Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When you can’t participate, you might as well reminisce…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my semi-recent trips to California for the IBJJF Pan Ams last March and Worlds last June. I’ve realized that I never really sat down and evaluated these experiences. I suppose I’m typically too distracted by what’s coming next, to really take the time to learn from the past. So, since the future is currently on hold, it seems an opportune time to finally do so.

As you’re probably aware, I’m sort of long winded; for me the true experience lies in the details. So, to avoid boring you to death, I’ll break my thoughts on the subject into two posts. You’re Welcome. ;-)

I’ll start by taking a look back at the March 2011 Pan Ams in Irvine, CA…

I was only there about 36 hours, so, needless to say the trip was quite a whirl-wind. The morning I was to compete, I woke up feeling energized and ready to go, which can be a difficult mindset to attain right before a tournament, so I was very thankful. Once at the venue, I began warming up as I waited for my division. It wasn’t long before I heard my name and my first opponent’s name called. I quickly realized the girl who I’d chatted with while waiting was in fact my first opponent. We shared a quick “let’s do this” grin, and headed to the mat. As I passed by, my coach for the day, Arman, offered a critical piece of advice “…Just take it one match at a time…” With an appreciative nod, I stepped onto the mat and the match began. I quickly got my grips, pulled guard, and got a sweep early. After some half guard and a slight scramble, I ended up with her back in my closed guard. After a little bit of open guard, I was able to get a triangle, finishing the match. I was very excited with the outcome, however, I promptly remembered what my coach had said…one match at a time. I’d won this one, but it was time to shift my focus to the next.

After a brief waiting period, my next match began. Feeling confident from the last (maybe a little too confident) I quickly went for a single leg takedown which I unfortunately wasn’t able to finish. After the taxing stand-up bout that followed, I was finally able to pull guard. Since I did so in somewhat of a frenzy, I went to the ground without the calm and focused mind I require to do my best; thus, the rest of the match was a bit of a struggle. I managed to get a sweep, but from then on we mostly remained in a back-and-forth half-guard. It was a close one, but I was able to win by a few points. After the match, I remember my coach saying ‘Well, that one got a little dangerous didn’t it?’ I agreed with a worried face, as I was fully aware the match could have gone either way. Arman immediately reassured me, telling me to concentrate on the next match and forget about the last one, regain focus and control. This was exactly what I needed to hear. My next match was moments away and my opponent was very tall and lanky, (I’m talking a 6-footer), which had me slightly concerned. The match began and my opponent quickly pulled open guard. She started to work spider-guard, which happens to be a favorite amongst the ladies of TRT; So, feeling very accustomed to this situation, I soon hipped into her extended leg and passed to side control. I scored a few more points by progressing position, but eventually ended up in half-guard, where we resided until the end of the match. I was very pleased with how this match went, as I felt ‘short and stalky’ had won out over ‘tall and lanky’ this time; always appreciate a win for the tiny folks ;-)

It was now time for the final match. I knew this one was going to be tough, as this girl had of course also won her side of the bracket. With a quick pep talk from my coach, I again prepared myself mentally, and stepped on the mat. We stood for quite some time; she must have had a wrestling background, as she went for many wrestling style takedowns. After an exhaustive stand up bout, I found the opportunity and pulled guard. On the ground, I struggled for controlling grips as she aggressively worked to pass. Finally, I got good control, and was able to half way pull-off a sweep. Once on top, I progressed to half-guard where we remained the majority of the match. When the referee called time, I don’t think I really realized I had won. I mean, I knew I'd won the match and I knew it was indeed the final, but winning my division didn’t really register. No worries though, it kicked in as soon as I started wandering towards the medal podium…

After a few prideful moments on the podium, the day seemed to end just as quickly as it started. Before I knew it, we were headed back to the hotel for the evening. While preparing for our departure flight the next morning, my roomie for the trip, Ayanthi, told me she’d seen some pictures of me posted on the GracieMag website from the tournament. I was of course intrigued, so as I settled into bed, I quickly navigated to the website. I couldn’t believe it, there they were, some pictures of me in an article about the first day of the Pans. After staring at the pictures for a few minutes, I forced myself to go to sleep as we had a very early flight the next morning. I distinctly remember lying in the hotel bed with my eyes wide open feeling slightly overwhelmed by the day; my first IBJJF win and surprise recognition on the GracieMag website, the icing on the cake. It had been a pretty amazing day. I tried to hold on to the feeling as I drifted off to sleep; I think that night I must have slept with a smile as the day had proven to be more remarkable than I’d ever hoped.

So now that you’ve been subjected to my lengthy recap, I’m sure you’re wondering, so what the heck did you learn?

Well I learned that I have the BEST team and coaches in the world. If my coach Jeff hadn’t demanded the girls and I work half-guard over and over, I would have lost each one of those matches in that very position. If my coach Traven hadn’t pushed me to keep rolling when I thought I was too tired, I wouldn’t have had the endurance to compete until the end. If the girls I train with didn’t test my passing game on a daily basis with their amazing open-guard skills, I would have never been able to pass the 6-footer’s guard. In a nut shell, I learned that my success was completely attributed to those that surround me. Without the support of each and every one of my TRT family members and the skills imparted by ALL of my coaches, I never would have gotten to stand on that podium.

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