I'm back home from my first BJJ competition. What a long day.
I competed in the women's 60-70kg white belt division at the Will-Machado Asia Pacific Championships in Melbourne. I came home with a trophy for third place. This doesn't mean too much in itself because the luck of the draw and the small number of women competing meant I only had one fight in this division, which I lost it to the eventual division winner. The fight went nearly full time but I had to tap out to a lapel choke.
I was also asked to compete in the open weight white belt division as they were a bit short in numbers. This fight went full time but I lost on points. What was nice was that after the fight, the girl from Tassie came over to say hallo and she complimented me on my good grips and told me what a hard time I gave her :-) .
Of course I thought much about both fights and what I did right and what I did wrong. One mistake I made in the first fight was being too relaxed. I had waited and waited and been called up and then had to wait again. I was determined not to get worked up about it and I was lucky that I managed to get in a bit of a warmup just before I was called to the mat. But I walked out there and bang! she went for a shoot (while I was sort of going... hey man, here I am, this is so cool). I sprawled but a bit late, she angled off and hey presto, side control. What also surprised me was the intensity. It's not like rolling in class, that is for sure! Soon after, she got mount, as I couldn't escape. She tried to choke me but I defended while getting half guard. Her coach kept yelling at her to cross-face and make me feel uncomfortable. There was some pretty heavy elbowing going on to my face and neck, that's for sure. I defended an armbar attempt and more lapel chokes while trying for escapes. I managed half guard at least once more but in the long run, she caught me out with a choke.
I was disappointed initially, but on thinking about it some, I've come to the conclusion that I did some things right, and I made her work for her victory. She apologized after the fight for 'the facial'.... So that was my first fight.
The second fight took longer to go to the ground. I tried to get a good setup and good grips for a takedown, but she beat me to it. However, I managed to pull her straight into my closed guard. I spent some time breaking her posture, while looking for chokes. She had a very hard time to get posture and wasn't making any progress in passing my guard. But then I stupidly went for a sweep at the wrong moment, giving her an opening and she passed my guard. As before, I couldn't escape the side control and I ended up mounted. As before, I gained half guard a couple of times, but she managed to get to mount. But I kept her busy with my escape attempts which meant she didn't attack much and I defended some chokes well. So time was up, but I had scored no points while she had scored for several positions. So I lost this fight, too. But I felt I did much better than I did in the first fight.
I certainly came home with a headfull of new stuff I learned. I was warned that competitions are a different thing altogether, and I can only agree to that. It pressure-tested not only my skills but my ability to function under mental pressure. I found that I need to work on my skills, especially my escapes and my half guard game. But the other thing is that I need to get more worked up. I simply was too relaxed to begin with and lost valuable time and position before getting my act together. And even then I seemed to have loads of time to listen to what people were yelling (at me and my opponent) and listen to my opponents (heavy!) breathing ;-) . My conditioning was fine, at least for the two fights I had.
Will I compete again? Absolutely. I had a great time and learned so much.
I've competed in a lot of equestrian events over the years, so I was familiar with competition pressures. But I had never been to a martial arts competition. I was positively surprised by the respect the competitors showed each other and the judges, the support each team gave their fighters and the general atmosphere of the competition. What specifically impressed me was that a lot of opponents took to the practice mats after a fight, to show each other moves they used during fights. I have to say that aside from a few team competitions in the horses world, the general level of sportsmanship, respect, goodwill etc lags way behind what I saw at the BJJ competition. It is ironic, that a fighting art, whose aim is to hurt and disable the opponent can generate a much higher level of sportsmanship than a "gentle" art like horse riding.