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.
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.
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 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!