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The IBJJF London Open would have been today. I’m still pretty devastated about not being able to do it. One of my team mates went, and he had a good day. He should have been in a round robin, but one of his opponents pulled out (Rayron Gracie, whose mother was attacked a few days ago, so it’s completely understandable that he wouldn’t have wanted to travel to the UK to compete) but he still had one other opponent, and he won that match to take Gold. As I’m writing this he’s waiting to do the absolutes.

I wish I could have been there, but I suppose it’s good that I wasn’t competing, because I’m working Scottish Grappling tomorrow. I’m on the train to go there now, and I am pretty tired as it is! I’m still looking for my next target, though, and one of my other team mates reminded me that the UAEJJF does a few tournaments in the UK now, and that I should probably keep an eye on those.

It turns out I’d have a division at UAEJJF on the March 10, so I think I might try and do that. I’ve been in lazy mode for the last few weeks, fooling around in the gym and not really eating sensibly, so it’s important that I get back on track.

Doubly so because one of the guys at the gym is doing a Sports Science degree and wants to track the effects of weight cutting on performance athletes. He needs several people at different weights, and was hoping that I’d be up for being the ‘light person’. I don’t normally need to manipulate my weight to be on point to compete, but he’s asked me if I could try and maintain a loss of 500g a week for a few weeks just ‘for science’.

I’m curious, and I’ll get to have some fancy lab tests done if I agree, so of course I’ve said yes!

I’m going to start tracking my weight this week. I’ve downloaded Libra for my phone, which is a weight tracking scale that helps you track trends rather than freaking out because your weight fluctuates with water retention, hormones, etc. Libra – Weight Manager is a free tool, and it’s really easy to use. I’ll be weighing myself every day, and on Tuesday I’ll start a 500 calorie deficit (I can’t start Sun/Mon because I’m away from home and have no idea what foods will be offered at catering at the tournament or at the SSE course on Monday).

I suspect that following a calorie deficit will impair my performance so I’m going to try to meal plan a little bit. Lots of protein and lots of vegetables. Oats, limited fruits, and cutting down on bread. I give it two weeks and I’ll be screaming for pizza! I will, of course, post any results I’m allowed to share on here.

Since my attempts to find a traditional competition to enter in February have failed rather pathetically and frustratingly, and I still want to make sure that I get as many BJJ competitions in as possible this year, I decided that I'd do anything that cropped up. Fortunately for me, I got wind of an Interclub at Gracie Barra Long Eaton.

I had the chance to do some gi and no-gi matches, and I took everything that was offered. This wasn't a competition with medals, it was a comp where people earned points for their team instead, and there was a team trophy. As the only entrant from Origin BJJ Newcastle I didn't expect to get far up the leaderboard, but I wanted to try and achieve something.

I had two gi matches, one against a blue belt u55kg, one against a blue belt u60kg. I also had a no-gi match against a blue belt super-heavy. I didn't realise at the time, but the Interclub was sub-only rules, and starting from the knees.

My first match was against the u60kg, and it went to a draw. She got my back but couldn't finish, and I eventually escaped but then got stuck in her closed guard for the remainder of the (5 minute) round. I didn't have much rest before facing the 55kg girl, and because we were starting from the knees I wasn't assertive enough at the start of the match. She got me with one of my own favourite chokes from side control!

My third match was no-gi and I accounted for myself a lot better. My opponent was much, much bigger than me. She went for a footlock and I escaped. I went for an armbar and she escaped. It was another draw, but I'm pleased because of the size difference.

A Draw isn't a Win but It's Something

I have a lot to work on. The opponents I faced at this interclub were pretty high quality (one was on the podium at the Euros, one won the Hereford Masters last year), so I'm glad to have represented myself decently well, and it was nice to put some points on the leaderboard.

I know I have a cautious game and I need to be more assertive. I'm looking forward to getting back at it next month!

On the train home I got a message from the organisers of the Adult National Championships. They're rescheduling their event. My options for March now are Kleos, which is UKBJJA Ranked so worth doing just for that, All Stars Europeans, and the Southend Open. Hopefully I'll be able to do two of them, so that I can take some time off in April!


