I make a grocery list every time I compete for the day of the tournament (which has been iteratively edited, but now averages out to pretty much the same thing every time). I’m putting my pre-tournament grocery list on here, so maybe I’ll stop forgetting. :P
Water Bananas Tangerines Grapes/Watermelon/Mixed fruit Apple sauce Trail mix w/ dried fruit and w/ chocolate or yogurt raisins Something chocolatey like a Snickers Almond bar ibuprofen acai juice or apple juice Whole wheat toast Peanut Butter/Honey/Fruit jam Cliff/protein bars Fruit gummies Cooler w/ ice and ice pack
Depending on the length of the event, if there is food present, if I am able to get healthy food the night prior with reliability, I may or may not leave out some of this. I usually try to have a solid source of protein for immediately after I’m done with the tournament (to try to minimize next day soreness), but avoid digesting anything too heavy with protein during the event. I like to feed my body simple carbs that it can burn easily and hydration-heavy foods like watermelon. Sources of 100% juice are awesome, particularly acai, and I loveeeee me some apple sauce. :) I try not to eat anything 2 hours prior to a match, but might go for some watermelon, gummies, or apple sauce up to 30 minutes before a match. I generally stick to juice and water leading up to a match, and I avoid acidic stuff altogether and absolutely hate gatorade. I’ve found whole wheat pasta w/ lots of meat (ground turkey ftw) or anything whole wheat/carb heavy w/ a solid protein source the night before is a good choice for me. I don’t get too hungry the next day and my body runs more successfully on simple carb sources when I’ve had a hearty complex carb and protein packed meal the night prior.
I go under the knife for my first of 2 clavicle resectionings due to distal clavicle osteolysis (weight lifter shoulder) on April 26th. Of course, I needed to get one last local tournament in before the 3-4 months of recovery I’ll be facing— so I headed out to Greensboro for a submission only tournament. No one from my school or team was around to coach me, but I still managed to do pretty well for the day. (I did have some friends from other schools help me out in a few matches which was super awesome.) The last two tournaments I’ve competed in, I’ve really felt confident in my jiu jitsu, which is a win in itself. I am facing surgery and recovery knowing that I will get back on the mat and very quickly regain that confidence. I know I will quickly back into the swing of things.
Just like at the last tournament, I went 5-2 for the day. The 2 losses were in absolute to the same awesome opponent from the last tournament. I am happy that, in a tournament style where there are no points or time limits, my longest match was 10 minutes. Even better news is that my other 4 wins were finished under 4 minutes. I have historically not been fantastic at submitting within my 5-6 minute time allocations for my matches, so this was good for my submission confidence. :)
Below are links to two of my matches, posted by my opponent and friend, Pam - she’s got more of a no gi/wrestling background and is always super fun to have matches with:
I lost my no gi match by triangle (I was actually coached into the finish on accident, woops! lol, nice set up though), and lost my gi match by Americana in a hard fought 6th match of the day. I won another match by belly down arm bar after getting drop seio-nage’d (nice), and another by bow & arrow. To finish out the day, my last match ended in a triangle, set up from mount and finished in guard. I was overall very happy with my jiu jitsu.
After reflecting on my performance, I have some criticism for myself, too. I need to work on finishing armbars when going belly down. I do this so often to finish matches, but I could finish them faster if I drilled them more. (See my first match above where I know I have the arm, but it takes me a bit to finish it, because I’m not positive what I need to do until she shifts a bit and I “feel” it.) I also plan to work on more leg attacks. They’re a fun way to expand the jiu jitsu brain, and they make me a smarter grappler — by thinking about attacking other peoples legs, I protect my own more in the process.
I have decided that with as much open guard as I play, I need to do some competition training for my stamina and explosiveness in open guard. When I get back from recovery, I have some ideas in mind for doing conditioning prior to rolling and in between rounds, so I can be sure that by my 5th or 6th roll of the night, I have mimic’ed some form of physical exhaustion and can build confidence in my ability to still move, sweep, and come up on top from the sweep (or it’s not really a sweep anyways, right?). I want to maintain an appropriately aggressive and quick pace from the bottom in general.
