Saturday, March 31, 2007

Always forward

Something I realized just now is that playing a guard game against larger opponents isn't always the best strategy in a competition.

Of all the ways to score points in a tournament (passing the guard, holding side control, holding KOS, holding mount, taking the back with hooks, sweeps), 4 out of 6 can only be accomplished from being on top.

The importance of position is amplified in a competition, and I suspect that positional dominance might actually be more important than being able to execute successful submissions. Of course, most of my powerful set ups come from top control anyways, so positional dominance opens windows for submissions.

My tendency in training is to play guard 70% of the time, unless the opponent just decides to pull guard.

I'm going to focus on a more aggressive approach- to always be pushing forward into my opponent from the tie up. This should give me a more well balanced game, and ultimately should be my mode of operation in a tournament setting.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pan Ams

Pan Ams was definitely a good experience.

It didn't turn out how I had hoped, but I had a good time and learned quite a bit.

First, I actually could have qualified for the lower weight class. I was well under the limit, but I still had to fight the class above because that's how I registered. My opponent weighed in at 14 pounds over my weight (a pretty ripped 14 lbs- short stocky wrestler type with no neck), and ultimately proved to be more than I could handle.

With my nerves on overdrive, I completely lost focus once I stepped on the mat. From the intial tie up I suddenly forgot my entire gameplan and started reacting on instinct.

I got taken down to my guard, where I was able to draw him into my game of defending a barrage of attacks, nearly catching a collar choke and then an Ezekiel before ultimately resolving in a triangle attempt. However, we had rolled off the competition area, so the referee paused the action and dragged us into the center, where my opponent eventually escaped the triangle and moved to half guard and then side mount.

By this time I was completely spent, and he moved to mount and tried a bent armlock as I defended and replaced half guard. I tried a sweep and then came out back door, and we both stood up and reset.

At one point my back was taken as I turned to my knees to escape side mount, and I successfully defended a RNC.

I could hear my teammates shouting from the sidelines, but my body wouldn't cooperate as they were telling me to upa left, bridge and roll, etc. I don't recall what else happened, but the match ended with me pinned in either side mount or mount.

Either way, I lost on points. Wasn't in danger of being tapped, but got positionally dominated pretty much the whole time.

I think my opponent went on to place in the division, as he readily handled his next few opponents.

I don't care to make excuses, but next time I will definitely try to cut weight if I am as close as I was. In hindsight, I should have cut the two or three pounds, but I was so freaked out by the DQ rule and probably overly confident in myself that I just went ahead and registered for the next class up. Next time, then.

I think most importantly, controlling the nerves is a definite must. The intensity level in a competition vs. standard training is night and day, and I don't know if anything could have prepared me for the fight other than just going out and doing it. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect I can mentally prepare next time and hopefully maintain clarity and focus throughout my matches. Today was so physically demanding and emotionally draining, I'm just relieved that I survived it all.

At any rate, the exposure to the tournament circuit puts me in a different frame of mind. No longer is my benchmark to beat the people at my gym. I've been a proverbial big fish in a small pond, happy in my success against my everyday sparring partners at my level. Being the best at your particular gym doesn't really matter much. Tournaments are a collection of the best from every gym in the area (well, most of North America for this one), so I sort of feel like I'm starting over and trying to meet those higher expectations.

So, after this weekend it's back to the kettlebells, crossfit training, and swimming.

If anything, this tournament was the catalyst that I needed to recenter and refocus my training. I am humbled once more, which is where all of my learning has always taken place.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eye of the tiger

Alright, so Pan Ams are two days from now.

At the behest of my training partners, I took much of the week off to rest, recuperate, and make sure that I am going into the competition in top shape. I've been taking naps and have pretty much been laying around all day, and I feel pretty good.

I won't front, though, I am sort of shook about competing. It's a one and done deal, as your first loss will eliminate you from the entire tournament. Quite an uphill battle, but I really feel like I had to test myself for this one.

I feel like I do actually have a chance to win my division, but it all depends on who shows up, who I get matched up against, and how well I perform under pressure. I've been tapping blue belts that outweigh me by quite a lot, so hopefully I can handle people on my own level that are closer to my own weight.

At this point, last minute preparation won't do so much for me. I've been training very hard for the past few months, and hopefully it pays off once I get on the mat.

It's still my first tournament, though, so no matter what happens I'll chalk it up to experience. Being in a competitive atmosphere actually will raise the level of my game regardless of what happens.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Going UP

There's a tournament next week, and I decided to go up to the next weight class rather than try to cut. I was on the border between two weight classes, so I had to decide which way to go.

The format of the tournament makes it really hard to cut, as you must weigh in RIGHT before your first match rather than having a few hours to rehydrate, etc. Had this been a normal tournament I would have probably stayed on a strict diet and went in at a lower weight, but in this situation I'd rather be safe than get disqualified and lose all my money.

A friend told me that I should be worrying about my technique rather than my weight, so ultimately I decided that going up to the next class would be the best move. At least I have my peace of mind now.

Last time I tried to cut I ended up feeling weak and getting sick, and ultimately I missed the tournament altogether.

We'll see how this turns out.

The bigger picture

Jiu Jitsu began as a casual hobby, but over time it became a more holistic lifestyle.

Before, I was on the fence with health, fitness, nutrition, etc., but the training really helped me to push through.

It feels so good to eat food that nourishes my body. No more compromising- no drinking, eating trash, partying, staying up late, etc. Everything I do has an effect on my training.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Slow down

I've recently made quite a bit of progress, and it's all due to slowing down my movement.

When I first started getting better, I would be flying all over the place- going full blast and scrambling for position. It works well if you are faster or more athletic than your opponent (basically out-scrambling them), but there is quite a bit of room for error.

Lately I've been making sure to maintain pressure and minimizing unnecessary movements, and I must say that I have a lot more control in my game.

I think it's really more about precision than speed, but at this point I'm learning to be precise at slower speeds before I pick up the pace.