My plan this year is to compete at least 12 times. Really, an average of one a month but I want some 'in the bank' for the quiet months.

I had planned on doing Manchester BJJ 24/7 on February 17th.

I was going to work Scotland on February 24th, and I hate working a tournament and competing in it as well. It's just too much stress. Also, the day after Scotland I will be in York for an SSE learning day, where I'll be studying some social enterprise stuff for the gym. I don't really want to be doing that much running around AND competing.

Things aren't looking great for February, though. My prospective opponent for Manchester pulled out before I got around to signing up, and I didn't want to go down in age and up two weight categories. That's just a waste of money!

I looked at other tournaments, and discovered that IBJJF London was on February 23rd, and there's someone who is in my category! That would be ideal, except that blue belts have to be IBJJF members to be allowed to compete.

I spoke to my coach about signing up, and he told me to go ahead and try. The problem is, my coach can't sign off IBJJF memberships, it has to be the head of the organisation that does that. In typical BJJ politics, my coach has to speak to his coach, who then has to speak to the head coach. Attempt number one at doing that failed, and I decided that it probably wasn't worth the stress of trying again, and forking out for the membership and late registration fee, and worrying about photo ID, etc. So no IBJJF London Winter Open for me!

I still want to compete in February, though. Unfortunately, my best matches for Scotland have pulled out as well. Good news, however, is that there's an interclub in Long Eaton with some women signed up at some diverse weight categories, so I'll do that just to get the mat time in.

Over the next few weeks I need to get my finances sorted out and get more organised so that I can get my name down for future tournaments a little bit earlier. I'm already stressed and frustrated and we're only really a month into the new year!

Artemis BJJ are hosting a 24 hour Grapplethon at their gym in Bristol. The event is in aid of Womankind Bristol, a women's therapy center.

I'm not from the area myself so I very much doubt that I'll be able to make it, but if anyone reading this is based in or near Bristol, check out the grapplethon page for more information. It's a great cause!

I want to compete a lot this year, and for my first competition of the year I decided to do the no-gi at Grappling Industries in London. This is the first time that Grappling Industries has come to the UK, so it was quite exciting.

One good thing about Grappling Industries is that they don't use IBJJF weight categories. They have an u105lb category for no-gi, which is a fair bit lighter than what I usually end up competing at. I was excited to get a match close to my weight!

I went down the night before, stayed not far from the venue, and then went to compete. It turned out that the venue was right next to the ruin of Grenfell Tower. It was weird being there and seeing the memorial and the shell of the building. I posted about that on Instagram at the time. I was in London, not far from Kensington, the night of the fire and it brought some memories flooding back.

There's some spoken word poetry posted on the wall of the barriers around the tower, that calls it the Black Tower of London. It's strange walking through Kensington and seeing all the memorials and photos posted in windows and on fences in the area. To the rest of England, Grenfell is just a distant memory, but it's still raw and real to these people. They lost friends and family. They live with that reality every day. Honestly, it made 'being at a BJJ tournament' feel like small stuff.

I was the only person from Origin competing at Grappling Industries, but Wesley from Lone Star had made the journey as well, and had competed in the gi tournament the day before. He stuck around to corner me for the no-gi, and it was a big help.

I had one opponent, and we ended up doing best 2/3. I won both matches with a simple takedown>pass>mount strategy. The first one I won on points. My opponent was stubborn and refused to give anything up. My plan had been to get the back, but she refused to let me and kept fighting all the way through, actually escaping mount and getting some offence of her own in towards the end.

The second match I repeated the same strategy, and tried for a wristlock that Wesley had suggested, but there wasn't quite enough time for me to practice it in the break between matches, so I went for an ezekiel instead, and got the tap. I haven't had a good record in no-gi so it felt nice to get the win!

I'm hoping to do BJJ 24/7 Manchester in February, and potentially one more. Then the Adult National Championships in March. After that I'll probably rest in April, and then get ready for the British Open in May. I've got a lot to work on!

This year, I'm planning to compete as much as I possibly can; finances and health allowing.