I find that the most trouble I have is with open guard maintenance and transitions when I get to my 5th or 6th match of the day — I’ll start moving more slowly. If my reaction time from bottom is slower than their action from top (to pass), I’m going to lose that battle or end up in, at best, a compromising and unfavorable position, using even more energy to try to work out. Open guard transitions and maintenance are tough when you’re tired - My goal is to be confident that I can react appropriately when tired from bottom and to be confident in my ability to maintain guard and react to pass attempts until I’m ready to offensively act or counter. Part of this is learning when I’m “safe” and when I’m vulnerable, too. I know a lot of this is experience - being able to react/counter to any number of actions that the person on top initiates. But a lot of it is staying relaxed, calm, knowing that I have the stamina and the skill to be a threat from the bottom, too, and quickly executing when the time is right. Confidence, for me, is so much of guard maintenace. As one of my training partners once told me, when you play guard, your mindset should always be “this person is NOT passing my F’ing guard.” Amen.
(+ Special thanks to Jeff Shaw for taking awesome grappling pics regularly at the local tournaments)
I flew into NYC on Thursday night and made sure to eat right (sashimi!). I headed to yoga on Friday morning and relaxed my body. I rested all day Friday. Freshly acclimated and comfortable with my surroundings, I woke up early on Saturday to take the subway to the tournament from my friend’s house in the Upper West Side. It was a short subway trip, and liberating to be so independent in the city. Also, it was extremely satisfying to be so focused on my goal to win. I felt fully prepared.
I was admittedly a bit nervous when I actually arrived at the tournament. First let me start by saying— I had no idea what to expect. Even with the attitude of expecting the unexpected, and being totally cool with rolling with the punches as they might come, I had heard enough horror stories about uniform requirements, not making weight classes, bad ref’ing calls/favoritism, and chaotic organization in IBJJF tournaments… I was nervous.
When I first showed up at the tournament, after meeting several people along the way also searching aimlessly for the venue (signs, anyone?), there was a huge line out the door— competitors and spectators alike. Each person had to go through a bag check and a metal detector, and the wait was elongated significantly by this process. It didn’t help that the metal detector itself was a total piece of shit and continually malfunctioning. A woman came through the line at one point and asked if all fighters had checked in. I had not, and had no idea where to go, but soon discovered that I needed to cross the street and go get my name checked off on a sheet of paper, alphabetized by first name for all competitors (first name, really?). Anyways, it all worked out. I got checked in and got back in line. My match was scheduled for 10:30, I arrived at 9:00, but I didn’t enter the venue until approximately 10:00.
After entering the venue, I walked around as much as I could. I wanted to get as acclimated as possible as early as possible, so to calm both my nerves and anxiety. I always have a difficult time first entering a new tournament venue, but the more I acclimate myself, adjust my breathing, and relax, the better I am when I shake hands and start fighting. This is not a new concept to me — all of the tournaments I have done so far have taught me that lesson. So, this was expected, and I knew exactly how to deal with acclimating myself to my surroundings. That was perhaps the easiest part, even though the tournament was at least 4 times as big as any I have done in the past.
The trickier part came in not knowing how my name would be called, how I’d know when to get on the mat, where the test scale was (hell, I didn’t even know there WAS a test scale!), knowing that I needed my ID to weigh in, and where to put my stuff/if I could bring water/how to communicate with who was coaching me that I’d be on a given mat or I would be competing soon. So, here’s my tips from Pan-ams based on my experience (I’ll be referring to these before my next IBJJF competition, but maybe they’ll help someone else new to IBJJF comps along the way, too):
- Get to the tournament WAY earlier than you will be competing. I wish I had been an hour earlier than I was, just so I would have had more time to adjust (I competed fairly early in the day.)
- Your division will get called into the “bull pen” when you are getting close to fighting. You will have a few minutes there to stretch and warm up. It could also be a while, I’ve heard— but that wasn’t the case for me.
- Bring your photo ID to the “bull pen” - you need it to check in/weigh in. I have an extra ID that has my wrong address on it, so I will be taking that to IBJJF competitions from now on. (My logic: if I have two photo ID’s and I lose one, I still have an ID to get home on the plane with, haha)
- Bring water or gatorade to the “bull pen” and up through your weigh in - you can take it on the mat with you and grab a few swigs after you weigh in if your weight is close
- There’s a test scale in the “bull pen” - This is very awesome. You have one chance to weigh in at your registered weight, but you can test your weight in the “bull pen” up until your weigh in.
