Reverse Cup Check
I arrived at Dominguez Hills around 11:00am, assuming I had plenty of time to warm up prior to my bracket being called. All masters purple belts were scheduled for 11:20am, so I figured Middle weight wouldn’t be competing until roughly 11:45am. My theory was shot to hell when, at 11:15am, they announced my name. I hadn’t warmed up at all, aside from throwing my legs over my head a few times, but felt mentally ready to go. I weighed in at 180lbs, a full pound underweight, and during the gi check, I was forced to remove my athletic supporter.
(This is a pet peeve of mine. There is a very real possibility that I could leave the mat no longer able to carry on the species. No toe holds for purple belts, God forbid, but let your junk swing freely, competitors, and defend the hook sweep at all costs. This is to say nothing of the twisted incentive it creates to give your opponent a nudge in the swim suit area. I would never think of doing such a thing, but I am not Brazilian, and for some reason, our sport is crawling with those Samba-dancing, soccer-playing, thong-wearing, South American lunatics whose idea of cheering someone on is to yell “Jism!” (Porra!) every time they score a point, which I believe is just a subtle reminder to target the groin. I understand the athletic supporter creates a fulcrum for arm bars, and makes for an uncomfortable bottom back mount, however, these small advantages are minor in comparison to the grand Darwinian scheme of things in which the true gold medalists are those who pass their genes onto the next generation.)
I walked over to mat six, and was surprised how many of my teammates came to watch, as I was the only one competing from my academy that day. I assumed that, being an asshole, people wouldn’t go out of their way to watch me compete, but that wasn’t the case at all! Now, I feel liberated in being an asshole, and imagine this will translate into acting out (e.g. Victory laps upon knee-baring featherweights [see below]) a bit more these days.
I got an unlucky draw in the brackets. There were five competitors in my age/weight/belt division which meant three competitors received bis into the quarter finals, and two of us had to compete to make it into the quarter finals. I am VERY pro-bi, and was upset I didn’t receive one as it made me feel like I was being labeled small minded and old fashioned. (If they only knew what I fan I am of Frida Kahlo!)
Furthermore, my first match was against the Las Vegas open winner, who apparently had one hell of a triangle based on my pre competition scouting report (conducted by myself, alone, at my computer the night before). He pulled guard right away, and I attempted the bullfighter pass a few times before passing one knee and diving into his half guard. While on top, my opponent felt extremely light, and comparatively weak, and I probably outweighed him by quite a bit. I flattened him out for an advantage point, and figured, as I was up one (advantage) point, I would play conservative, and only attempt to pass into side control if he unlocked his half guard, and respectfully asked me to, pretty please, pass my guard. He eventually worked his way back to open guard, with really tight grips, and threatened the triangle and sweeps for three minutes before time ran out. I felt relieved. The first match is always a huge adrenaline dump, and I had built this guy up in my head with his recent competition win, his Brazilian heritage, and the clear edge he had over everyone in hotness.
The second match was much more intense, against a competitor featured in Gracie Mag. For three minutes, we played standup, with neither of us coming close to a takedown. My opponent was a lot more active, but never shot in. I was expecting the shot, and was preparing to sprawl, and immediately attempt a back take, so I was really surprised when he pulled guard, and not only pulled guard, but pulled closed guard with my posture broken. That being said, I was relieved to have the match on the ground.
I took my time regaining my posture while fending off choke attempts, and was able to open his guard and attempt to work for a pass. This guy had really tight grips as well, and was attacking pretty consistently until the last thirty seconds or so in which I attempted to isolate his leg and come around the side for a guard pass. I was lacking in technique, and my opponent was super flexible, and was blocking my way with his leg.
I kept trying to turn the corner around the damn near doublejointed leg, but was never able to pass and time ran out. I believe the ref gave me the win for attempting to pass, but I wouldn’t have been upset (or surprised) in the least bit had the ref awarded it to my opponent, as I feel like it could have gone either way. (Thankfully, my opponent wasn't Brazilian).
The third match was against a big, unsmiling Brazilian with a shaved head. We shook hands, and I was immediately suspicious of his extremely rigid stand up posture. He didn’t appear interested in engaging or pulling guard, and his lead leg was nakedly exposed for a take down, and then, I swear, the lead leg began talking to me in a cooing voice, telling me to shoot for a single leg. So I did, reaching with my arms rather than closing the distance with my body, and he sprawled out of bounds and we restarted. Again, the lead led spoke to me, whispering “I’m right here for you. Take me! Take me, now!” I started second guessing myself. In retrospect, I don’t think this guy had a very well developed standup game, however, after my first lousy shot, followed by voices emanating from his leg made me think that he was baiting me for something, which is stupid, but in the moment seemed logical.
Eventually, he pulled butterfly guard, I passed into half-guard, and we spent a lot of the match with me attempting a gi wrap to flatten him out for an advantage point with virtually no offense on his part. I had his back on the ground a couple of times, which I thought earned me an advantage point, but it turned out that wasn’t the case when I looked at the scoreboard after the match had ended. 0-0, 0-0. But the ref raised my hand, and I was the American Nationals Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gold Medalist for Masters Purple Belt Medio (Middle weight) division 2010, and 6-0 in my two American National's competitions. It was not pretty. It was not a great performance. But I have to admit it felt great to win.
An exclusive after-party featured copious amounts of dark ale and rediculously unhealthy food. Thankfully, Applebees has no restrictions on athletic supporters (or calories for that matter) and my dining companions had no problem with me shoveling food into my mouth with both hands.