Skip to content

I'm back from a busy weekend, working Scottish Grappling and then going off to York to learn about Social Investment. Not only has it been a busy weekend, it's been a weekend of eating junk food.

The West of Scotland tournament was great. Well organised, went mostly without a hitch, and some great jiu jitsu on display. I learned a thing or two about back control that I can't wait to apply too!

In the run-up to the tournament, and at the tournament, I did a lot of eating out. I've never had to worry about my weight, even with this sort of eating. I just know that if I am planning to compete and if I eat 'sensibly' for a week or so beforehand my weight is always just under Rooster when it needs to be. Cutting weight will be an interesting experiment!

I'm a bit worried about doing the experiment 'for real' in May given that the BJJ British Open is then, so I've tasked myself with doing a mini cut over the next couple of weeks to see how I perform. If I feel OK and see the scale moving down between now and the end of the month then I'll sign up to the British Open even though I'll be 'mid cut' for the real experiment then. If I feel terrible, I'll skip the British this year.

Fully fed, hydrated, and having just ate I'm 3kg over my 'cut target'. Let's see how different that looks first thing in the morning!

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!

1

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!

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.

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.

I started BJJ because I wanted to compete. To me, BJJ is a sport. I do the self-defense stuff because in the lineage I'm a part of, it's important, but really I'd rather be focusing on sport training. That doesn't mean I'm a berimboloing, worm guard loving meta-gamer that knows exactly how to stall or score an advantage. I love the basics. I just think "basic" is 'holding mount well' rather than doing a bodylock takedown from a punch block.

I'm a roosterweight, and that means it's really hard for me to get matches. In fact, I usually compete up a weight category, sometimes two.  I travel to compete, because there are more light women down south.  This time I went to Surrey to compete in the open there, and I entered the Feather category, which is two categories higher than my normal weight. It cost me around £300 for the train fare, the hotel and the entry fee.

I stood in the warmup area waiting for my opponent. I looked at all the women as they came onto the mat. She's a white belt so it can't be her. She looks a bit tall to be a feather, but I'm terrible at guessing weights, maybe it's her... 

I waited, and waited... when my category had been and gone by 40 minutes, I checked the schedule and listened for the matches being called, and noticed that a category AFTER mine was already running. So I asked the weigh in desk. My opponent hadn't shown up. Not only that, but women's lightweight had already run too, so I couldn't even go up another category.

I decided I'd take my default gold:

I don't like just taking a medal though so I entered the absolutes as well. I got matched against a judo player who was 50lbs heavier than me. That's quite a difference considering I'm sub-100lbs myself.

The match was really boring. A lot of her not being able to pass my guard. Then a lot of her almost passed and me struggling to do much from turtle. I'm disgusted with myself watching it, because it looks like I'm not trying. But I know that at the time it was really hard work. The weight difference was just too much. I lost on points. That was my one match in the absolutes. Then I had a long train ride home.

Still, I really like the Surrey open. It's a good tournament and the staff are really friendly. This was my second visit. Last time was plagued with no-shows as well, although they at least just shrank the category to a round robin, nobody lost out on matches. I'll be back next year and hopefully have a better time of things!

New guys often ask me how often they should be training, and whether it's worth training if you can't come in several times a week. That's one of those tricky questions that doesn't have a set answer - because it really depends on your goals.

I train with one person who averages three sessions a month. They have stuck to that training schedule for the last five years, though. They are still a white belt, and they're plugging away slowly - but they haven't quit. They're still coming in, they're having fun, and they feel like they're learning, which is what really matters.

I train with other people who do 2-3 sessions a week, and some who, like me, train daily. I also train with a guy who just got his black belt. He trained daily from white through to purple, then had "life" happen to him, so he was making it in once or twice a month if that. But, he kept showing up when he could. It didn't help him progress at BJJ, it didn't help him keep his timing much - BUT, it meant that when he was ready to come back, he felt like he'd never left. He didn't show up to a new venue and a room full of people that he barely knew, and have to re-integrate himself into the gym.

How Often Should You Be Trying to Train?

If you're brand new, then it's a good idea to set reasonable targets. If you go "I am going to train as much as I can" then you're going to end up coming 4-5 times a week for a few weeks, burning out and getting injured. Ideally, you should try to train consistently, whatever "consistent" is for you.

  • Once a week will give you slow progress. You will find it hard to remember things from class to class and building muscle memory will be slow going, but it is still worth doing. Pay close attention and make the most of your mat time!
  • Twice a week will let you progress twice as fast as you would if you were attending once a week. You'll retain more information, and you'll build up some muscle memory pretty quickly. Many people maintain a schedule of twice a week long term, and steadily get through the belts.
  • Three times a week seems to be the sweet spot for rapid progress, but still having a life outside BJJ. It lets people heal between sessions, it offers rapid progress, and it is the schedule that a lot of local/casual competitors stick to.
  • Four times a week is a serious commitment, and it's what some of the more serious competitors do. You will progress very quickly, but you will have to start taking nutrition and rehab/prehab seriously. Your significant other/boss/non-training friends might start getting annoyed with you.
  • More than four times a week means that you're in diminishing returns territory. It's worth it if you love it, but think carefully about the sacrifices you're making to train that much. If you're training for a competition then you might want to up your schedule to as much as you can handle for a month or two in the run up to the competition - call it a "training camp", but training like that without goals in mind could lead to burnout.

Multiple Sessions Per Day

The most serious competitors train 2x a day, or more. If you're going to do that, then you need to drink lots of water, sleep lots, and have your nutrition on point - otherwise you will get injured. It's hard to "spar hard" twice in one day, so pick your training partners carefully, and maybe make one session light drilling and the other sparring.

Coping When You Can't Train

The challenge for many people is accepting when they can't train. If you were a 2-a-day, 5x a week person and now your schedule is down to 2-a-week, then you're going to see your peers catch you up or pass you buy. That can be frustrating.

As cliche as it might sound, you should be focusing on your own journey. The fact that Joe got a darker belt doesn't mean that your skills are diminished. Pete's achievements, or lack of them, don't take away from you. Indeed, if they're getting better that just means you have better partners to come back to once you can train more. Focus on your priorities. If BJJ is a priority for you, then find a way to arrange your life so you can train - even if, in the short term, that means making something else a priority for a while.  If BJJ is no longer a priority for you, then why do you (hypothetically) care about someone else's progress enough to get frustrated about it?

A random training pic with - where did these guys all go?In the time I've been training, I've seen so many people start and quit. Indeed, this photo from 2015 features a lot of missing people. I know one guy in the picture went and opened his own gym, one left town to go to University, one went back to his home country, and another is away teaching English as a Second Language abroad, but I don't know if they still train. I have no idea  about the others. Did they get promoted elsewhere? Did they change arts? Who knows. Most people don't make it to blue belt, and the vast majority of people who make it to blue don't make it to purple. All that matters really is that you keep training. Even if it's not as often as you used to, you're still making progress.

Be patient. Train hard, tap early, and have fun.