So far, my plans are:

January 13 - Grappling Industries in London, No-Gi
February 17 - BJJ 24/7
March 3 - Elite BJJ Events Adult Nationals Gi
March 31 - Southend Open (Sub Only)

If I can make all of those, that will be almost as many tournaments in the first quarter of the year as I managed in the whole of last year, and since they're planned ahead it should hopefully work out!

I'm aiming to do Hereford adult and masters as well, and the Surrey Open, and hopefully one of the All Stars events as well later in the year.

Everything is booked for January now. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Grappling Industries events are like. I've heard nothing but good things about them from people in the USA, and they were very responsive when I contacted them with a scheduling question, so that's promising.

There are four no-gi classes between now and the London tournament. That's not long enough to make any changes to my game, so I'll just be getting a couple of hard sessions in then relaxing for a few days. It will come around fast.

I started training BJJ seriously in September 2013. I had dabbled a bit before then but I only did a few lessons and then got knocked out with an injury. I got my blue belt in January 2015, and then not long after that suffered a shoulder injury that knocked me out of competing for a long time.

The rehab was pretty rough. Getting back into competition was hard. I tried a bit in 2016 but wasn't really ready. Did a few in 2017, but was suffering from bad competition nerves and just generally wasn't feeling it. This year I decided to force myself to compete as much as possible. I did the Surrey Open, London All Stars, Hereford Open and Hereford Masters. I started getting into the groove and my results slowly started getting better.

A few more defaults than I'd like.

My competition year was plagued by no-shows, and I did end up with a few more defaults than I would have liked, but I ended the year with an earned gold at the Hereford National Masters. I'm the number 13 ranked blue belt in the country according to the UKBJJA, and ranked number one at Light Feather (which sounds more impressive before you realize that there are only two of us with points in that category, but I've been chasing the leader for a long time!).

Goals for 2019

I've spent the holiday season pigging out, but now it's time to get back to training. My goal is to compete whenever I can get a match this year. I've signed up to Grapple Industries in London, and will be doing the no-gi there.

I'm also looking to do Manchester in February, and UAEJJF in March, and want to keep up with the 'at least one a month pace' for the foreseeable future. I'm finally healthy and starting to get some confidence back, and I'm aiming for a spot in the top 10 in the UKBJJA rankings.

If I can take another regional gold, then I want to do an IBJJF tournament as well. The IBJJF requires membership for blue belts as of 2019, and I don't want to pay for membership, renew my passport and fly somewhere if I'm not completely ready, so I want to rack up some more UK competition time first of all.

Let's see how this goes!

What are your goals for 2019?

Ingress is an AR/geolocation based game made by Niantic. It was the game before Pokemon Go, and the Pokestop and gym database is actually taken from the Ingress portal database. The games are fairly different in terms of exactly HOW they are played (there are no creatures to catch in Ingress, instead, the game is divided into two sides which compete for control of the portals in the game, and link portals together to create fields, which then 'control' areas). I play both games, but personally I think Ingress is more fun.

I started playing Ingress several years ago, but never really took it seriously because for the longest time I had a Windows Phone, and it's not that easy to play Ingress on a tablet. So, I didn't really level up all that far, and I quit the game before it had badges. I changed over to Android recently and went back to Ingress. A lot has changed!

One of the biggest changes is that to level up past level 8 you need badges as well as experience points. To earn the different levels of badges you need to put in a LOT of of time hacking portals, creating links and fields, recharging resonators and doing other in-game tasks. I started looking at some of the badges that were 'quick wins' so that I could rack up enough gold badges to continue leveling.

Sojourner is an "easy" gold (simply hack a portal every day), so was one of my first ones to aim for:

Another interesting one is the Spec Ops badge, which you get for doing missions. I travel a lot to go to tournaments, so at least once a month I'm in a different town or city. That means I'll have the chance to run a few extra missions in different places.

Missions are fun. They send you around the city going to different waypoints, and you get to read about what each landmark you're visiting is. Sometimes I'm guilty of speed running the missions and not really taking the time to look around, but if I have the time I do let myself get side-tracked and take the time to soak up the atmosphere. I was in York for a training course, and got to see some nice architecture and some historic sights then. I'll be in Edinburgh in December, and London in January, so it's going to be fun exploring!