- You will have your final weigh-in when they call your division/weight class up to get on the mat. At that time, you better be sure you made weight. (And you have the test scale to make sure you make it, so no excuses/no stress hopefully. I have heard of IBJJF tournaments that don’t have test scales in the warm up area, though!)
- Have one person designated to keep their eye on you. Use your hands to signal to them what mat you are on after you weigh in (they should be watching you and see when you weigh in). That single person needs to be responsible to communicating with your teammates and coach where and when you will be competing. If you have this person, your life will be much easier and less stressful. My advice would be to pick someone who competes later than you, and then you can return the favor.
- Make sure you understand how the rules and scoreboard works. Mid-match I realized I didn’t know points vs advantages and where to look for my score — it is IMPORTANT to make sure you don’t assume it will be fully intuitive before you step on the mat. :)
One of my major goals since starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been to compete, at any level, and to find success and growth through competition. I learned along the way that there is so much more to learn from BJJ than just how to be a good competitor (it seriously is a way of life). I’ve also learned that being a good competitor is different than being a great competitor.
In white belt divisions, I felt very dominant. In my last few competitions as a white belt, I was able to win my weight class and open weight class divisions, and I was usually one of the smaller competitors weighing in anywhere from 132-135. Until I got my blue belt, I was a great competitor, at the white belt level.
After getting my blue belt, I was reset to “new” status. As a new blue belt competitor, I quickly learned things that never even mattered at white belt level. For instance, in my first competition (just a week after receiving my blue belt), I learned, in just 4 matches, several very important lessons:
1) I keep my head down my too much.
Result: I was guillotined by a more senior blue belt competitor who took advantage of this.
2) I don’t REALLY know what it means when someone yells “shoulder pressure! cross-face her!”
Result: After passing guard, my opponent turtled every time, and I wasn’t able to establish a dominant side control position
3) I have never had someone aggressively pull guard on me and don’t know what it feels like in competition
Result: I was triangled immediately following a guard pull.
This past weekend, with the help of my instructors and training partners, I overcame all of the things I learned in my first tournament as a blue belt. I feel the scale tipping from “new” to “good” after winning my weight division and coming in second place in the open weight class for no gi intermediate (blue belt). And the caliber of competition was no joke.
But regardless of how “good” I feel, I need to keep my mind open and inquisitive to go from good to great. I controlled opponents in my weight class successfully and improved my technique from my first competition as a blue belt (kept my head up, better pressure, better base, better posture). I don’t have a huge list of things I didn’t do well, and that makes me happy. But it does beg the question of where to go next. I am competing in No Gi Pan-Ams at the end of the month, and it’s important that I reflect on this question as I train my *** off for the next 3 weeks.
Some thoughts I have on this:
1) Part of going from good to great is simply reflecting on it. I am part way there by even considering this question. (That said, I still need a game plan. ;))
2) I’m competing without a gi on. I need to focus on my jiu jitsu technique without the gi. (“Duh”, right?) It sounds simple, but I train 4 days a week with the gi on and 1 day a week without it. For the next 3 weeks, I will do as much training as I can without the gi.
3) By my 6th match, I was gassed, and am disappointed in my attempts at escaping side control and maintaining open guard (two areas where I normally feel fairly strong.) My endurance was OK, but my explosiveness was hurting. For the next 3 weeks, I will be working on explosive cardio and conditioning for exactly the scenario of being in my 6th or 7th match and needing that explosiveness to win or survive.
4) I will work on my offensive, as well as defensive, reactions to common positions I find myself in. (Passing half guard uncomfortably, setting up the Kimura from north-south, taking the back off the hip bump sweep, passing closed guard aggressively and with offensive intent.)
5) I will work on being smarter on my feet and properly utilizing the right take down for the right time. And I will be ready to pass if my opponent pulls guard.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, I will not doubt my technique when I step on the mat. I will know that I am the strongest, most technical, and most prepared version of myself when I enter the tournament venue. And I will compete to win, with an equal amount of humility and pride.