good tactic.
4) Match strength when required - there were a couple of times when I really should have pursued or driven harder to push home an advantage - maybe I wasn't aggressive enough. I know BJJ isn't meant to be about that, but then tournaments aren't about pure BJJ in my view - you do what's needed to win. I think a bit more controlled aggression might not go amiss.
5) My knee survived - I need to try and not worry to much about what can't be controlled. By "guarding" these weak points you become tentative and move differently which can be more risky that just going with it - easier said than done, but something to think about.
I did have some video taken of my fights (thanks Neil) and I'd have loved to have put up some footage, but numpty that I am, I royally effed up the download and lost the videos! (gutted!). Here's a couple of photos instead - promise some film in the future - sorry!:
Will I compete again - yes! Where? When? Dunno, I need to work on a few things - I know what worked for me and what didn't so I want to go off, fix those things and go in better prepared next time now I know what to expect.
It's been a long but satisfying day...I'm off now to have well earned cold cider! Cheers!