Speedy and Ritu organised a seminar recently with Dan Strauss, AKA the Raspberry Ape. The seminar was focused on Guillotines. He's been very busy this year touring the country and has done dozens of seminars on the guillotine choke.

The seminar was three hours long, and very detailed. It was hosted at Universal Martial Arts, which is in a large industrial unit, and it was cold! It's a tough building to heat at any time of the year but considering it was miserable outside it wasn't fun waiting for the seminar to start!

Dan Strauss says that he never does warmups at his seminars. In fact, he asked someone else to lead a warmup this time around so that we could at least get enough blood flowing to be able to think. Sadly, that didn't really work out, and we all ended up feeling rather cold again as soon as we stopped moving.

It didn't help that the seminar was incredibly detailed. We started off by drilling cupping the chin and the back of the head, and just doing that over and over, until we were able to cup both at the same time. Then we moved on to 'roll the shoulder' to make sure you can't see the nape of their neck... that's how you know that the guillotine is tight. Then we focused on 'pulling' the person's head down instead of just lying back and losing the head as we went for the guillotine.

Once we practiced getting the guillotine from different positions, we moved on to the 'thrust guillotine', which involves supporting the choking hand with your other hand and 'stabbing' up into the neck. The idea is that even if the other person tries to pass your guard to free themselves, they'll just push their own weight down onto the thrusting hand and choke themselves. By trying to escape, they're making it worse!

Dan Strauss is quick to emphasize that the guillotine is not a strength move. Which sounds funny coming from a guy who is pretty darn big:

He's got an interesting philosophy about chokes, though. He reckons that chokes, if you get the technique right, are easy to finish. Lock the choke in properly with not too much effort, and it might feel bad for the other person. Start slowly adding pressure, and even if they aren't ready to tap yet, they're going to get worried... "how much worse could this get?" The more pressure you add, the worse it gets for them.

The reason a lot of people don't tap in competition is that people squeeze with all their might for a second or two, then relax, and the person in the choke thinks "Well, I survived last time, I can gut this out." The next time you squeeze, it won't be as tight, and then the next time it will be even less tight as your arms slowly burn out. It's better to just not give away how much power you have, then they're more likely to tap!

I don't use the guillotine much myself, but I did enjoy the seminar and I'm definitely going to play around with this stuff in the gym.

This weekend I competed at the Hereford Masters, and I entered the light feather category (since they don't run Rooster). There were three of us in the category. The others had come down in age.

It was run as an IBJJF three-man bracket instead of a round robin. I won my first match on points, then the girl that I beat had a match against the other girl, won that (also on points), and then we had a rematch, which again went to a win on points.

They were fun matches. Hard work (my opponent was very persistent in her cross collar choke attempts!), but fun. I managed to out-wrestle and win positionally. In the final I got mount and I remember thinking "I should just hold this, I can't believe I'm winning". Not exactly exciting, but it works!

I love competing in Hereford. It's always a well-run event, and it's a nice venue too. This time around I really wasn't feeling the tournament. I remember retreating to the cafe and thinking "I don't want to be here. This was a mistake". But then on the way back to the mat area I heard a white belt elderly man, clearly a Grandad, say to a 10 year old boy wearing a team hoodie "your Dad has gone to get changed, do you want to help me warm up?"

Three generations on the same mats competing. You wouldn't hear that sort of thing, or see that sort of scenario in many other sports! Overall, the day was like a reunion. I was cornered by a guy who used to train with Ian many years ago (and who has since moved to Bath). I ran into a guy from Darlington that I talk to a lot online. I also saw Marc Walder again (he had his own match with Meerkatsu), and some guys from some of the less-local Gracie Barra clubs that I normally only see at kids tournaments. While in the canteen I saw some guys from Carlson Gracie London, that had visited our gym a few months prior. In a lot of ways, competitions are like mini family reunions!

The only thing that 'went wrong' this time around was that I booked my accommodation too late and didn't get to stay in my favorite little guesthouse. But the place I stayed wasn't too bad, and it was only a short walk from the competition venue.

I can't wait to come back next year.